Open housing project delayed

The gender-neutral housing pilot program in Campbell Apartments has been delayed indefinitely.

The resolution was presented to the Board of Governors during February 2015 and discussed during the Board’s June meeting. In lieu of the pilot program, changes have been made to Truman State’s fall 2016 housing application.

Jim O’Donnell, Board of Governors chair, says an open housing policy was discussed during the June meeting, which was open to the public, but not voted on. O’Donnell says during the discussion, the Board reviewed the research presented by the Student Senate and concluded it was too early to tell whether gender-neutral housing would create a comfortable environment for all students. Some concerns were raised that, because of Truman’s non-discrimination policy, the program could be used by students wishing to live with a member of the opposite sex for reasons other than gender nonconformity or other factors of comfort and safety, he says.

“A few members expressed concern this might be too far-reaching. All our board members want to create a safe environment for students to live in regardless of their [gender] identity. In time, we will continue to look at which approach is more effective without creating an entirely new set of problems.”

    – Jim O’Donnell, Board of Governors chairman

Currently, the Office of Residence Life handles non-traditional housing requests on a case-by-case basis. To make this process easier, O’Donnell says the Board opted to adjust the housing application to make it simpler for students requiring nontraditional gender-neutral housing. Additionally, O’Donnell says the administration is looking into new housing software, but nothing has been brought to the Board yet.

John Gardner, director of Residence Life, says students who are LGBT or otherwise gender nonconforming can contact Residence Life to discuss how they would be most comfortable and, most of the time, these students are placed in single rooms. Gardner says during his six years as director, he has seen an increase in the number of students requiring special consideration.

“My first year I wasn’t aware of any students interested,” Gardner says. “Now, it’s up into the double digits. Statistics show we probably have more students who identify as transgender or gender nonconforming at Truman, perhaps as many as 30 have that identity. The numbers I’ve seen show that they’re increasing.”

Gardner says an open housing system would eliminate the need for students to identify themselves to Residence Life or anybody else to have a comfortable housing situation.

For more from the student senate representative on the initiative read more on Issuu.