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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Gender neutral housing proposed

Published: March 14, 2008
Section: Front Page

In an effort to improve housing options for transgendered and gender queer students, TransBrandeis Chair Emily Burd ’08 and Village Quad Senator Mike Kerns ’09 have organized an effort to create gender-neutral housing options on campus.

According to Kerns, he and Burd have three primary goals, the first of which is mixed-gender housing options for sophomores and upperclassmen. Currently, students living in single rooms in suites and students living in Grad and the Mods can live with students of different genders.

However, within a single room, students of different sexes as defined by legal documentation cannot live together. Kerns and Burd would like to change this.

The second goal pertains to first-year housing. “With regard to freshmen,” Kerns said, “what’d we’d like to see happen is have a similar option available, even though students aren’t choosing [their roommates], they can choose if they care about the gender of a future roommate.”

“We don’t want people to be required to identify,” said Burd, “the only time that [legal sex identification] is relevant is if you’re being placed [with a roommate] where sex is relevant.”

She continued, “people who don’t fit into the standard male or female binary can have a roommate without that being an odd case.” Currently, the only way to fix an uncomfortable living situation is “to go to Res Life and out yourself,” said Burd.

“We don’t think people should have to be considered special cases,” said Kerns.

“The important thing to remember,” said Kerns, “is that this doesn’t take away any housing options, it just adds more choice.”

Burd added, “the interesting thing about the policy we’re proposing is that it’ll only change things for people who want it. ”

The third goal is the “development of a better CA training that’s more relevant to gender identity,” said Kerns. CA training encompasses “issues of racism, plurality. Gender should be included among those from the very beginning.”

Burd explained the importance of gender-neutral housing options saying, “I think a lot of [LGBT] students are forced off campus because they can’t get appropriate housing or they’re stuck in an uncomfortable living situation.”

Housing also presents issues of safety for students “whose records do not match how they present or identify,” said Burd.

Kerns and Burd met with Director of Residence Life Rich DeCapua Thursday to discuss gender-neutral housing. “We found them to be very receptive,” said Kerns. DeCapua could not be reached by time of publication.

“Things look good,” Burd commented, “this is not a new idea to their department.”

Even so, gender-neutral housing options for next year “logistically can’t happen,” said Kerns. .

Burd said, “it’s hard to put any timeline on things. It’ll probably be a gradual process but we hope to see change as soon as possible.”

“There are no arguments against it as long as you believe that people can make responsible choices…it fits in with the mission of the university,” said Burd. “Brandeis is social justice everywhere and a big part of that is serving minorities.”