August 29, 2013

Cornell Brings Back Gender-Inclusive Housing to Dormitories

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For the first time in Cornell’s history, students living in on-campus housing are able to live with a roommate of any gender.

The gender-inclusive housing option comes just a year after the University discontinued a pilot program, citing a lack of demand among students. This fall, out of the 3,340 people who signed up for the housing lottery, 26 students are living in gender-inclusive housing, according to Carlos Gonzalez, assistant director of office of residential and event services.

All 26 students who chose gender inclusive housing currently reside on West Campus and chose gender-inclusive suites, not gender-inclusive rooms, Gonzalez said. The gender-inclusive housing option was open to all continuing students living in West Campus, Collegetown dorms, program houses and University co-operative houses.

Though the resolution proposing this year’s gender-inclusive housing option was passed by the Student Assembly in 2012, efforts to implement such an option began years ago, with one resolution calling for gender-inclusive housing passed in October 2007.

Advocates of gender-inclusive housing faced a setback in 2012 when the University discontinued its previous three-year pilot program after finding “the few multi-gender suites that were reserved ended up yielding far more roommate issues and complaints than single-gender suites,” Gonzalez said to The Sun last year.

This time around, however, the gender-inclusive option may continue despite low demand.

“Our intent is to continue the program regardless of the numbers. I think it is an important option to have available for residents,” Burke said.

Ulysses Smith ’13, Student Assembly president, said the small numbers of students opting for gender-inclusive housing this year were not surprising, especially when compared to numbers seen at other campuses that have initiated gender-inclusive housing.

“We [students sponsoring the resolution] all understood going into this that there is never an overwhelming majority [of students choosing gender-inclusive housing] in the first few years,” he said. “We saw from research [of other universities] that the number of students choosing gender-inclusive housing] was only low double digits and moved up as the program gained popularity.”

Jadey Huray ’14, president of Haven: The LGBTQ Student Union, said the gender-inclusive housing option was significant because it allowed students to understand why such an option was important for some students.

“I think it’s a very good first step,” Huray said.

She added, however, that there are still many steps to be taken.

For example, in the upcoming housing cycle, the gender-inclusive housing option is supposed to expand to new spring transfer students, according to the S.A. resolution “Adoption of a Gender-Inclusive Housing Policy.”

“There are about 500 spring transfers, so that would be our beta test for our incoming freshmen because we can see how coming in blind and choosing gender-inclusive housing would work. Both parties would consent but you’re not going to know each other,” Smith said.

The housing office has not yet approved the implementation of gender-inclusive housing for new transfers yet.

Still, Smith said he expects to hold meetings with the housing office soon.

For now, gender-inclusive housing options for students on campus seem to be set to stay.

“We are committed to the [gender-inclusive housing] program and want to make sure that we support students who want this type of housing arrangement,” Burke said.

Original Author: Jinjoo Lee