Emory will offer a gender-neutral housing pilot program for the 2011-2012 academic year, a move that will allow juniors or seniors to request a roommate of any sex or gender.
The gender-neutral housing program will take place in approximately 60 two-bedroom apartments in the F Building of the Clairmont Residential Center (CRC). Residence Life and Housing will honor only mutual roommate requests.
Andy Wilson, director of Residence Life and assistant dean for Campus Life, said the pilot program will consist of approximately 120 students. Residence Life and Housing selected the F Building because it contains two-bedroom units, Assistant Director of Residence Life and Operations Joni Tyson explained.
“When you go beyond two bedrooms, it gets complicated,” Tyson said. She noted that two students can reside in each of the two bedrooms in the F Building apartments, but not in apartments with four bedrooms. This makes it easier for Residence Life and Housing to place any leftover students in need of housing.
“[Students] in two-bedroom apartments would have the option of pulling in another roommate, or we could place them with a same-gender roommate, which is in accordance with our standard policy,” Tyson explained.
Tyson said that up until this point, students either had to petition for gender-neutral housing or live off-campus. Residence Life and Housing has granted these requests as exceptions in the past.
Director of Clairmont Campus Frank Gaertner wrote in an e-mail to the Wheel
that this program will enable students to “live with a roommate they most prefer, without limiting it to someone of the same biological sex.”
“We know that students can live off-campus with any other student they choose, and we’re happy to give them this same option here on campus,” Gaertner wrote.
Wilson noted that other colleges’ and universities’ successes with gender-neutral housing partially inspired this pilot program. The National Student Genderblind Campaign website, genderblind.org, lists more than 50 other colleges and universities with similar policies.
“Other schools have done this, and it’s important for us as an institution to offer the same kinds of options in our residence halls,” Wilson explained.
Gaertner, who wrote the proposal for the program, said he read over other schools’ proposals beforehand, which helped him create Emory’s own proposal. The proposal needed — and ultimately did receive — the approval of Vice President and Dean of Campus Life John Ford, as well as of University President James W. Wagner’s cabinet before it could be implemented.
Gaertner wrote that the policy is “responsive to student needs and issues.” For example, he noted, transgender students have had to make special appeals to the assignments coordinators if they desired to live with a student of a different biological sex. The new policy will allow them to live with whomever they wish without the special appeals process, Gaertner wrote.
Student inquiries played a major role in the administration’s decision to implement the new policy, Gaertner explained. According to Gaertner, Emory Residence Life and Housing worked closely with representatives from the Residence Hall Association (RHA) and the Student Government Association (SGA) to formulate the program.
SGA President and Goizueta Business School senior Beth Brandt wrote in an e-mail to the Wheel
that last semester, SGA produced its own “ideal proposal.”
Brandt added that initiating the conversation about gender-neutral housing was a part of her campaign platform when she ran for SGA president.
“Fortunately for everyone, Residence Life [and Housing] was also interested in restarting these conversations,” Brandt said.
According to Gaertner, Residence Life and Housing asked a question in its annual Educational Benchmark, Inc. (EBI) survey about gender-neutral housing.
Sixty-one percent of student respondents said they were moderately to very interested in living with a student of a different biological sex.
Interest was greatest in juniors and seniors, a finding that, according to Gaertner, was part of the inspiration to administer the pilot in the CRC, which only houses juniors and seniors.
In addition, because the University has only recently been notified of the pilot program, Wilson said it is too early to determine the specific number of students actually interested in the pilot but added that this pilot will ultimately enable Residence Life and Housing to better understand students’ interests for the future.
Gaertner said that if successful, Residence Life and Housing will likely expand the program to other buildings.
Interested students can sign up for the gender-neutral housing program through the regular housing selection process.
— Contact Jordan Friedman.