Making strides in All Gender Housing at EC

Photo by Mia Harman // Students in the Queer Straight Alliance at EC debate the pros and cons of all the All Gender Housing that was implemented this current semester.  

Dating back to 2015, QSA and other students at Elmhurst College have been pushing for gender inclusive housing for transgender and non-binary residential students.

This year, the college has begun to make strides in all gender housing by creating a process for students to apply and be housed according to the gender that they identify as.

“Elmhurst College and the Office of Residence Life are committed to providing comfortable, welcoming, and safe housing options to all students,” said Christine Smith, associate dean of students and director of Residence Life. “All Gender Housing (AGH) is a policy that allows two or more students to share a multiple occupancy suite or apartment regardless of the students’ sex or gender.”

According to members of QSA, a plan was proposed by the group and SGA to the EC administration to have one single floor that was entirely gender inclusive, creating a safe space for these students.

QSA had sent multiple emails to the administration in order to schedule a meeting to discuss the new housing plan, but after the meeting was scheduled no issues were resolved leaving these students without the answers they needed, according to the group.

Students currently going through the application process for the 2016 fall semester have explained that the application is in drastic need of improvement.

“Essentially you had to get four people together within this short timeline and you couldn’t just say that you wanted to be in a gender inclusive room, you had to find three other people,” stated an EC Freshman, who did not want to be named. “First of all, finding three other people, that’s hard enough. You know, it’s hard enough to find one other person, let alone three.”

“Following the Mar. 14 Room Selection Announcement email, several students paired up very quickly on the assignment system and began submitting the AGH,” Smith said in an email interview. “As Room Selection lottery times neared, we received a request from a member of QSA to provide more opportunities for students to identify potential AGH roommates and extend the AGH Agreement deadline. We honored both requests.”

Even after going through this process, if a roommate were to leave regardless of whether or not the decision had been finalized, the administration would return the gender inclusive room to a single gender room based on the majority birth sex rather than gender identity, according to QSA.

 

Currently, QSA is pushing for a gender inclusive community where all non-binary and trans students would have a safe place to call home.

This community would have gender inclusive bathrooms, dorm rooms, and living spaces.

Resident Life’s argument against a gender inclusive floor is that there might be a larger safety concern having all students grouped together, despite the opinion of members on QSA, according to EC Senior and QSA member, Ash Beverage.

Before this current housing plan all gender inclusive housing arrangements were handled on a case-by-case basis, and there was no guarantee that they would have a safe place to call home, says QSA members.

If a student’s case was seen through, they would most likely be housed alone, leaving these individuals easily targeted by threats considering the process was not confidential, according to members of QSA.

However, unaware to QSA and SGA, the administration had implemented gender inclusive housing pods spread out amongst three separate buildings on campus, including Dinkmeyer Hall, West Hall, and the Prospect and Elm Park Apartments.

QSA argues that the idea of having all the gender inclusive rooms spread out on campus creates a major safety concern for these students.

“Your neighbors could be anyone, and that’s not exactly a good thing,” said Beverage.

Freshman Taylor Dorband also argues that the situation is further worsened by the potential mishandling of the arragnments by the administration.

“There are residential advisors that don’t know how to deal with situations like this,” she said.

The concerns the administration has for the sake of the safety of the students is understood, but they would prefer the students be part of a traditional housing system, according to Smith.

“While the students would be “self-segregating” with a single floor, they would have a loving, welcoming community that would build them up rather than tear them down,” said Beverage. “If you’re surrounded by a community of people who support you, and you have a roommate who understands your situation, and you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to use the bathroom, and you don’t have to worry about what the person next to you is going to think about you, then you’re going to feel better.”