University to begin consideration of gender neutral housing

Members of the LGBT community at GVSU prepare for a silent march on this past Wednesday.

Eric Coulter

Members of the LGBT community at GVSU prepare for a silent march on this past Wednesday.

Molly Waite

Some students at Grand Valley State University chose not to speak on Wednesday in a silence intended to recognize and honor the silenced LGBT minority for the national Day of Silence. This year, however, student leaders chose to direct the event toward the issue of gender neutral housing.

Senior Ben Pohl, a member of the student-run Gender Neutral Housing Coalition, said after the Day of Silence events, students were invited to join the coalition in a meeting with Andy Beachnau, director of Housing at GVSU.

“It was very fitting to have a meeting with Dr. Beachnau on the Day of Silence when so many students on campus feel silenced because of the current gender segregated housing policy,” Pohl said.

At the meeting, Pohl said the coalition demanded a gender neutral housing option. The coalition presented Beachnau with a proposal for the implementation of gender neutral housing on campus, the Student Senate resolution passed last month in support of gender neutral housing and more than 1,000 signatures indicating the support of the GVSU community.

Pohl said Beachnau told the coalition members that he recognizes the need for gender neutral housing and would like to work toward implementation during fall semester 2011.

“I indicated I would review the proposal and invite campus colleagues and students to join my staff in the proposal review process,” Beachnau said. “It is part of the university culture to always meet with students about suggestions or concerns related to university regulations and policies.”

Beachnau said he plans to begin discussing the possibility of bringing gender neutral housing to campus over the Spring/Summer semester, but no policy decisions have been made at this time.

The GNH Coalition is planning on meeting next with Jeanne Arnold, vice president of Inclusion and Equity, in order to garner further support for gender neutral housing. After speaking with Arnold, they intend to meet with President Thomas J. Haas and the GVSU Board of Trustees to ensure the future of gender neutral housing comes to fruition on GVSU’s campuses.

“Until we see the implementation of GNH, we are still looking for letters of support from student organizations, personal stories from individuals affected by the current gender segregated housing policy and people to sign the petition,” Pohl said. “It is now more important than ever for students to show their support.”

Pohl encouraged interested students, faculty and staff to contact the coalition to find out how they can become more involved by emailing [email protected]. Those with questions are also invited to contact the student group.

“There is no doubt that because of the passion of GVSU’s students that GVSU is a positive example for the rest of the country,” Pohl said. “The movement for gender neutral housing shows us that students are capable of creating, positive changes on our campus.”

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