Gender-neutral housing at the University has been on a steady rise since it was implemented in 2008, according to an Undergraduate Student Governmentpanel discussion on Friday thatdiscussed the current policies and practicesregarding gender-neutral housing.
The panel, which only had five people in the audience, included Associate Director for Student Housing Lisa DePaul, Director of Housing Dorian Johnson and Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students Bryant Blount ’08.
Based on data gathered in 2014, there are 529 gender-neutral housing spaces on campus,208 of which come from the 52 quads present in Spelman Halls, while the remaining 321 spaces come from a combination of upperclassmen housing and residential colleges.
Gender-neutral rooms are marked with an “e” for “either” or an “a” for “any” during the room draw process, while rooms that are not gender-neutral are marked as “male” or “female,” according to DePaul.
Wilson and Rockefeller Colleges cannot currently provide gender-neutral housing, DePaul noted, as they do not have rooms that are in line with the “N+1 policy,” which states that a gender-neutral room must be a suite that allows each student to have his or her own sleeping space and a common area, such as five-room quads and three-room doubles.
The “N+1 policy” was drafted by the University based on guidelines from the students on the University Campus Life Committee that first discussed gender-neutral housing in 2007, DePaul said.
“[The students] felt that, while they wanted to make sure that there was an option to live together within the same suite, that they felt that it was fairly important that everybody had their own private sleeping space in those types of arrangements,” she said.
DePaul added that the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students and a lot of student committees were involved in the drafting of the gender-neutral housing policy, which was finally approved by the Council of Masters. She also said there are no current plans to modify this policy.
Andrew Hahm ’17, a member of the USG Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity and Institutional Equity, said the issues raised in conversation during the event would be brought up in a USG meeting that was yet to be scheduled.
“Once we sort of debrief everything we’ll be in conversation with all of the relevant parties,” Hahm said.
Since underclassmen are not allowed to move out of their respective residential colleges, DePaul said students in Wilson and Rockefeller could form groups with the people they wanted to live with, draw rooms at the same time and pick rooms in close proximity to each other.
“The [Directors of Student Life] and a lot of the college staff can talk to the students and maybe encourage them to apply in the same group and take rooms that are in close proximity to each other — maybe in the same hall, on the same floor, right next to each other,” she said.
Johnson noted that priority is not given to gender-neutral housing during room draws.
“There’s nothing on the application that makes you identify in advance that [gender-neutral housing is] the type of housing that you want,” DePaul said. “It’s just available to you if you want it.”
LGBT Center Director Debbie Bazarsky added it was a very conscious decision to not include gender-neutral housing in the category of special needs housing, as special needs housing is currently related to medical issues or issues around disability.
DePaul said that students cannot be assigned to gender-neutral housing without their consent, and that if any problems arise in gender-neutral housing, room changes can be arranged for if needed.
However, not all of the spaces assigned to be gender-neutral are filled. According to DePaul, there were 20 students in upperclass gender-neutral dorms, around six in Butler College, six in Whitman College and two in Forbes College, in addition to those in Spelman, in the 2013-14 academic year. The total number of Spelman quads that are gender-neutral wavers between nine and 15 each year.
Blount said that ODUS supported the USG’s mission to listen to students’ interests and their thoughts about issues like gender-neutral housing.