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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Res Life DeCapua discusses gender neutral housing options for Fall

Published: April 11, 2008
Section: News

On Thursday night, Director of Residence Life Richard DeCapua officially announced that next fall gender neutral housing will be available for sophomores and upperclassmen.

TRISK, the Social Justice Committee, and TransBrandeis have been working with Resident Life to implement a gender neutral housing option in order to ensure that all students feel comfortable living on campus.

This Thursday there was a forum in the International Lounge to discuss the new housing option with students. DeCapua, Greg Jones, the Coordinator of Residential Operations, Aaron Breslow ’10, the General Coordinator of TRISK, Emily Burd ’08, Chair of TransBrandeis, and Village Quad Senator Mike Kerns ’09, member of the Social Justice Committee, were there to answer questions and address concerns. The forum was also supposed to be available for students who opposed the idea. However, almost half of the 20 students in attendance were involved with the Queer Resource Center, and none voiced objections to the plan.

Breslow prompted students into a discussion of the reasoning behind creating gender-neutral housing. He emphasized that the plan would only affect 1-2% of the Brandeis community and would only be creating more options for students. “No one’s going to be pushed to live where they’re uncomfortable,” he said. He specifically mentioned that the new option would benefit transgender students.

Other students talked about how the plan would help those who would prefer to live with someone who they are not sexually attracted to, and those who would simply want to live with a member of the opposite sex.

Then, DeCapua described his experience with gender-neutral housing at Wesleyan University, where he was the Assistant Director of Residence Life. “[We] made every mistake we could make,” he said. Wesleyan has theme-based housing selection and Res Life had decided to make a gender-neutral theme. Students complained, DeCapua said, that the housing was like a “zoo” where people “came to look at the transgendered population.”

He also explained how he was disappointed in the Wesleyan administration as Res Life had to go to lengths to implement the gender-neutral policy for the entire Wesleyan population. An alum who had made the transition from man to woman spoke to educate the board of trustees. “[Reslife] shouldn’t have had to go to such extremes,” he stated.

DeCapua stated that the Brandeis administration has been responsive to Res Life’s proposals, although, he admitted the administrators he reports to did not always understand the ideas he presented. He said, “I learned that to push this [policy] hard is a mistake…we have to teach people.” DeCapua described how most of the upper administration view the new housing policy as progressive or as something new and different to distinguish Brandeis from competing schools.

He further explained that through the media it has become clear that people view the main problem of gender neutral housing is that “men and women will hook up.”

He said that this was because “most people don’t understand what transgender means.” While he was speaking, he repeatedly mentioned the need to educate the population about terminology, and gender as opposed to biological sex.

Incoming freshmen in the fall will not have the gender-neutral housing option. DeCapua said, “First year students are like “golden cows” and are treated with “kid gloves.” He stated that before applying the housing policy to freshmen, the policy needed to be first implemented on sophomores and upperclassmen in order to reassure people that the new housing option would result in positive experiences.