Letter to the Editor: Gender-neutral housing promotes inclusiveness on campus

Dear Editor,

I am writing as a member of the recently formed Gender-Neutral Housing Coalition (GHNC) at Grand Valley State University. The topic of having a gender-neutral housing option has been increasingly discussed within our campus community. The members of the GHNC would like to take a moment to address several points regarding this issue and why we feel adopting a gender-neutral housing option will not only benefit housing communities, but the university as a whole.

Gender-neutral housing (GNH) can take many forms, which can be seen by looking at the more than fifty universities across the country that have implemented a GNH policy. Sometimes GNH is campus-wide and other times it is an option that only a few students can elect. The one that we think that would best benefit GVSU is an option-based system that would allow students to choose the individual they feel most compatible and comfortable with. This essentially means that relatively little would change in the way housing operates today. One would still fill out the roommate and housing preferences and would be able to choose the roommate regardless of differing genders. In other words, someone who identifies as a female could very well live with her best male friend. These two best friends would still choose their preferences in apartment-living communities, such as the South apartments or Secchia Hall.

Currently, there are brothers and sisters cohabitating in on-campus apartments, and this is a perfect example of how a gender-neutral housing option could work as one possibility. This is especially important because there are many factors involved in choosing a roommate; cleanliness, study and sleep habits are among these factors. Perhaps for some, the least important is gender. Creating an atmosphere most comfortable for an individual is also most conducive to academic success. Furthermore, we think it’s important to acknowledge that adopting this policy would address the needs of a gender diverse campus community, while promoting gender equity for the greater Grand Valley population.
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. 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, we suggest 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.

-Members of the Gender-Neutral Housing Coalition