ASG to consider resolution for the expansion of gender-open housing on campus


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

560 Lincoln and Kemper Hall. Northwestern’s gender-open housing policy currently includes rooms in 560 Lincoln, Kemper Hall and Foster-Walker Complex.

Avi Varghese, Reporter

Associated Student Government will vote on a resolution Wednesday calling for the expansion of gender-open housing on Northwestern’s campus.

The resolution, co-sponsored by 68 students and nine faculty and staff members at the time of publication, requests changes to student housing policy that would make gender-open housing more attainable and affordable. A draft of the resolution was presented at an ASG Senate meeting on Feb. 6. If passed, the resolution will be sent to University administrators for consideration, said Elynnor Sandefer, the author of the resolution and a Rainbow Alliance senator.

“Right now the system is built around cisgender people and the gender binary, and that’s just how it’s constructed,” Sandefer said. “It should not be this difficult.”

According to the Residential Services website, gender-open housing is primarily intended for queer and transgender students, but it is available for anyone who wants it regardless of sex, gender or gender identity.

For the 2018-19 academic year, gender-open undergraduate housing contracts were restricted to Foster-Walker Complex, Kemper Hall and 560 Lincoln, which feature singles and suite-style living. The ASG resolution states that this policy drives up prices for students who want to choose gender-open housing. According to the Residential Services website, dorm rooms that fit those constraints cost $11,318 for the 2018-2019 academic year, which ranges from $1,208 to $2,397 more for a room per year than any on-campus double rooms.

The resolution also emphasizes the difficulty of receiving gender-open housing that matched students’ requests. Sandefer, a Weinberg sophomore, said that in talking to students negatively affected by the current policy, she found that students encountered difficulties making requests through the housing selection portal. She added that students of different genders cannot choose the same room during the housing selection process.

SESP junior Adam Davies, a member of the Gender Queer, Non-Binary, Transgender (GQNBT) Task Force said he thinks NU’s current policy “creates barriers” and some students aren’t aware of the policy.

Elizabeth Sperti, a Weinberg senator and first-year, said the resolution is the first step in a long-term effort to adapt school policies to the needs of gender non-conforming students.

“Everyone is hoping that this is a step in a larger process of multiple things that everyone would like to see changed with CAESAR, with the housing application and just the way that housing is set up in general,” Sperti said.

The resolution also requests that one or more floors of pre-existing dorms on South Campus that include double and triple rooms be designated for students of differing gender identities. It also requests that every single- and multi-stall bathroom facility on the floors be designated for all-gender use.

“A lot of the hesitation from residential services was coming from concerns about how to handle the question of bathrooms,” Sandefer said. “I know that also it can be difficult to work with the software company that currently handles the housing application, so I think that’s probably another source of concern — that it’s always difficult to change a software.”

In considering revisions to the legislation, Sandefer said the timing of the GQNBT Task Force, which was first instituted during this academic year, meant that substantive change could be made this year. She said she plans to introduce an amendment to the senate on Wednesday that would provide a more immediate time frame for requested changes. If implemented, changes would have to be communicated to students before the housing application process opens.

ASG President Emily Ash said if the resolution is approved, NU administrators will be invited to a future Senate meeting to discuss gender-open housing. She added that the conversation will continue and hopefully result in “immediate action.”

“What we’re seeking is a commitment to implementing the immediate-term changes for Fall 2019,” Ash said. “By the end of my term, I would seek a commitment to implement as students are selecting throughout this quarter and next and seeing that option be available and lived in this fall.”

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Twitter: @avi_vrghs

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