Students discuss open housing decision

By Ella Christoph

About 30 students joined Director of Student Housing Katie Callow-Wright at an open forum on Wednesday evening to discuss the postponement of the Inter-House Council’s (IHC) gender-neutral housing proposal.

Callow-Wright cited administrative procedure as the primary reason for the administration’s decision.

Vice President and Dean of Students Kimberly Goff-Crews postponed the proposal’s implementation in order to gather the input of faculty members, residential staff, and the faculty committee on student life. Goff-Crews will seek input from faculty with specific interest in and involvement with student life, not from the faculty body at large, Callow-Wright said.

Associate Director of Student Housing Ana Campos, IHC representatives, and members of Student Government (SG) also attended the forum.

If implemented, the open housing proposal will allow students to share dorms and apartments regardless of sex. The option would be available to second-, third-, and fourth-year students in all houses and dorms, except in designated single-sex areas.

The Open Housing policy would also add a third option on the housing form that asks students to select their housing preferences. In addition to the two current categories of male and female, students will have the option of selecting an additional category that includes transgender and two-spirited identities.

“I think we all have had a little bit of a learning curve with the new vice president and dean of students,” Callow-Wright said of Goff-Crews, who joined the University last summer.

Callow-Wright said that while the housing office did not expect Goff-Crews to launch a second round of discussion about the initiative, the housing office supports the decision to speak with additional segments of the campus community, despite the delay in implementation.

“It’s a little bit of a mistake on our part, truth be told,” said Callow-Wright.

She said Goff-Crews was committed to getting a decision soon, and had suggested a soft launch midway through the school year, which would allow students to change roommates in order to accommodate open housing needs.

Administrators have expressed a goal of accommodating 70 percent of the undergraduate population in University-owned housing. Currently, 56 percent of undergraduates live in the housing system. The open housing initiative is part of a greater movement toward making housing more appealing to upperclassmen, who often choose to live in off-campus apartments.

Over the last five years, about 40 colleges across the country have adopted gender-neutral housing policies.