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UWGB needs gender-neutral housing

Tyler Smith, Opinion Writer
February 27, 2013
Filed under Opinion, Top Stories

UW-Green Bay will test gender-neutral apartments for students next semester, according to an intern for the LGBTQ Resource Center who wishes to remain anonymous. Safety and fairness for all students, not just the LGBTQ community, are of primary concern, and the number of units initially available may be as low as one or two.

The main issue this intern expressed was whether such housing options may make targets out of any student who wishes to explore living in a gender-neutral apartment because these units would have to be specifically requested.

Students who would pick apartments in this new program could be inviting trouble from other students who disagree with that kind of lifestyle. The program is still a work in progress. If UWGB integrates this housing option though, it could be a significant step forward for the LGBTQ community of Green Bay.

Many universities began embracing gender-neutral housing after the suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, according to Student Genderblind Campaign co-founder and executive director David Norton.

Clementi committed suicide after his roommate allegedly posted a video online of his sexual encounter with another man. Universities such as George Washington University, Ohio University and Emory University have adopted gender-neutral housing since this event, according to Norton.

This tragic event is more than enough reason to consider a change in policy to provide safer environments for LGBTQ students. However, criticisms of a gender-neutral housing policy do exist.

Bonnie Pritchett, writer for World on Campus, a Christian news website, said there’s little interest or need for gender-neutral housing.

“After eight years, Lewis and Clark University has four students on average — just 0.2 percent of the student body — choose the gender-neutral housing option each semester,” Pritchett said.

Although the LGBTQ community wants safer environments, few instances of gender or sexual identity related crimes are reported by campus statistics, according to Pritchett. Rutgers senior Frank Blaha felt gay and lesbian groups shouldn’t have used the suicide of Clementi to further their cause for gender-neutral housing, according to Joel Rose of NPR.

Any change to a longstanding policy should be critiqued heavily. Even if statistics don’t show present danger, students should still be allowed the chance to change their living style if they don’t feel comfortable or safe. Dispute aside, UW campuses are currently considering changes to their housing policies.

UW-La Crosse has decided to allow co-ed housing, according to Jenna Troum, writer for WKBT News8000.

“It’s a breakthrough the university’s LGBTQ population has been waiting for,” Troum said.

The UW Board of Regents has placed the decision for implementing co-ed or gender-neutral housing in the hands of each UW chancellor. According to Troum, UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Grow feels students who pay for residence halls should receive a situation they feel comfortable with.

However, Reuter Hall is the only residence building with the separate bedrooms necessary to allow for co-ed housing and it’s the most expensive of the housing options.

UW-Madison will be offering its own housing option called Open House: Gender Learning Community, according to The Badger Herald writer Tegan Vail.

The Open House is available to any student, regardless of sexual orientation or background and will be provided in Phillips Hall of UW-Madison, according to Vail. The gender and women’s studies department sponsored the program out of a desire for students to have a community that explores topics related to gender issues.

This spiking trend in gender-neutral or co-ed housing is a step in the right direction to increasing tolerance of and rights for the LGBTQ community. Today’s society is approaching a new age and something as simple as college housing policy is ever evolving. College age students should have the right to pursue gender-neutral housing, regardless of their sexual orientation or background.

This campus should join other Wisconsin universities in pursuing this opportunity for students, so long as their safety and integrity can be ensured. If a test period is conducted next semester and proves fruitful, perhaps a new generation of college students can soon expect to be asked whether they wish to include others of the opposite sex in their apartment.