Push for Gender-Neutral Housing Continues

Emily Lin-Jones

Illustration by Tyler Schuh
Illustration by Tyler Schuh

After pushing a resolution through the Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC) Senate calling for gender-neutral housing for first-years, sophomore GLBTQ intern Evan Griffis is continuing to push the Office of Residence Life and Housing to improve transparency around its current housing policies, and to try to create an institutionalized gender-neutral housing option for incoming students in the next two years.

Following the passage of the resolution and through discussions with Griffis, Residence Life has taken steps to clarify and make more public its current policy of providing gender-neutral options to returning students and incoming students who contact the office to request different housing arrangements.

“We have worked to be more transparent about gender-neutral housing in our online and written materials,” said Assistant Director of Residence Life and Housing Anastasia Zamkinos.

Residence Life recently updated its web page with a special section detailing gender-neutral housing policy, which allows returning students to select a roommate of any gender. Previously, financially dependent returning students required parental acknowledgment in order to live with a roommate of the opposite gender in on-campus housing, but Residence Life has removed this requirement in light of the new resolution.

“This initiative is progressing quicker than I had hoped for,” said Griffis in an email. “I did not expect ResLife to make these changes immediately, so I was very pleased to hear that they were taking this issue seriously and implementing some of the things that the ASWC resolution called for.”

As for the possibility of a fixed gender-neutral housing section or a standard option offered to incoming students, Residence Life representatives stated that implementing such a policy would require more work and input from other parts of the college.

“Having a standing policy advertised to first-years would be a complicated project that we would need to think about carefully both in the office and as a college,” said Zamkinos in an email.

Griffis, however, remains optimistic. He is currently working on arranging a meeting with the Governing Board’s Diversity Committee in May to report on the initiative’s progress and future possibilities.

“The administration has been supportive thus far, and I am still very optimistic for the possibility of making a gender-neutral housing section available for first-year students in the class of 2018,” said Griffis.