Ending a three-year pilot program to determine demand for gender-neutral housing on campus, the University has decided to no longer offer gender-neutral housing options for on-campus residence halls starting last semester, according to Carlos Gonzalez, assistant director of residential and event services.
The pilot program — which designated approximately 100 suites on West Campus as gener-neutral — was implemented in fall 2008 to assess student demand for housing options that permitted a mix of men and women.
“Students of the opposite sex were allowed to live in the same suite, but not share a room,” Gonzalez said.
Yet demand for multi-gender suites in campus dorm buildings was too low to sustain the program, according to Gonzalez.
“The findings of the pilot were that … the few multi-gender suites that were reserved ended up yielding far more roommate issues and complaints than single-gender suites,” Gonzalez said in an email.
While there is no official gender-neutral housing option on campus, students may petition their residence hall for a multi-gender suite during the Continued Occupancy period — a period in which West Campus residents are given priority in housing selection for the following year.
“Requests are considered by each [West Campus] house on a case-by-case basis, and are only granted under exceptional circumstances,” Gonzalez said.
While Cornell’s Housing Lottery and Room Selection guide provides the option for students to petition for a multi-gender suite, the University does not advertise this option extensively due to the infrequency of approved requests, according to Gonzalez.
According to Ulysses Smith ’13, former chair of the Student Assembly Residential Life Committee, said the absence of publicity may account for the apparent lack of demand.
“There is a pretty significant student movement gaining ground in favor of gender-neutral housing and restroom facilities,” Smith said.
However, the on-campus multi-gender options that currently exist “are not being sought out by many students,” he said. “This could be attributed to the fact that the [opportunities are] just not well-known.”
The University’s decision to discontinue the pilot program contrasts with national trends. More than 160 college campuses in the U.S., including every Ivy League university besides Cornell, have on-campus options, The Princetonian reported. In February, Princeton University announced that it will expand its gender-neutral housing program by about 200 beds.
The Transgender Advocacy Committee, part of Cornell’s LGBT Resource Center, is currently re-examining gender-neutral housing options for students who want to live in mixed-gender suites on-campus.
“Gender-neutral housing does enter the spotlight when we as an institution begin to understand that there are more gender identities than just ‘man’ and ‘woman,’” said Matt Carcella, associate dean of students and director of the LGBT Resource Center. “Many campuses offer themed living opportunities like LGBTQ floors in residence halls. Cornell doesn’t have a precedent for that type of residential housing, but it could be valuable to the community.”
Although Cornell Housing does not currently offer multi-gender suites as a regular housing option, Smith said that the S.A. Residential Life Committee has acknowledged that multi-gender housing opportunities should be continued and eventually expanded.
“I think the first priority is for the University to first work with students to define exactly what gender-neutral housing means,” Smith said. “Then, gauge just how many students would be willing to sign up for this type of housing. Advertisement needs to be improved, without question.”