RHA Considers Gender Inclusive Housing

Discussions about gender inclusivity at Seattle University have been on the rise in recent years. Most recently, the Residence Hall Association (RHA) has begun to push for gender inclusive housing on campus. The movement toward gender inclusive housing started with outreach through a survey on Facebook aimed at exploring student opinions on the topic.

Gender inclusive housing is an option that would allow students to choose to live with other students regardless of their sex assigned at birth or their gender identity. The movement centers people who identify as gender nonconforming, transgender or within the queer community, and would be open to every student no matter how
they identify.

Student feedback has driven RHA’s movement regarding the current process for non-binary students being assigned to housing. Currently, if students wish to change their housing assignment based on gender, they have to initiate the change and are accommodated on a case-by-case basis. Some students must live in single rooms, which are more costly. Tucker Price, the RHA Vice President and National Communications Coordinator, said that some of the feedback he received in the survey said that some students—particularly non-binary students or students of other identities—felt more comfortable living off-campus because their needs were not easily met in the housing selection process.

“[Our goal is] providing a better housing experience for students with different identities than [those] that have been looked at in the past by housing, and being able to make sure people are comfortable in their rooms,” Price said.

With the discussion of gender inclusive housing, RHA aims to focus on creating options that allow students to find housing that they are comfortable with more easily. The association also hopes to advocate for Seattle U’s diverse student body.

“Our three pillars are recognition, advocacy and programming, and I know a lot of us had felt that one area that we had not been living up to as much was our advocacy,” Price said.

The movement is still in its early stages of development, and the first step is to hear from the Seattle U community and get a sense of who would be interested in the addition of gender inclusive housing. Before posting the survey, RHA entered discussions with the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), the Triangle Club and housing administration.

So far, feedback through the survey has been mostly positive. Out of 203 responses on the survey, 138 people said that they would be interested in gender inclusive housing. Out of these participants, 83 percent of responses agree or strongly agree with the statement that there should be gender inclusive housing.

Anna Maria Gassen, a freshman pre-science major, agreed that the gender inclusive housing change is a positive direction to take.

“I think it would be really awesome and really important to have some kind of gender inclusive housing or some kind of way for people to meet other non-binary or trans people so that they feel safer,” Gassen said.

The movement is still in the first stages of development, so discussion on how gender inclusive housing would be implemented is still underway. There is discussion about an option for a learning community based in gender identity, where there would be one or more floors dedicated to gender inclusive housing.

“It would definitely raise awareness that there is a population on campus that is asking for this,” said Co-President of the Triangle Club Cody Ireland, referring to the option for a learning community.

Gender inclusive housing could also mean having the housing option to live with other students regardless of their gender identity and allow students to just choose this option on the housing application.

Seattle U wouldn’t be the first university to create gender inclusive housing on campus. The University of San Francisco, also a private Jesuit institution, allows student to apply on the housing application to be entered into a lottery for a room in the gender inclusive housing community.

If RHA determines that there is a need for gender inclusive housing on campus, their goal is to implement it for the incoming class of 2017-2018.

Tess may be reached at towen@su-spectator.com

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