Skip to content

GVSU Students initiate Gender-Neutral Housing campaign

February 17, 2011

Yesterday, students from Grand Valley State University began a petition campaign to get student, faculty and community support for a campaign to institute gender-neutral housing on campus.

The petition language reads:

The housing proposal would allow any two students, regardless of sex or gender, to live in any GVSU residence building that allows occupants to have their own separate bedroom. The policy would apply only to those who specify on their housing application that they would prefer to utilize this option (blind choices would remain same-sex).

The housing policy seeks to create more options in the room selection process so that ALL students are able to find a compatible roommate and would ease tensions felt by students who struggle to find safe and comfortable living spaces under the current housing requirements, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer students.

This housing policy change aligns perfectly with Grand Valley’s position found in the “Affirmative Action Statement” which states that our university encourages equal opportunity in the use of its facilities and does not limit access to university activities on the basis of sex/gender, gender identity and expression. It is also consistent to GVSU’s values of inclusiveness and community.

Some of the students involved in the campaign to get gender-neutral housing on campus responded to our request for comment. Fermin Equality Valle stated, “In a university where all voices are heard, I support Gender Neutral Housing because it gives real substance to GVSU’s core values of “inclusiveness” “community” “diversity” and “equity” in the housing arena.”

Joi Dupler said, “Gender-Neutral Housing allows people to choose their most compatible roommate, regardless of gender or sex, because shared living habits, such as cleanliness, is more important in determining a roommate than one’s genitals.”

According to a recent article on Campus Progress, Gender-Neutral Housing now exists on 54 campuses across the country. However, according to the 2010 Campus Equality Index, most of the campuses are located on the east or west coast demonstrating that there is more resistance to the idea of Gender-Neutral Housing in the Midwest.

However, the fact that campuses in the Midwest are lagging behind their counter-parts on the coasts doesn’t mean that students here aren’t committed to making this change happen. Joi Dupler also provided three additional reasons for being involved in this campaign, reasons that are well thought out and articulate the students’ desire for equality and justice on campus.

First,  Gender-Neutral Housing (GNH) promotes gender equity by negating gender stereotypes. It is commonly held that men and women can’t co-exist peacefully under the same roof because women are “clean and organized” and men are “messy and irresponsible.” Obviously, such claims are unsubstantiated since research suggests that there is relatively little behavioral difference between genders. Therefore, there isn’t ‘clean’ women or ‘messy’ men, but rather messy people and clean people. If GNH were to be institutionalized, it would break down those gendered assumptions, because students would see functional examples of men and women peacefully living together. This is especially important since anthropological research indicates gender inequality increases as differences between the sexes are socially exaggerated. If we continue to believe men and women are inherently different and can’t co-exist in harmony, we all lose out on an opportunity to develop close friendships.

Second, it serves the unique needs of LGBT students who often struggle to find safe and comfortable housing. Due to the current housing policy, several queer students have often complained of having to deal with the stressful situation of transphobic or homophobic roommates. Some have even been forced to change roommates three to six times in one semester! If a pre-op FtM student would feel more comfortable living with a pre-op MtF student, they should be able to live together–no questions asked. Under the current policy, they cannot because they have different biological sexes, and that’s completely unacceptable! In order to succeed academically, one must first feel safe and comfortable at home; and there’s no way that can be achieved when one’s roommate harasses, ignores, or belittles them based on their gender identity or expression, and sexual orientation.

Lastly, this housing policy change aligns perfectly with Grand Valley’s position found in the “Affirmative Action Statement” which states that our university encourages equal opportunity in the use of its facilities, and does not limit access to university activities on the basis of sex/gender, gender identity and expression. It is also consistent to GVSU’s core values of inclusiveness and community. The university’s best interest is to retain as many students living on-campus as possible. The current housing policy alienates some students that would prefer to live on-campus with a person of a different gender. Therefore, it is suggested that the proper role of the university is not to determine with whom students may or may not live with, but rather empower its students to make healthy decisions, which includes their choice of roommate in their living situation.

GRIID will keep you posted as this effort develops and we encourage people to sign the petition in support of this effort.

 

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: