Male and female students will be able to room together in any residential hall except Balch Hall after Cornell completes the final implementation of a new gender-neutral housing policy for the 2017-2018 school year.
The change was proposed in December 2015 in Student Assembly Resolution 26: Promoting Justice and Friendship in the Housing Lottery. The initiative behind the change is to offer flexible housing options for all students.
Gender-neutral housing was first adopted in fall 2012 for upper-level students participating in continued occupancy in their on-campus residences, according to Karen Brown, director of Campus Life Marketing and Communications. Now, the option opens up to incoming first-year and transfer students.
The policy will not apply to historically single-gender dorms such as Balch Hall.
Students expressed mixed reactions to the new policy. While students like Kathryn Miller ’15 argue that the University is just sending a positive “message of acceptance,” others worry about its implementation.
“While it’s a good thing that there are more housing options, people could abuse the system, making it dangerous in that aspect,” Amanze Udebiuwa ’19 said. “It is risky.”
Some have expressed concern that the new housing policy could lead to a rise in sexual assault, since students could potentially pretend to be the opposite gender solely for housing purposes.
Miller, however, questions the plausibility of such an action.
“I think when people come to college, the first idea will not be to fake gender,” she said. “But we should still have concern in the back of our minds.”
Miller and Udebiuwa both agreed that Cornell parents may display concern over gender neutral housing.
“I think a lot of parents will be worried because it goes against traditional values,” Udebiuwa said. “Cornell needs to explain…to parents the exact rules to make it more appealing.”
Miller added that research should be conducted to examine the long term impact of gender neutral housing in order to “placate” parents.
Ithaca College implemented gender-neutral housing for the 2016-2017 school year. According to Linda Koenig, assistant director for Housing Services and Communications at IC, the impact of gender neutral housing has yielded positive results on campus.
“Initially when we advertised the option, we received a few phone calls from parents concerned that their student would receive a roommate who did not match their biological sex,” Koenig said. “After explaining that students need to opt into the Open Housing policy, concerns de-escalated.”
Kylee Farabaugh ’19 and Shane Eccleston ’19 demonstrate that the new policy could work with careful planning. After Farabaugh’s fall semester roommate moved into a sorority house and Eccleston’s roommate became an RA, they asked for permission from the housing department and the other female members in the suite in Just About Music and moved in together.
“Last year, I was always over at her room so it only made sense that we roomed together,” Eccleston said. “It’s about setting clear boundaries and following them.”
Both emphasized the importance of having a steady friendship if such a move is to take place.
“I would not recommend this move to any person who is at Cornell for the first semester. It works for me and Kylee because we already have that established mutual respect,” Eccleston said.
Despite concerns, the gender neutral housing policy certainly allows for debate as to what type of housing is best for all students on campus.
“Some people will feel comfortable and some will not with this new policy,” Udebiuwa said. “I think it’s important that we open the discussion and make sure every person feels comfortable.”