Gender neutral housing sees smooth operations
With the gender neutral housing program reaching two-and-a-half months at the University, Residence Life officials say the program is off to a good start.
Despite low participation numbers, the program has not experienced any glitches in its first semester. The administration has decided to leave it untouched until fall 2012 — and possibly expand it to more campuses — when more residence halls could be offered.
“[There is] no change for next semester,” said Joan Carbone, the executive director of Residence Life. “It’s possible in the fall of 2012 that we will also include some of the new apartments on Livingston. Then there would pretty much be an opportunity on every campus.”
Approved last year, the option of gender neutral housing allows for sophomores, juniors and seniors to choose their roommates regardless of gender. Students who choose this option may live in New Gibbons or Rockoff Hall on Douglass campus or Demarest Hall on the College Avenue campus.
Phil Lu, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore who is part of the program, said he did not find many differences between living with someone of the same gender and his current living situation.
“My experience has been great,” Lu said. “I really think it is more about understanding and respecting your roommate rather than their gender.”
He met his roommate, Nina Macapinlac, last year in their calculus class. The two decided to live together at Demarest Hall on the College Avenue campus soon after both of them drew high housing lottery numbers.
“I am a second-year student, so I only have last year to compare to, but last year I lived in an all-girls honors dorm, so I suppose it’s a bit different,” said Macapinlac, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “But honestly, I think the difference lies in the residence hall itself, not in my roommate being a guy.”
Macapinlac said she found the experience of living in gender-neutral housing different but not negative. Moving from Douglass campus to College Avenue gave her the experience of a louder campus, but not an uncomfortable one.
“Having other guys on the same floor is a lot different, but I am comfortable with [my roommate] because he is one of my best friends,” she said.
Macapinlac said University students are often limited in their choices of roommates. Having the option of choosing to live with someone of the opposite sex increases the chances of finding someone suitable, she said.
“I think that the University should keep it, because a lot of people are sort of limited by who they can choose to live with,” she said. “If they want to live with a guy, then that should be fine.”
Jenny Kurtz, director of the Center for Social Justice and LGBT Communities, said she was happy with the current housing and spoke with several students living in gender-neutral housing.
“Some of the students who came to me said it was a great experience,” Kurtz said.
She said some of the skepticism from last semester and the introduction of these residence halls came from doubts over how it all might affect the University community.
“It’s just another great option,” she said. “It hasn’t affected the community and there’s no way [for it] to affect the community.”
Any problems in these gender-neutral residence halls would be similar to those in other residence halls. But students have so far returned only positive feedback, Kurtz said.
“It’s a great experience — it’s about learning,” Lu said. “But it is also about being a respecting roommate.”
He said some people assumed they had to be gay or lesbian if they were to live in gender neutral housing, but sexual orientation does not play a role.
Residence Life does not ask students to disclose their sexual orientation or their reasons for roommate requests, Kurtz said. When it comes down to it, all residence halls are gender neutral, she said.
“In any given day at any given time, a dorm room is gender neutral,” she said. “There aren’t any sex-specific visiting hours or specifics about who is allowed to sleep over in a room.”
She said she hopes the program will continue to grow in the upcoming semesters.
Both Lu and Macapinlac are unsure of their future housing plans. Macapinlac may choose to live in her sorority’s house and Lu is applying to be a Resident Assistant next semester.
But they agreed they would live together if their plans line up.
“I feel like I would definitely room with Phil again,” Macapinlac said.
The two joked about the idea last semester before choosing to live together and going forward.
“And then we found out that we could,” Macapinlac said.