Students say university staff hasn’t followed through on research, but officials say they’re still in discussions without a plan to move forward yet
DENTON — Students at the University of North Texas hoped to see discussions begin this semester for creating gender-neutral housing.
But Taylor Evans, one of the organizers of the proposal, said this week the effect is “definitely stalled” after housing officials never followed through on their promises to research the options for implementing gender-neutral housing.
But the university says officials have met with students and will continue the discussion about adopting a gender-neutral housing option.
Evans, a sophomore economics major, said she and a few classmates in a women’s studies class launched the initiative in the fall after an assignment about activism gave them the idea.
They wrote a proposal and presented it to a few housing officials in December. The officials told them they’d put together a committee to study how to implement gender-neutral housing, but Evans said nothing has been done. And while she said the university didn’t necessarily stonewall the project’s progress, it hasn’t communicated with her or the other people, two of whom are resident assistants who proposed the change.
“It kind of fizzled out, but the housing department didn’t follow through,” Evans said. “I think they’re worried about what people are going to think.”
UNT spokesman Buddy Price said officials “have met several times with a group of students to discuss the issue and will continue those discussions. However, there are no plans at this time to adopt a gender-neutral housing plan.”
Under the proposal, UNT would offer gender-neutral housing to any student, not just LGBT students, who can share a multiple-occupancy bedroom with the same or opposite gender.
“Gender-neutral housing supports the University’s non-discrimination policy and fully commits to the principles of social justice with respect to sexual orientation, sex, gender, and gender identity,” the proposal states. “Gender-neutral housing accommodates students who may identify as transgender, or are questioning their gender identity, or do not wish to prescribe to gender classifications. It also accommodates students who may be uncomfortable with same-sex roommates for any personal reasons.”
UNT has REAL Communities, which stands for Residents Engaged in Academic Living, where students with the same major, play the same sport or have a similar interest can live together.
UNT would be the first university in North Texas with a gender-neutral housing option.
In 2009, Texas Christian University planned to have a DiversCity Q community for LGBT students as one of the university’s many living-learning communities. But the university later pulled the planned housing plan, along with other living communities after the news of the LGBT one made national news.
Texas Southern University, Southwestern University and Rice University already have gender-neutral housing, as well as the University of Oklahoma.
Evans said the proposal could still be “working its way up” the administrative ladder for approval, but she’s surprised no committee was formed to continue the discussion about the option. A Change.org petition supporting the measure at UNT entitled “Instigate gender-neutral housing” garnered 217 signatures.
She said that even if the university fights the student body on the change, the administration will eventually have to add a gender-neutral housing option to keep up with the times and ensure all students are comfortable in on-campus housing.
“Eventually they’re going to have to do it,” Evans said. “That’s kind of the future of college housing is gender-neutral housing, so they’re going to have to do it.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 18, 2014.