The University housing website boasts “varied” housing options. But in reality, the actual residential hall housing choices contradict those claims as they lack an accessible gender-neutral housing option for students. Gender-neutral housing, proposed in 2009, would allow students to choose roommates without the consideration of sex. Organizations pushing for the implementation of a gender-neutral option have recently opted to use the term “open housing.” But the quality of the idea and support from the student body remains the same. Almost a year has passed since the proposal was introduced, but there has been little progress. The University should uphold its responsibility to the student body and implement open housing.
Members of student organizations in support of the gender-neutral housing policy came together earlier this month to consider the future of the initiative, according to a Daily article last week. In an effort to make the idea sound more accessible, the groups voted to change the name of the option to “open housing.” Representatives from the participating student groups described the name change as an opportunity to restore and educate students on what this policy means on campus. The groups are also planning on presenting a report regarding gender-neutral housing in November. If approved, the option would take effect for the fall of 2011.
Open housing would provide more options for students who seek alternative rooming assignments. Open housing would allow students the ability to choose what kind of living arrangement would best suit their needs. And if an individual would like to live with someone of the same sex, they have the right to do so. Implementing an open-housing option wouldn’t impose on anyone — it would be an opt-in policy — or harm students. The University has an obligation to provide students with alternatives to traditional housing to help them be as comfortable as possible.
Implementing this housing option would also break down boundaries and eliminate strict traditional gender definitions. Students shouldn’t be forced into a living situation that they aren’t comfortable with because of the implementation of these boundaries. Currently, many students in the LGBT community don’t have an appropriate housing option. For many of these students, living with someone of the opposite sex or with someone who doesn’t subscribe to traditional gender roles would be the best arrangement. For these students, open housing is an inclusive, more accepting option.
The move to change the name of this initiative from “gender-neutral housing” to “open housing” took place at a meeting of the many organizations that support more housing options. These groups range from the Michigan Student Assembly to the University’s Chapter of the College Democrats and the Residence Halls Association. The coalition of this diverse set of groups is a testament to the campus support for the initiative. And last year, the student body proved that a majority of them agreed with implementing the option — with 67 percent of students voting in support of gender-neutral housing in a survey from the Gender Neutral Housing Coalition.
Open housing would create a comfortable living environment for all students. Students have shown that they support it by uniting to encourage its realization. The University should recognize the strength behind this initiative and implement open housing in its residence halls.