Fitforum is a good place to sell things, look for a roommate or offer services. It’s also a place where students can start to make a change.
On March 14, James Barr and his classmates caught the campus’ attention when they sent an email survey about the idea of implementing gender-neutral housing at Florida Tech.
Gender-neutral, or gender-inclusive, housing is defined as a housing option in which two or more students mutually agree to share a multiple-occupancy bedroom, suite or apartment without regard to the gender of the occupants, according to Boston University.
The survey questions asked students how they felt being around and living with various types of people, specifically people of different sexual orientation. Barr said about 210 people responded to the email.
“Roughly, a third of the students who responded said they would use the housing, and a third said not sure,” Barr said. “And the other third wouldn’t.”
Director of Residence Life Gregory Connell said due to the interest in the survey, a committee recently met to discuss the option of inclusive housing on campus. The committee has members from Spectrum, Student Government Association and the Dean of Students Office, and they plan to continue to research and reach out to other institutions that are doing it.
Since the early 2000s, inclusive housing options have spread across campuses in the U.S., according to campuspride.org. Today, 201 colleges and universities have gender-inclusive housing.
“Gender-neutral housing is a great way for non-binary and other gender non-conforming genders to feel included and not have to worry about living with someone who will not respect who they are,” senior Shane Marcus said.
Marcus, president of the LGBT+ and straight alliance, Spectrum, believes gender-inclusive housing should absolutely be an option, especially for transgender and genderfluid students.
“It would give transgender/non-binary people the comfort they deserve,” Marcus said. “Too many of our transgender and genderfluid siblings are being violently attacked for who they are, and it’s just not okay. They deserve to have the right to be where they belong.”
Married couples or students with long-term relationships could apply for gender-neutral housing as well, said Connell.
However, Connell and Marcus did voice their concerns. Rules would have to be set to prevent incidents and students should know what they are getting into before they decide to live there.
“I think when people think of gender neutral housing they think of more opportunities for romantic encounters, stuff like that,” sophomore Brent Allard said. “I think it’s an important thing we should be accommodating. Aside from that, maybe it should be accommodated on a case-by-case basis.”
Barr and Connell agreed the future wing or building should not be labeled exclusively for one type of people. Labeling would single a group out, instead of providing the comfort the housing should provide, Barr said.
While Florida Tech does not currently have gender-inclusive housing options for students, plans are being made to provide multiple types of accommodations, like gender-neutral bathrooms. Campus Services will also have a map with their locations for visitors, said Connell.
“I know for a fact there is a transgender/non-binary student body who would feel much more comfortable during their time here at FIT if they had a choice to live with the gender they identify with and not what society says they should be,” Marcus said.