UW-W looks to offer new housing option


By Josh Hafemeister

Gender-neutral housing options have become available on college campuses nationwide. Starting in the fall semester of 2014, UW-Whitewater will become part of this trend.
Associate Director of Residence Life Terry Tumbarello said the gender-neutral housing option will be available in Starin Hall starting in the fall semester of 2014.
Gender-neutral housing means students of the opposite sex will be permitted to live in the same residence suite together. This option is a step in the right direction toward recognizing gender diversity at UW-Whitewater.
Tumbarello said students eligible for this program will include gay and lesbian students, transgender students and students who don’t identify with the traditional male or female gender role.
Starin Hall is the only residence hall offering this option because Tumbarello said there is a UW System policy stating students of opposite sex cannot sleep in the same room together. Starin Hall’s suites offer students their own private room with doors that can be locked, thereby adhering to the policy.
Tumbarello said the details of this residency option will be ironed out within the next two to three weeks.
Some universities in the UW System already have gender-neutral residency options.
UW-Milwaukee offers what they call Inclusive Housing. According to the housing policy page of their website, Inclusive Housing is for students who do not identify as one of the traditional binary gender roles or who have other cultural or identity reasons that need to be taken into consideration.
UW-La Crosse has also passed a resolution to allow for gender-neutral housing within Reuter Hall.
Several universities across the country offer variant forms of gender-neutral residency for their students. Two such universities are Harvard and Lehigh University.
According to the housing policy page on  Harvard University’s website, the university recognizes the need for gender-neutral housing and will permit mixed-gender rooming on a case by case basis. All residents must voluntarily agree to the arrangements.
Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn., also offers gender-neutral housing options for its upper-class students starting back in the fall of 2010.
Similar to Starin Hall, Lehigh University’s Brodhead House, where gender-neutral housing is available for the 2013-2014 school year, offers four-bedroom suites so students can have a private room for themselves.
The university’s website says that the option is available to students who are uncomfortable living with same-sex roommates, as well as students who identify with the LGBT community or who do not identify with the traditional binary gender roles.
Several questions remain pertaining to the gender-neutral housing option in Starin Hall.
What are the criteria for students who wish to apply for this option? Students will need to know what is required of them before they are eligible for the new housing option.What year of college must students be in order to be eligible? Is there a minimum GPA required?
What about students who are in a relationship together? Are they allowed to move in together? What if they break up?
Couples need to know what options are available to them if they end up in a situation such as this.
Is UW-Whitewater and Residence Life prepared to respond to opponents of this option?
There are several reasons someone might oppose gender-neutral housing, including religions and cultural reasons.
Is UW-Whitewater prepared for any potential legal action that could result from this housing option?
Gender-neutral housing is a step in the right direction for UW-Whitewater. This option recognizes gender diversity on campus, and seeks to accommodate all of the university’s students.
However, there are still details that need to be worked out in order for this option to be implemented smoothly.

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