By Mary Keister
After a busy fall semester of working to make Beloit a more trans-friendly campus, the Trans Right and Representation Committee has its eye on a part of Beloit often forgotten after freshman year: housing forms.
The TRRC is researching and working toward having Beloit adopt a gender equitable housing program. The program would assign first-year rooms based on gender rather than on sex, the designation in place on the current forms.
A goal of GEH would be to allow options for trans students to select whom they’d be comfortable rooming with. Trans students coming into Beloit can have a hard time finding a living environment that they are content with, said Tobias Gurl ’12, secretary of the TRRC, because there’s a potential for them to get stuck on a single-sex floor or with a roommate whom they aren’t comfortable living with. While inhabiting a single is an option, sometimes living in a single, a more expensive room than a double, isn’t a viable option for everyone. And sometimes trans students do want a roommate — one they enjoy living with.
Alex Davenport ’12, head of the TRRC, said that though a gender-neutral housing program is in place at Beloit, it isn’t the same thing as gender equitable housing. In gender neutral housing, roommate gender does not matter. In gender equitable housing, women still live with women and men still live with men, but it’s defined by gender, not by sex.
Davenport and Gurl would like a form in place at Beloit similar to the one used by Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. Pitzer’s housing form has spots to designate personal gender identity and biological sex as well as places to mark down preferences for a roommate’s gender identity and biological sex. Pitzer has used the form since fall 2008, said Pitzer Housing Coordinator Tressi Chun.
“It has been a great option for our students because it provides the opportunity to select roommates without gender limitations and that has been our biggest success,” Chun said in an email interview. “We do need to explain the policy to parents, including first year parents, what exactly [gender neutral housing] is at our specific institutions, but I don’t consider that a limitation.”
Davenport has been discussing GEH for the past month with ResLife committee, but the issue was temporarily put on hold while housing review, which ResLife Committee spends a significant amount of time on, was completed. She hopes to do the legwork this semester for the proposal so that it can be approved next semester.
Because this is a policy proposal, said ResLife Committee Chair Ben Schechter ’11, implementing it would take time. Typically with proposals like this, the department — ResLife, in this case — would research what other schools have done and how it would fit into Beloit. The project would then be written up as a trial proposal, and a pilot program would probably be initiated. It would then most likely be followed up on in a year.
The plan for GEH is not without kinks and questions. Gender-neutral housing was not as popular as expected this past year. Davenport and Gurl said the program should be publicized more so students know about it. Schechter suggested waiting on what the future holds for gender-neutral housing before implementing gender equitable housing.
“[GEH is] an intriguing idea and I think it’s something that Beloit should definitely consider in the future, but until we know how gender-neutral housing does, it might be premature to start making serious plans for implementation right now,” Schechter said. “If we do a program, we want to have the strongest, most long-term-thinking program possible.”