A proposed expansion of the current Residential Life (Res Life) policy, which would allow all Colgate University students, regardless of class year and housing arrangement, to request mixed-gender housing options, is currently pending approval. If approved, the amended policy would take effect this summer, according to Dean of the College Suzy Nelson, Director of Residential Life Brenda Ice and Assistant Director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Initiatives and Center for Leadership and Student Involvement Jamie Bergeron.
The current ResLife policy only permits gender-inclusive housing in select apartments, which limits the option to juniors and seniors. However, if the policy is approved, gender-inclusive housing would be an option in any building or residential area, with the exception of West Hall, which is gendered by floor. In accordance with the current practice, students who wish to partake in gender-inclusive housing would still have to request that living arrangement.
“The proposed statement would not restrict students from living with another student, regardless of sex,” Nelson, Ice and Bergeron said in a statement. The Dean of the College and the Student Affairs Board, among other organizations, must approve the latest version of the policy before its adoption. The issue of gender-inclusive housing has been on the table for the past five years, with many faculty and staff participating in the discussion, and was initially prompted by a gender-neutral housing committee on campus. The committee researched and evaluated other schools’ policies to ensure that mixed-housing arrangements could be successfully implemented at Colgate.
The statement reads:”It is important for all students to have the flexibility to make housing choices based on their preferences and comfort level. Since Colgate is a residential campus, having more options for students to find a comfortable environment is a priority.”
Sophomore Nicholas Grunden, who requested to live in an apartment with three female students next year, said that he requested mixed-gender housing in order to live with his friends.
“Who wouldn’t want to live with their best friend?” Grunden said. “It’s just unfortunate that special accommodations had to be made for us because I happen to be male and she female.”
The implementation of gender-inclusive housing would accommodate the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming students.
“This isn’t the era anymore of women and men being separated, rather, this is the time where sexual orientation and identity is being explored and reshaped,” Grunden said. “To not have this policy is just not in keeping with the times.”
After receiving feedback from Colgate’s peer-schools that offer gender-inclusive housing, Nelson, Ice and Bergeron determined that the amended policy would produce no negative effects.
First-year Rachel Ernst, who will be living with one female and male student next year, said she has no apprehensions about her future living arrangement because the three-bedroom suite will allow each member space. However Ernst acknowledged that in some cases, people might become uncomfortable with their mixed-gender living arrangements throughout the year.
“There are always issues that arise with rooming, even in housing that is not gender neutral,” Ernst said. “Therefore, I think that the negatives of this policy change are no different than the issues that are naturally associated with all other types of housing.”
Nelson, Ice and Bergeron stressed that gender-inclusive housing is an option for Colgate students, not a requirement, and thus students would only live in mixed-gender rooms or suites if they themselves requested that arrangement.
“We are all adults that should be able to live with whomever we choose, regardless of their gender,” Grunden said. “If you choose to live with someone of the same gender, completely understandable. But others should at least have the choice to live in a situation that they choose and not have it denied of them.”
If the policy is approved, the incoming Class of 2017 would be able to request mixed-gender housing this summer and current students would be able to request mixed-gender housing during the Spring 2014 room selection process.
“I see [the policy] as a positive step; it doesn’t hurt. I guess you could say we’d be granted more adult-like freedoms. It shows that [the administration] thinks we’re mature enough,” first-year Adam Basciano said. “Maybe 15 to 20 percent of the student body would request it, but I don’t think you judge its success by how many people sign up.”
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