Gender-neutral housing backed by student government

The resolution calls for Residential Life to implement the program.

A resolution supporting the implementation of gender-neutral housing passed through the Residence Halls Association Congress on Monday night. Although the resolution serves as a show of RHA's support for the program, the decision to give students a gender-neutral housing option lies with Residential Life.

Service and Sustainability Chairwoman Taylor Dukes introduced the resolution after noticing what she said she considered a void.

“I saw a need for this resolution as part of different LGBTQ organizations and hearing stories of people who have been discriminated against as well as other universities that have done this,” Dukes said.

Dukes said Rutgers University recently implemented gender-neutral housing for the fall 2011 semester in response to Tyler Clementi’s suicide last October. Clementi was taped by his roommate while having sexual relations with another male student. The roommate later uploaded the video onto the Internet. Clementi committed suicide three days later.

Representatives in RHA Congress voted to pass the resolution that would uphold RHA’s mission.

“The purpose of this resolution is to create a more inclusive environment at MU; and it is just an option not a requirement for anyone, and it encompasses the direction that MU is headed with the diversity movement,” Dukes said. “It is in RHA’s mission to create an inclusive environment.”

Freshman Spencer Melgren said he agreed with the resolution to allow gender-neutral housing.

“I feel like people should focus on the 'neutral' word which is the most important part,” Melgren said. “You will see lots of support from the LGBTQ community and there are lots of people besides them that will support it as well and as a straight male I am in support of this because I am against gender polarization.”

Other students expressed concerns with the resolution.

“I fear the negative potential of this resolution passing,” freshman Austin Popham said. “If gender issues which were not addressed, such as relationship issues and possible rape, (they) could be the negatives that could happen from such a resolution.”

Popham said he thinks students who sign up for gender-neutral housing could be put into uncomfortable situations.

Dukes said gender-neutral housing would be offered in suite-style residence halls and MU would make gender-neutral housing an option on the Residents Online Access to Rooms site.

“(Gender-neutral housing) would be implemented in suite style rooms, because of the state laws regarding bathrooms,” Dukes said. “Student staff members would be properly trained to deal with situations that could arise (with gender-neutral housing).”

Freshman Skyler Thomas felt the pros outweighed the cons in the situation.

“I do feel that it is kind of bad to make some students feel comfortable, but not make other people feel comfortable, but I have to say that the benefits (of gender neutral housing) outweigh the problems,” he said.

Dukes said when living off campus in Columbia, there is nobody there regulating whom you live with.

In a 28-3 vote, RHA passed the resolution to show their support for gender-neutral housing, to be enacted by 2012.

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