February 23, 2019 | 40° F

Rutgers considers gender neutral housing a need for students

Photo by Rafal Stapinski |

Demarest Hall is among the first of the University's efforts to provide gender-neutral housing for students. Those who contact residential support services for gender-neutral housing are directed to the hall, among a number of other locations, based on their needs and preferences.

Since 2011, gender neutral housing options have expanded on campus to accommodate the thousands of students who apply to live at residence halls yearly. 

Demarest Hall on the College Avenue campus and the Rainbow Perspectives Housing community on Douglass campus have been gender-neutral or all-gender since the Fall 2011 semester, said Zaneta Rago-Craft, director of the Rutgers Center for Social Justice Education & LGBT Communities (SJE), in an email. 

“While the creation of the two initial communities predates my tenure at Rutgers, from my understanding, LGBTQA student advocates had been working with staff within student affairs to express their needs and experiences on campus, and all-gender housing was one of the most prominent issues they shared,” Rago-Craft said.

She explained that in the years following, all-gender housing has expanded and is now available in most residential buildings on campus. Every year a few hundred students apply for all-gender housing — a number that continues to grow.

“As with all the needs of students, we will continue to access and make changes as needed,” Rago-Craft said.

As experienced by many students during their time at Rutgers, living on campus means applying to the University’s housing lottery system. A student’s assigned lottery number takes seniority and expected graduation date into account, but is otherwise generated randomly.

The lower a student’s lottery number is, the higher their chance of receiving a preferred choice in on-campus housing.

For first-year incoming students, the housing application now includes a way to indicate whether they are interested in all-gender housing, Rago-Craft said. If a student notes that they are interested, the residential support services will personally reach out and find the best housing options for the student.

She said this could include Rainbow Perspectives, Demarest Hall or other locations based on the needs and preferences of the student. Returning students are able to enter the housing selection process with known roommates of any gender, she said.

Most returning students are already aware, request their roommates and register through the housing lottery together in order to receive gender-neutral housing, according to the SJE website. It also indicates that for returning students, gender-neutral housing is available in any suite or apartment-style residence hall offered to returning students on campus.

Rago-Craft explained that Rainbow Perspectives houses students from all four years and has both a resident assistant and special peer monitor who work with the community to run specific programming throughout the year.

Rainbow Perspectives Housing serves as a dynamic housing option that gives interested students the opportunity to participate in a residential community that explores the diversity of LGBTQA experiences through programs, dialogues and community projects, according to its site.

But due to the inherent randomness of the system, some students will get the exact housing they wanted, while others might experience more difficulty. 

“Preference and need are two different things. If a student requests all-gender housing, we consider that a need and will work with the student to find a location that works for them,” she said.

Ryan Stiesi

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