Gender-neutral housing looks to expand

By Mitchell Scuzzarella

Jerry Lara/San Antonio Express-News via Zuma Press/MCT
Jerry Lara/San Antonio Express-News via Zuma Press/MCT

UMass Residential Life is looking for students interested in on campus gender inclusive housing for fall 2014.

The gender inclusive housing option has existed on campus since 2009. Originally, this option was started to provide transgender students or those students who identify outside of the gender binary (male or female) with a welcoming environment to live on campus. While the focus of gender inclusive housing remains on providing this environment, it has opened up to any students who desire it.

There are currently two locations on campus where this housing is available. Cashin Hall in the Sylvan residential area offers suite style living to students, while North Apartments right nearby offer co-ed living in an on campus apartment.

The Spectrum Floor in Baker Hall is an LGBT specific floor on campus that also caters to students looking for gender inclusive housing . However, there is a demand for gender inclusive housing outside of this community. According to Genny Beemyn, Director of the UMass Amherst Stonewall Center, not all trans-identified students necessarily want to be a part of the Spectrum Floor.

“(Gender inclusive housing) is not a community, but an accommodation,” said Beemyn. “It’s for anyone who wants to live with a different gender.”

Gender inclusive housing already exists on many colleges across the country, including state schools such as the University of Oregon and private universities such as Cornell.

The housing so far has been hugely popular according to Beemyn. Concerns have arisen; however, very few of the schools have had a problem with couples moving in to the housing, though it may not always be recommended.

“Sharing a 10-by-10 room is not the best way to start a relationship,” said Beemyn.

Beemyn listed a few of the possible roommate combinations that might seek this housing out, including brother and sister pairs, two good friends of any gender or trans-identified students.

Residential Life on campus has been supportive of the initiative, but many students on campus are unaware that gender inclusive options are offered. Dawn Bond, Director of Residential Life Student Services, said that while there has traditionally been low demand, this year has seen a greater number of interested students. According to Bond, if this demand continues to increase, residential life will expand the accommodation.

Students who are interested in taking advantage of UMass’s gender inclusive housing should contact residential life as soon as possible to make arrangements. Incoming freshman and transfer students can access the option by rank ordering Sylvan in their student preference applications on SPIRE and indicating “gender inclusive housing” as one of their special housing options. Current students who are interested must email [email protected] to make a request to residential life services, which will follow up with the request.

Mitchell Scuzzarella can be reached at [email protected]