Starin Hall to offer gender-neutral housing

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By Josh Hafemeister

April 2, 2014

 

 

Of all of the colleges and universities across the nation, only 149 colleges offer a gender-neutral housing option for members of the LGBT community, according to campuspride.org.

Three of the UW system colleges are among them: UW-La Crosse, UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee. Next fall, UW-Whitewater will be the fourth.

Inclusive Housing, also called gender-neutral housing, means students of opposite sexes will be able to live in the same residential suite. All students are eligible for this option, whether they are gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, gender nonconforming or bisexual.

Starin Hall will host UW-Whitewater’s Inclusive Housing option. Associate Director of Residence Life Terry Tumbarello said eight suites have been set aside, and applications were made available Feb 17.

Tumbarello said this option was in development for several years.

“This was a lengthy process,” Tumbarello said. “We wanted to see what other universities were doing.”

While all eight suites have been filled for the fall 2014 semester, Tumbarello said the number of available suites may change in the future depending on demand.

The reason Starin Hall was selected for the option was due to a UW policy stating students of opposite sexes cannot sleep in the same room together. Starin Hall’s suites offer students their own individual room, thereby allowing residents of opposite sexes to live together.

LGBT Coordinator Cynthia Konrad served as chair of a taskforce set up by Chancellor Richard Telfer to examine the climate for LGBT students, faculty and staff. Questions they looked to answer included “How can experiences of LGBT people on campus be improved?” Information the taskforce gathered aided Residence Life in constructing a gender-neutral housing plan.

“We’ve also, at the LGBT taskforce, looked at some studies by different organizations that talked about gender inclusive housing as a practice that supports transgender and gender-nonconforming students in their development as people and in their experience on a university campus.”

Konrad said Residence Life’s real underlying motivation in providing Inclusive Housing is to help all students in their development on campus and to improve the quality of their experience on campus. “They [members of Residence Life] are very interested in supporting all different sorts of diverse students,” Konrad said.

Konrad said the PRIDE Center has been active in telling students about the new option UW-Whitewater offers.

“One of the ways the PRIDE Center and I serve to help these efforts for gender inclusive housing is to provide people information why it’s important for students to have that option.”

Senior and PRIDE intern Lisa Helms said she was happy UW-Whitewater is setting this up and said transgender students “need a safe place to live.”

The process for applying to Inclusive Housing is in the residence hall application found on the UW-Whitewater website.

Students are asked to fill out a form which requires students to “describe their need/interest in Inclusive Housing and how it will support you [the student applying for Inclusive Housing] to be a successful student at UW-Whitewater,” as well as several other questions.

Helms said she hopes the university continues to push forward on LGBT issues.

“Not just for transgender students, but every student,” Helms said. “I think this benefits everyone, especially LGBT students.”