Gender-neutral housing vote

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March 22, 2011

12:54 AM

Students at the College of William and Mary will have a chance to voice their opinion on gender-neutral housing on Thursday’s Student Assembly ballot.

Following a vote by the Senate Tuesday, the SA ballot Thursday will include a referendum question regarding student support for the second stage of “A Guideline for Adapting Residence Life Policies to Demands for Greater Gender Inclusiveness.” This is a proposal by the SA that has outlined stages by which the College could implement gender-neutral housing.

Stage two of the gender-neutral housing proposal provides for a gender-neutral housing option in certain Ludwell quad apartments, but would still require students to share same-sex rooms.

“Students could opt to be placed in those Ludwell Quad apartments, the same as if they would opt for a language house; none of it is forced,” Jake Lewitz ’13 said. Lewitz is a senator who contributed to the SA gender-neutral proposal.

After the second stage of the proposal was met with resistance by the College administration, the policy was revised over winter break, deleting the option of same-sex rooms.

“This would be the first time the support of the full student body will be assessed,” Jesse Vasold ’11 said.

Despite the unanimous passage of the gender-neutral housing bill by the SA in November 2009, the administration still does not believe it is the right political climate for such residential change.

“There have been no discussions about moving beyond our current arrangement,” Director of Residence Life Deb Boykin said.

Boykin referred to Vice President for Student Affairs Virginia Ambler, ’88, Ph.D. ’06 statement which did not express support for the second stage of the proposal.

“The administration is generally really receptive to student responses to these kinds of issues,” Lewitz said.

Neither Lewitz ’13 nor Vasold ’11 conveyed confidence that the administration will change their opinion no matter the result of the possible referendum.

“I don’t expect the administration’s response to change even with student support. But if a large amount of students are supportive of stage two, then we can at least get the logistics of the policy ready for when they say the political climate is good enough,” Lewitz said.

The SA still contends that regardless of such revision, stage two would at least address the issue of greater confidentiality for students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning. LGBTQ students will no longer have to identify their gender status to administrators in order to apply for special housing needs.

“For anyone who has qualms against this policy, it should be stressed that it is an option to housing, not a requirement.” Lewitz said. “Students have to actively elect to do so.”

Stage one, called the Adaptive Housing Policy, has already been implemented, and allows personnel from the Center for Student Diversity to petition for single-room residences for students who have special housing needs.

Stage three calls for the establishment of a gender-neutral housing option for students throughout all of Ludwell apartments. Neither stage two nor stage three has yet to be put into action at the College.

“As long as we are adhering to these guidelines, we will never have gender-neutral housing past Ludwell,” Lewitz said. “Honestly, I don’t expect gender-neutral housing across all of campus to happen any time soon.”

Lewitz expects a sizable portion of the student body will support stage two of the proposal. However, he said if student support for stage two of the proposal is minimal, the SA would re-evaluate the policy.

Yale University was recently the last of the Ivy League colleges to include a gender-neutral housing option in its residence policies. Yale joins over 30 universities who have implemented residential options similar to stage two of the SA’s proposal.

For further information regarding the Gender Neutral Housing Proposal, refer to the Student Assembly website.

__This article was edited Wednesday at 8:00 pm to include the confirmation of the referendum on Thursday’s SA ballot following the Tuesday Senate meeting __

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