University News

Poll finds support for new housing option

By
Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
This article is part of the series Spring 2012 Student Poll

A majority of students believe the University should offer gender-neutral housing for first-year students, according to a Herald poll conducted last month. Roughly 60 percent of students polled said they either strongly or somewhat agreed with a gender-neutral option, with one-third of total respondents strongly agreeing, and about one-quarter indicating that they somewhat agreed with expanding gender-neutral housing.

Nearly one-quarter of surveyed students said they had no opinion on the issue, and about 18 percent said they either strongly or somewhat disagreed that the option be available. 

Yen Tran ’14 said he supported the initiative to expand gender-neutral housing to first-years. Though he doubts the option will be popular among first-years, it will be appreciated by those who want it, he said. Because gender-neutral housing is optional, nobody who feels uncomfortable with it would have to utilize it, he said. 

GenderAction, a subgroup of the Queer Alliance at Brown, originated a proposal and signature campaign last semester to expand gender-neutral housing to first-years. The proposal is due to be submitted to the Corporation in May. Members of GenderAction are meeting this week with Natalie Basil, associate director of residential life, and Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services. They will review the proposal in light of recent feedback from student groups around campus, Basil said. 

Other colleges have gender-neutral housing for first-years, Tran said. The University should work to be as accommodating as other schools, especially for prospective transgender students who feel they need gender-neutral housing, he added. 

Arisa Lohmeier ’14 said she supported expanding gender-neutral housing on campus for upperclassman so students are not limited by which dormitories have designated gender-neutral status. Though she said she is not familiar with the issues transgender students might have with housing, the University should ensure it provides an open and welcome environment. 

“If we say we’re a really liberal school, we shouldn’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk,” Lohmeier said. “It seems like it should just be something we do.” 

Emily Corsini, a prospective member of the class of 2016, told The Herald she would support a measure to expand gender-neutral housing, but that she would not personally be interested. 

Blanca Garcia, another prospective student, called gender-neutral housing for first-years “a good idea,” but said she did not think it would be implemented. 

A poll conducted by the Undergraduate Council of Students last fall found that 79.6 percent of respondents approved of gender-neutral first-year housing. GenderAction Co-President Maddy Jennewein ’14 said most students she speaks to about the proposal are supportive, but she often needs to explain that the proposed option would be opt-in, she said. 

GenderAction has made a few changes to the proposal as the group has presented it to campus committees. The biggest change was a modification to how the opt-in process would work on the housing forms first-years fill out, Jennewein said. GenderAction changed the proposal to say three options should be listed – one for students who feel they need to live in gender-neutral housing, one for students who feel they would like to but do not need it for their personal safety and one for students who do not want it, she said. 

Though students appear to support first-year gender-neutral housing, it is harder to tell how the Corporation will view the current proposal, Jennewein said. Since the University often relies on precedent set by peer institutions – such as Penn, which approved gender-neutral housing for first-years last summer – GenderAction’s proposal might succeed, she said. 

“This isn’t the hugest step to take,” Jennewein said. 

– With additional reporting by Caroline Saine

Methodology

Written questionnaires were administered to 1,530 undergraduates March 12-14 in the lobby of J. Walter Wilson and the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center during the day and the Sciences Library at night. The poll has a 2.2 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence. 

Find results of previous polls at thebdh.org/poll.