Natalie Kfoury – Co-Editor-in-Chief
Lasell College will offer gender neutral housing for the Fall 2014 semester. The decision was a joint effort between Student Government Association (SGA) and Residential Life. The option is open to students who feel uncomfortable living with genders they do not identify with or who are transgender.
Junior Class President Brianna Robbins worked on this proposal since her freshman year, collaborating with various people from SGA and Residential Life. “This is a great option against discrimination as our school is so diverse in gender identification,” said Robbins.
Robbins wrote the 48-page proposal after realizing that people may feel more comfortable living with the opposite sex due to various circumstances.
“A lot of people don’t understand the different types of gender identity, so I had to identify and define those,” said Robbins. “I also had to list the various schools that offer it, such as Harvard and Brandeis, so the proposal ended up being pretty long,” she said.
She worked with area coordinators Chris Faulkner and Trish Moran as well as the Director of Residential Life Peter Wiernicki.
“I think the fact that we will now be offering gender neutral housing as an option for our students is a huge step forward to creating inclusive spaces for all students regardless of gender or sexual orientation,” said Faulkner, who added this option is not intended for cisgender (people whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth) students who want to live with their boyfriend or girlfriend.
Robbins said that the process was difficult because she constantly redefined and explained all the aspects of gender-neutral housing and transgender issues. “Each time I took one step forward, it felt like I had to take three steps back,” she said.
Sophomore Kate Campbell worked with Robbins over the past semester and presented the proposal to the trustees of the college, including President Michael Alexander. The final decision to allow gender-neutral housing was made in December.
“SGA and Lasell can now take pride in the fact that our actions match our words,” said Campbell, “We say we are an inclusive, accepting, and warm community and now we have reassurance that our residential living options reflect that.”
“It felt like I just won a Grammy,” said Robbins on the proposal being accepted. “I cried. I put so much effort and my heart into this proposal. For them to say ‘yes,’ it was amazing.”
Junior Alex Turner, a transgender student, has advocated for gender-neutral housing since his sophomore year. Turner said he is excited future Lasell students will have the gender-neutral housing option, even though he has made his own arrangements for senior year.
“My housing situations at Lasell have varied,” said Turner. “I’ve had two of the best
roommates I could ask for and great suitemates, but my housemates have caused issues. I’ve been called a tranny, had my nametags ripped off my door, and been generally harassed by other people living in my dorm and their visitors.”
Gender neutral housing will be available for students during room draw for the Fall 2014 semester. Details on where the housing will be located on campus will be determined by residence life staff based on applicants and interest.
“When looking at other schools, we see that different schools have different types of gender neutral housing,” said Faulkner, “Some have a specific floor or hall designated for it, others designate a variety of buildings, and some make it available across campus. We have yet to determine the right option for Lasell because each has their benefits and drawbacks.”