We need gender-inclusive housing

Unsafe housing arrangements prevent students from reaching their full potential.

Luis Ruuska

One of the primary concerns of new, transfer and returning students is determining their housing arrangements.

These students typically fear they won’t have enough room or their floor will be too loud — or even too quiet. Safety doesn’t always factor into every student’s housing options, but it’s a real concern for some.

Around the country, students at colleges and universities ranging from the University of North Carolina system to Harvard are fighting for gender-inclusive housing.

For most colleges, creating gender-inclusive housing means building rooms where people of any gender or gender identity can live together.

Additionally, most schools with gender-inclusive housing expand this to residence hall restrooms, which are open to all regardless of gender or gender identity.

Various schools have successfully implemented gender-inclusive housing policies in recent years. Columbia University, New York University and Brown University created gender-inclusive housing due to student concerns over a same-sex roommate requirement. Although these policies are aimed to help all students feel safer in residential housing, LGBT students in particular have welcomed gender-inclusive policies.

These policies address real safety concerns. In a Q Research Institute for Higher Education survey, about a quarter of gay, lesbian, bisexual or queer students and more than a third of transgender students said they experienced harassment.

The University of Minnesota–Twin Cities does not specifically have a gender-inclusive housing policy. However, all nine of its residence halls are coed, and the University has made efforts to create a multitude of gender-inclusive restrooms on all three regions of campus.

Additionally, the GLBTA Programs Office hosts a living learning community called Lavender House.

These efforts to make campus more gender-inclusive earned the University a top rating among the most LGBT-friendly campuses in the nation from the Campus Pride Index.

Other universities struggling with the issue of creating more gender-inclusive campuses need only look at the efforts of our University to know that the students appreciate gender-inclusive housing measures.

Academic success, not safety, should be students’ only concern. An unsafe environment may hinder students’ potential for success. As a collective student body, we are unable to reach our full potential when some of our peers cannot reach theirs.

Readers may recall the suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi. Clementi killed himself in September 2010 after discovering his roommate Dharun Ravi had secretly broadcast a romantic encounter between Clementi and another man using a webcam.

Ravi was later found guilty of 15 counts, including bias intimidation, but ultimately, he did not see punishment for Clementi’s death.

Clementi’s suicide is a drastic example of why gender-inclusive housing is necessary for students and should serve as a lesson to universities nationwide.

Hopefully, the colleges and universities across the country struggling with gender-inclusiveness will decide to stand on the side of students and move toward making their campuses more welcoming for all.