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GUSA starts gender-neutral housing dialogue
On Sunday, the Georgetown University Student Association Senate passed a resolution calling for a discussion about implementing gender-blind housing at Georgetown. Also referred to as gender-neutral housing, gender-blind housing does not restrict students to traditional single-sex dorm pairings.
The legislation, which called for a conversation with administrators and student groups on a potential pilot program for the Gender-Blind Housing Program, was introduced by Senator Josh Mogil (SFS ’11).
Gender-blind housing often serves to accommodate LGBTQ students.
“The reason for this resolution was the shocking suicides in colleges and high schools across America,” Mogil said.
The resolution cited the incidents, which include the suicide of a gay Rutgers University student who was harassed by his roommate for his sexual identity. Chris Pigott (COL ’12) proposed an amendment that eliminated this reference, which failed by one vote.
Before the final vote, the Senate approved an amendment stating that GUSA will not take an official position in the discussion.
Colton Malkerson (COL ’13) supported the amendment because he said he was concerned the legislation would represent an implicit endorsement of gender-blind housing and force GUSA to “pick a side.”
Georgetown receives a small number of requests for special accommodations at the beginning of each school year, Mogil said. These students are provided a private room and bathroom in one of the dorms. University spokesperson Julie Green-Bataille did not respond to clarify why these students generally request special accommodations.
Mogil said that it is evident the University recognizes that traditional dorms are not ideal for some students. However, Mogil believes the current policy stigmatizes these students’ situations by isolating them from the traditional freshman experience of having a roommate.
Mogil also emphasized the role that housing plays in student safety, citing physical and verbal abuse.
One of the four senators who abstained from voting, Nathaniel Tisa (SFS ’14) disagreed with this interpretation.
“If this group is concerned about safety, that’s a separate issue from housing,” Tisa said.
GU Pride was not notified by Mogil about the resolution, according to the group’s secretary and historian Kevin Mercer (COL ’11), but supports gender-neutral housing as a way of including members of the LGBTQ community who do not identify as male, female, or within the gender binary.
Mercer said that gender neutral housing combats the heteronormative thinking implied by the logic behind single-sex dorms.
Matt Cantarino, staff editor of the Georgetown Academy, the University’s only Catholic student-run newspaper, also said he did not perceive the need for a change in Georgetown’s housing policy.
“I have hard time seeing the urgency of this issue, as I think a lot of Hoyas will,” he said.
Cantarino said that he would participate in the coming dialogue “if it comes down to something that involves the spiritual identity of the students and the University.”
It remains unclear whether that will be the case, but LGTBQ Resource Center Director Sivagami Subbaraman said the resolution will only begin a dialogue.
“We are just beginning the conversation, and we will have to be thoughtful about … how we can best meet the needs of our students within the larger context of being a Jesuit institution,” Subbaraman said.
Shane Windmeyer, founder and executive director of Campus Pride, an organization that provides information about the LGBTQ environment on college campuses, echoed the importance of dialogue about the broader issues of tolerance, and said it is just one part of the puzzle of what needs to be done in residence halls.
“What will really change Georgetown is the attitudes of students, along with the administration, that accept students for who they are,” Windmeyer said.