Survey shows support for gender blind housing

Stephanie Haines

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The Gender Protection Initiative will hear from the Housing and Food Service Policy Advisory Committee “in the next few weeks” about continuing gender blind housing options, said GPI Vice President Jeff Cattel.

GPI circulated a questionnaire in February to gauge student opinions about gender open housing, the Medill junior said. According to the survey, this type of living arrangement would allow students to room with members of the opposite sex and share gender neutral bathrooms.

Cattel said the survey received 464 responses, about 5 percent of the undergraduate population. The group then presented the data to the advisory committee along with its proposals to improve gender open housing, such as providing a gender open option to incoming freshmen and expanding these options to other residence halls that offer doubles.

Since Foster-Walker is an upperclassmen-exclusive dorm and contains mostly single-person dorm rooms, Cattel said, expanding gender open options on campus could benefit underclassmen and students who cannot afford singles.

“We wanted to be able to provide data on students’ opinions,” Cattel said. “Hopefully it will hold more weight. We want to show that there is an interest and community acceptance of gender blind housing.”

The survey asked students if they were comfortable with using gender neutral bathrooms or living on a floor or in a building with gender blind living.

Ninety percent of respondents said they would consider living in residence halls that allowed people of the opposite sex to room with one another. However, 88 percent said they would consider living on a floor with that option.

According to GPI, the majority of respondents said they would consider living in these residential arrangements.

Cattel said the survey did not ask for identifications such as sex, age, or orientation.

Currently, Foster-Walker Complexoffers the only gender open living option. Tiffany Gonzales, area coordinator for Foster-Walker and Seabury Apartments, said she thinks the gender blind living situation has “been great.”

“For two quarters the community has grown and has gotten excited about it,” Gonzales said. “The (community assistants) have put in a lot of time and effort to coordinate it and they make people want to live there.”

Foster-Walker Community Assistant Mike Hernandez said though some students did not originally choose to live in gender blind housing, the residents in the gender blind hallway are enjoying getting to know each other and being part of a community.

Hernandez said he is also seeing more support for gender open housing options from the administration.

“It’s really encouraging to see our generation moving in this direction,” the Weinberg junior said.

stephaniehaines2015@u.northwestern.edu

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