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Gender-neutral options could come to UMKC next year

A resolution that sets a spring 2014 target date to implement gender-neutral student housing on campus will be voted on Feb. 4 by the Student Government Association.

The Residential Life office has been approached about creating designated gender-neutral accommodations since the beginning of the school year.

This  is the first time the conversation will be brought before SGA.

“As one looks at this conversation, a number of issues need to be determined,” said Dr. Eric Grospitch, Dean of Students. “One—Do the students want it to happen? Two—If the students want it to happen, how can we implement it?”

Conversations began with how to address housing options for transgender students. Current accommodations are not coed unless special arrangements are made.

However, the resolution is to create an open housing option for any student who would like to room with someone of a different gender.

Grospitch said UMKC’s definition of gender-neutral housing includes transgender/sexual or gender nonconforming students, heterosexual married couples and different gendered siblings.

Residential Life’s current procedure for gender neutral accommodations is on a case -by-case basis to fit individual needs.  A key point in the resolution states, “The exclusive nature of the Residential Life policy discourages transgender students from living on campus, thereby denying them equal opportunity to participate on residential life and their activities.”

This resolution acknowledges the benefit of creating a friendlier atmosphere for transgender and gender-nonconforming students.

The resolution also states, “Gender-neutral (open) housing would provide options for […] different gender family members and students who feel that they would have more success in an environment with a roommate of a different gender.”

Because apartments at Oak Place have private bedroom/bathroom suites, it appears to be best-suited for gender-neutral housing.

However, the conversation hasn’t ruled out future implementation at the residence halls.

Although the resolution mentions 2014, discussions haven’t included a timeline for implementation.

“There are additional structural concerns in the residence halls that may be more difficult to overcome, but I can’t say that we won’t look at the possibility,” Grospitch said.

Gender-Neutral housing in other universities

The resolution states that “58 colleges and universities across the U.S. offer gender-neutral or open housing including University of Missouri [Columbia] and Washington University in St. Louis.”

UMKC can examine the gender-neutral housing offered at these nearby universities.

Mizzou offers married couples the option of living in campus apartments. Its residence hall applications include an option for students with disabilities, religious preference or gender identity/exploration.

Washington University offers several locations on and off-campus with gender-neutral options. Students who choose this option must  sign a gender-neutral housing agreement.

In fall 2012, Northwest Missouri State University implemented designated gender-neutral housing.

For first-year students, any gender or gender identity-related concerns can be directed to a specialist who will conduct a detailed conversation with the student to determine the most appropriate housing placement.  This specialist will also contact students whose gender listed on housing applications doesn’t match that on the university’s official records.

Upper-class students have the option to select gender-neutral or coed housing.  Several suites and apartments have been designated to accommodate students who wish to opt into gender-neutral housing through the same room selection format as in the past.

No student will be assigned to a gender-neutral living situation without expressed consent.

Upperclassmen and graduate students are bound by an additional agreement when leasing gender-neutral housing, which affirms they understand the gender-neutral housing guidelines.

Both Northwest and Washington University urge students to discuss this housing option with whoever is responsible for payment to ensure they support the decision. 

rbrooks@unews.com

 

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