The push for gender-neutral housing at UNT has stalled temporarily

The push for gender-neutral housing at UNT has stalled temporarily

April 30
06:15 2014

Olivia Sylvain // Staff Writer

Last semester, four UNT students petitioned Residence Hall Association to offer gender-neutral housing as an option for all students. This housing option would give those who identify as LGBT+ more choices for housing that better suits them, but implementation of the new policy has hit a roadblock.

The petition was presented to RHA but as of now the university has not implemented gender-neutral housing (GNH). RHA is directly in charge of making policy changes for residence halls so no changes can be made until those administrators make a decision, according to Director of Housing Elisabeth Warren.

“We discussed the possibility of a pilot project in an upper class hall like Mozart for fall 2015 on one wing, if we got positive feedback from RHA,” Warren said. “Because there has been no movement forward on their part, I have not sought advice nor support from my higher-ups yet, which would be necessary if this were to happen.”

One of the authors of the petition, English sophomore Taylor Evans, said she and the other organizers don’t have much control over the decision at this point but they have been in constant contact with Housing.

“UNT Housing has been supportive. They spoke to us about possibly starting a committee to plan the implementation and eventual expansion of a gender-neutral housing policy,” Evans said.

The system that the petitioners suggested would offer students the chance to opt-in to gender neutral housing and choose whether they want to live with a male, female or either gender. The petition was created on change.org and was linked to the UNT subreddit page where students expressed a lot of negative feedback, Evans said.

Another petitioner, communications sophomore Atarah Fields said many students were confused about how gender-neutral housing works and why it is necessary on the UNT campus, but they opened up to the idea after talking about it.

“A lot of people don’t initially understand what gender-neutral housing is. But once I or my other group members explain it to them, they are very supportive and eager to sign the petition,” Fields said. “I think people really just don’t recognize the problem, so they don’t notice the need for a policy like this.”

The group of petitioners was asked to present their proposal to different UNT student organizations and the Residence Life Advisor Council in order to get support from Housing and student leaders, according to Director of Housing Operations James Fairchild.

Housing has not moved out of the discussion stage of the plan and is in the process of getting a full understanding of how to approach the issue in a positive way.

“Housing is open to considering the idea but we have yet to take formal steps to put a plan in to action,” Fairchild said.

Other Texas colleges such as Rice University, Southwestern University and Texas Southern University have implemented the gender-neutral housing option for their students. More colleges nationwide are moving toward this type of housing and UNT will have to eventually do the same, Evans said.

“GNH is eventually going to have to happen. That’s just the direction college housing is going to have to take,” Evans said. “If there are questions or concerns, we can help people understand. We want to have a conversation about it.”

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