<< Front page News March 19, 2004

ResLife will allow co-ed rooming in Noah

Transgender concerns answered
By Tristan Jones

Will your girlfriend allow this mess?: Changes in next year’s housing arrangements will allow co-ed rooming on the second and third floors of Noah Dormitory.

Noah dormitory is slated to have co-ed rooms next year.

Reslife’s decision comes amid years of requests for the change. Associate Director of Residential Life and Services Kim LaFond says that ResLife has been getting requests for co-ed housing since 2000.

“When I first came here in the Fall of 2000 there were requests for co-ed housing,” LaFond said. “I thought they would go away eventually, but they didn’t.”

The main drive for co-ed housing on campus came from the desire to create a gender-neutral housing situation for transgendered and gender neutral students on campus. The current policy on housing for trans/neutral gendered people on campus is to reserve a certain number of singles for these students, LaFond said. “But maybe [these students] want a double,” he said.

For upperclassmen desiring co-ed and gender-neutral living arrangements, off campus housing is sometimes provided.

“We thought it was the appropriate solution, the appropriate direction to go,” said Michelle Gross, Associate Director of Residential Life and Services. “Through surveys and the committees, we get the student input and then we make our decisions based on student input.”

Student demand for on-campus gender-neutral living arrangements has been a recurring issue often enough to push it through committee.

“There have been several student initiatives to request co-ed housing,” Gross said.

Only a handful of colleges in the country offer co-ed and gender-neutral housing arrangements, Gross said. Brown, Haverford, and Swarthmore are among the colleges that offer co-ed rooming. These arrangements have been enthusiastically received by the student body, the University of Pennsylvania Daily Pennsylvanian reports. Several other colleges are considering adopting similar housing policies, including Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania.

However, if student opinion of the co-ed rooms is negative in the coming years, Gross said, ResLife would not be opposed to closing off the option.

“If the student input is that one of these new initiatives is not what they want,” she said, “we don’t want to ever say we’re locked into something. We’re here to provide what the students want; Every year we often do a student survey.”

The co-ed housing option will not be available to first-years.

For years, OSCA has unofficially offered co-ed rooming for students, though next year it will become official.

“In our continuing policy it’s been that we have co-ed and gender neutral rooms, but ResLife has never officially recognized this,” OSCA President Ann Sorich said. “This year we’ve changed it in our rent contract so the next year we can have co-ed housing except for freshmen.”

“We’re really excited that we finally got this officially recognized,” Sorich said. “We think it holds a lot of promise for the rest of the college.”

OSCA’s sister organization, OSCA Properties, considered buying new houses in town for rooming after the recent sale of Fuller-Bliss house. However, Sorich said, this was not fiscally possible. Instead, OSCA Properties hopes to open a community meeting space, education and outreach office for the community, and a place to rent office spaces to OSCA. OSCA has located property on Elm Street to purchase, but is waiting for zoning information from the city before continuing transactions.

While students might not be able to obtain co-ed housing in their first year, a new option is available: Dascomb Hall will become another first-year themed dormitory, with Barrows on North Campus.

“There was more interest in freshman housing than Barrows could respond to,” Gross said.

Dascomb, home to roughly 150 students, is predominantly first-year at present. The second and third floor are entirely first-year occupied, while half of the first floor is reserved for upperclassmen. “I don’t think it will make much of a difference,” Residential Assistant Mike Blejer says. “We’re mostly freshman as it is.”

Some are worried that Dascomb will adopt a negative atmosphere because of its new status. “Barrows has a reputation for melodrama, rampant drug use and lots of sexual activity,” a student who wishes to remain anonymous said. “Dascomb is no paradise, let me tell you, but it’s nothing compared to what I hear goes on in Barrows.”

Besides the new first-year dorm and co-ed rooms, ResLife is offering several new special housing options. Among these are a wireless network hall in East, upperclassmen-only halls in Noah, Talcott, and Zechiel, and a science fiction hall.

Other special housing includes substance free halls, a quiet floor and smoking allowed floors,” Reinhard commented. “But I am enjoying my visit here.”


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