Friday, February 15, 2013

Gender neutral housing passes

by Valery Jorgensen, Guest Writer 

      Students smiled as they filed out of Ingram 100 the evening of Feb. 7, because Residence Hall Congress voted in approval of the new housing proposal. The proposal for a new pilot housing program included three main parts: mixed- gender wings, gender-neutral bathrooms and gender-neutral rooms. No one opposed, and only a few students abstained from voting.

Students vote in unanimous approval of the gender-neutral housing bill at Residence Hall Council on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. in Ingram 100. Representatives from RHA and ASPLU introduced the bill and allowed time for discussion before it came to a vote. Photo by Alison Haywood.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss and explain the proposal, then end with a vote to pass the motion. To start the meeting off, RHA president Matt Peters and social justice director Pam Barker described basics of the three different parts.

Mixed-gender wings have rooms still based on gender, but the floors are not. These wings will have separate bathrooms for both sexes. RHA proposes these wings be placed in halls such as Foss and Pflueger because of the layout of the buildings.

The second part is mixed -gender wings with a pilot program for gender-neutral bathrooms. These wings will be similar to the mixed- gender wings. The difference is there will only be one bathroom for everyone to share. RHA proposes Hinderlie and Tinglestad house these wings.

The third part of the proposal is gender-neutral rooms. In these wings a student can room with anyone, but there is an application process. For these rooms, students will be asked to come in with a roommate in mind. Following university policy, students still will not be able to room with someone they are in a romantic relationship with.

Resident Assistants for all of the proposed wings will be specifically chosen to help lead the pilot program and contribute to a safe community.

RA Kevin Long, who attended the meeting, said he is pushing to become an RA for one of the newly proposed wings.

“I want to be part of the step forward that Pacific Lutheran University is taking,” Long said. “I am in full support of what they are trying to do by making a more comfortable living environment for residents.”

After the proposal presentation ended, discussion erupted in Ingram 100. Hands shot into the air to ask questions about the new plan. Questions ranged from clarification on specific points to hypothetical situations that could arise and how Residential Life would handle them. Long said “people brought up interesting points as to why the motion might not work, but RHA had strong answers for all of their questions.”

Questions and answers went on for roughly half an hour with members of RHA, ASPLU and Residential Life clarifying areas of concern.  Ending with a passing vote, the next step was for ASPLU to vote on a similar resolution.

At the ASPLU Senate meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the lower level of the Anderson University Center, senators voted in favor of Resolution 10 — gender-neutral housing — with one vote opposed and one vote abstained.

ASPLU and RHA worked together to support this proposal. This has been an ongoing topic for roughly three years, if not longer, according to ASPLU President Ian Metz.

Metz said a task force was formed with people from all different groups, and it is they who are “ultimately responsible for putting this through and putting in the extra work hours on this and everything. They really took it upon themselves and did a phenomenal job.”

With both RHA and ASPLU passing the resolutions, the report created by the task force with both supportive resolutions from ASPLU and RHA will move to Administration and Residential Life.

Diversity Director Karter Booher said, “it is important to note that the office of Residential Life has acted as a key adviser throughout this process, and they are in support of our proposal.”

Metz said, “we feel confident that this will go through.”

The full report created by the task force is available online for the PLU community to view.