A new housing phenomenon that’s sweeping college campuses across the nation is being proposed here at Virginia Tech.
The Residence Hall Federation General Assembly will vote on a new gender-neutral housing option for on-campus residents at its next meeting.
Kylie Gilbert, president of the group, introduced the proposed resolution on Monday night that laid out what the committee had been working on for several months.
The Residence Hall Federation, the main governing body for the on-campus community, formed a committee at the beginning of last semester and has been doing research and gauging the community’s interest.
Though there are varying degrees of gender-neutral housing, the type of housing being proposed on Tech’s campus would be “gender blind,” allowing men and women to live together in the same rooms.
The new arrangement would allow LGBT community members to room with a member of the different sex, but would also allow heterosexual romantic couples or brothers and sisters to room together.
“This is not just limited to the LGBT community — it applies to a wide spectrum of individuals. It can be applied to romantic, married couples, siblings, opposite gender best friends, doesn't matter the gender,” Gilbert said.
Virginia Tech currently doesn’t have a policy that accommodates transgender residents, but according to policy PAE-T2-1 in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, transgender students are encouraged to talk to the assistant director of housing services.
“We want every student, of every group to be comfortable and happy on campus,” said Kenneth Belcher, Tech’s senior associate director for housing services.
According to Gilbert, having this type of housing would allow for a “more inclusive, more accepting environment” for individuals who feel uncomfortable living with a member of the same sex.
Virginia Tech wouldn’t be the first college in the state to offer this unique housing arrangement. George Mason announced Monday that it will start offering gender-neutral housing, making it the first public university in the commonwealth to offer the unique housing option.
“I think, in general, the youth of the country are heading toward a more inclusive policy,” Belcher said.
The housing option will be application based, but Belcher feels confident that anyone who expresses interest will be offered a gender-neutral room.
According to Belcher, GMU had 132 applicants for their first year, and he estimates that there are several hundred spaces on Tech’s campus that could be used.
“Most housing officers agree that this is a destination for us where we want to go,” Belcher said.
However, Belcher understands that not everyone will be in favor of this situation.
“I’ve already had students and alumni who don’t believe this is the path we should be taking. I respect that perspective because that’s everyone's belief,” Belcher said. “If you don’t want it, you don’t have to sign up for it.”
One question raised was how this would affect the lottery for housing on campus. Belcher responded by saying that the gender-neutral housing would only be available if you have already received a housing contract for the upcoming year and wouldn’t give preference to anyone in the lottery who is requesting it.
The Hall Council General Assembly will meet in two weeks to vote on the resolution and will represent the voice of the student body.
“Student-led initiatives are much more powerful,” Belcher said. “If I have the voice of the students saying that this is something you truly want, that really helps out the cause.”
If approved, it will move on to the Division of Student Affairs and Housing and Residence Life for approval, and even then will still have to move up through the administrative ranks.
However, Belcher said even if it’s not approved, it still has potential to be passed through upper-level administrative ranks.