The University Student Life Committee unanimously passed a proposal on Wednesday to expand gender-neutral housing on campus.
Previously only dorms with at least one more room than the number of inhabitants were gender-neutral, making only ten percent of undergraduate housing gender neutral. Because the extra space makes these dorms extremely appealing, they are often the first to be taken during Room Draw, making them unavailable to trans and nonbinary students if they hadn’t been granted priority access. For similar reasons, rooms with private bathrooms, which many trans and nonbinary students may feel more comfortable using, are equally hard to get.
This revised policy will allow students undergoing Room Draw to choose to live in a mixed-gender or same-gender configuration without being restricted by the number of rooms in a dorm. No student who requests a same-gender living group will be placed with a mixed-gender living group. Requests for private or single-stall bathrooms must be made before the pre-draw accommodation deadlines. Students who make these requests will be accommodated, although they might not receive their top choice of room or roommate group.
The Housing Office and residential college staff also plan to work together to accommodate freshmen who request gender-neutral housing, but did not announce any specific plans yet.
“The USLC’s unanimous approval of the policy is the culmination of both the collaborative work of students, Campus Life, and Housing and many discussions with campus stakeholders,” Dorian Johnson, director of Housing and Real Estate Services, said.
Lily Gellman ’17 organized a pro-gender-neutral housing teach-in demonstration and co-authored a website that hosted a petition in support of the gender-neutral housing policy.
Judy Jarvis, director of the LGBT Center, worked with Angie Hodgeman, manager of Undergraduate Housing, and Michelle Brown, student housing coordinator, on the policy proposal.
“I'm so grateful to the LGBT Center and to everyone who signed the petition, went to the demonstration/teach-in, wrote emails to the USLC, and showed their support in other ways to help make this happen,” Gellman said.
Gellman added that they were happy that the administration and specifically University Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun made this policy proposal a priority over the summer, without which it would not have passed.
“Crucially, the administration would not have made this a priority if not for the years of activism around this housing that preceded their policy shift at Princeton and at (really all of our) peer institutions — past activism to which we're indebted. I'm so excited to see this become a reality,” they added.
Gellman said that the next steps are to ensure that the implementation of the new policy allows students to make use of it at this coming room draw; and to make sure that last details, including making this housing accessible to matriculating freshman, are ironed out.
“Housing is excited about the mutual effort and accomplishment of the LGBT Center and Housing in developing a new gender-inclusive housing policy. We have made great strides in making our University more inclusive and we’re looking forward to its implementation for spring room draw,” Hodgeman said.
Undergraduate Student Government President Aleksandra Czulak, ’17 also emphasized the role that student activism played in creating change on campus, noting in particular the personal anecdotes included on the gender-neutral housing petition’s website.
“It was great hearing from students who were interested in learning more about the policy before the vote and I think the testimonials by students made a big impact on other students and administrators,” Czulak added.