With the housing lottery fast approaching, students are beginning to weigh their options. On or off-campus? North or South? Single or double? And the most recent addition: male or female roommate?
Starting in the 2010-2011 school year, Northwestern students will have the opportunity to live with a roommate of the opposite sex. Northwestern University’s Gender Protection Initiative has obtained approval to launch Gender Open Housing, a pilot program which gives returning and transfer students the option of living in a mixed-gender space and rooming with whomever they choose.
Applications for Gender Open Housing will be on the general housing forms. Students may apply with a roommate, elect to be matched with one, or choose to live in a single. This option will be available on a strictly elective and limited basis. There will be approximately 18-20 beds, probably a mix of singles and doubles, in the selected dorm on South campus and/or North campus, said Margaret Pike, Communication senior and president of Gender Protective Initiative.
“We [the Gender Protection Initiative] talked to the food and housing board,” said Pike. “Once they had approved of a pilot program, we met with the Vice President for Student Affairs, William Banis. We are in the process of talking to a housing coordinator to figure out the best dorm in which to place gender open housing.”
Gender open housing is not just for GLBT students, said Pike, but it is a major concern in the GLBT community. Gay, lesbian and bisexual students can be paired with heterosexual roommates, which can be awkward, and transgender students often feel uncomfortable being placed in a room with people of their birth-assigned sex, Pike said.
“I think Gender Open Housing is an option that more and more universities are offering because it allows students to have complete control over their living arrangements. Same-sex roommates don’t work for all students. Some people want to live with their best friend who’s of another sex, a romantic partner, or whatever the case may be,” said Morgan Richardson, Weinberg freshman and publicity chair of Rainbow Alliance.
Other institutions that offer gender-neutral housing options include University of Chicago, Brown, Harvard and UPenn. U of C finished the implementation of their program in Fall 2009. This program differs from Northwestern’s pilot program in that open housing exists across the entire housing system, except in those dorms designated as single-sex.
Students at Columbia University have also submitted proposals for gender-neutral housing options. However, Columbia’s administration have decided not to make it available for the 2010 school year, stating that they “want to make sure they have time to have a larger community conversation” before reaching a decision.