Securing housing on campus for the 2022-23 school year has been difficult for students at the College of William and Mary. Between waitlists and crashed housing portals, many issues have already plagued Residence Life staff and students. The issue that gender-inclusive housing will not be guaranteed for students has added to housing concerns.
Gender Inclusive Housing replaced the Flexible Housing and Adaptive Housing processes this year. It is a new initiative introduced by Residence Life with direction and guidance from Lace Grant ’24, who is the undersecretary for LGBTQ+ affairs in Student Assembly.
After volunteering at Campus Pride as part of a Branch Out Alternative Break, Grant realized that the College’s Campus Pride Index score, which is currently a 3.5, could easily be improved through Gender Inclusive Housing Initiatives.
“I reached out to them, I believe, on the third of October last semester and they got back to me on the fourth basically like, ‘Oh my gosh, yeah, we’d love to work with you on Gender Inclusive Housing’, basically saying that they’ve already been wanting to do this for a bit now,” Grant said.
One thing that Grant wanted to emphasize to Residence Life was the importance of setting aside rooms with private bathrooms for the many students who signed up through the gender-inclusive portal. The list of gender-inclusive rooms is available online on the Residence Life webpage and was shared in presentations to students.
“It very much looked like there would be Gender Inclusive Housing set aside for people, which, as we now know, is not true,” Grant said.
In an emailed statement to The Flat Hat, Director of Housing and Residence Life Harriet Kandell explained the situation regarding roommate groups selecting Gender Inclusive Housing.
“As part of the new process, students selecting Gender Inclusive Housing are able to create their own roommate groups and select into rooms with preferred roommates; however, they are not guaranteed Gender Inclusive Housing,” Kandall said in a written statement.
An email shared by Grant from Residence Life said that potential gender-inclusive rooms would also be available to same-gender roommate groups. Additionally, if gender-inclusive roommate groups did not fill the room or if all rooms were taken, then Residence Life would have to move to their contingency plans.
Grant was shocked by this development considering transgender students could potentially be forced into uncomfortable, unsafe living situations if their housing was not guaranteed.
“This is basically the safety net for trans students, and William and Mary is just acting like there’s a contingency plan for trans safety,” Grant said. “There isn’t a contingency plan for trans safety. It’s either we’re safe or we’re not.”
Max Vogel ’23 is a student that selected gender-inclusive housing for the next academic year.
Vogel echoes a similar concern.
“That’s kind of a bad policy to have because they should be making more of an effort in order to accommodate people based on their needs,” Vogel said. “They should just be able to accommodate everyone. And if they can’t, then they should work to make an effort to accommodate the people that they can’t.”
In the same statement to The Flat Hat, Kandell stated that no students had been denied from obtaining Gender Inclusive Housing and that multiple Gender Inclusive Housing rooms were still available at the end of room selection.
Vogel is content with his housing in a Gender Inclusive Room but is still fearful that other students who might not get to share that happiness.
“I hope that it’s the same for everyone. I don’t want me to have a good experience, but for someone else to have, like, a really awful one,” Vogel said.
Considering the waitlist for on-campus housing, Vogel feels concern over the future of the Gender Inclusive Housing Initiative but overall thinks that the development of Gender Inclusive Housing is a step in the right direction.
“I know it used to be much harder to get access to in the past because you would have to submit a specific application to it, you know? But now they’ve made it a lot easier for just anyone to get access to it,” Vogel said.
The Gender Inclusive Housing portal is not that different from the same-gender housing portal, according to Vogel. The student selecting it would just have to fill out the living space with a roommate group before signing up for a room. However, the room selected by the student is not guaranteed.
“I think it’s overall a positive, I think they’re definitely moving in the right direction to better accommodate people, but it’s like a really, really slow process,” Vogel said.
Kandell also said that the Residence Life office is committed to providing a safe environment for all its students.
“While Residence Life knows that not receiving Gender Inclusive Housing may be particularly distressing for some students, the office is committed to providing a safe living environment for all of its residents and will work with students to determine what options may be available,” Kandell said.
Grant says that they will continue to monitor the situation for the rest of their time here and work with Residence Life on Gender Inclusive Housing.
“As long as I’m here, I’m going to make sure that not a single damn student gets forced into a single gender hall if that be dysphoric to them or dangerous. No one deserves that,” Grant said.