For the University’s LGTBQ students, gender-neutral housing — also known as open housing — has been a goal they have strived to achieve at the University. Gender-neutral housing gives students the option to live with a roommate regardless what gender the individual identifies with. While the majority of students have positive experiences with their roommates, recent tragedies among young people add cause for concern. In September, for example, a Rutgers freshman committed suicide after his roommate videotaped him having a sexual encounter with another male and posted it online. While this obviously doesn’t represent the norm, isolated incidents like these make a case for the benefits of gender-neutral options for students.

The University, with the guidance of the Spectrum Center and the National Center for Transgender Equality, recently broadened its definition of transgender to include gender non-conforming and gender-questioning students. The school deserves recognition for the decision. For many students, college is a time of identity exploration, and forcing them to ascribe to strict gender identification to obtain gender-neutral housing could be counterproductive. Still, these definitions are too exclusive.

A gender-neutral housing policy will take effect at the University this fall. But the University Housing website specifies that only transgender and gender non-conforming students will qualify for the policy. The new policy will allow gender non-conforming and transgender students to live with other students who have the same gender identification.

While this policy is a positive start toward creating a more comfortable environment in University Housing, it does not go far enough in helping all students. All students should have the choice to obtain gender-neutral housing, not just those who ascribe to particular gender identifications. University Housing should be a safe and comfortable place for all students, and steps should be taken to ensure that gender-neutral housing contributes to that goal.

Gender-neutral housing has long been a pet project of former Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong. His support of the Open Housing Initiative aided the progress toward full open housing opportunities for all students, not just the select few the University deems it appropriate for. While the University has a history of supporting the LGTBQ community, this policy prioritizes the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming students over other students. It is unacceptable to consider that one minority is more important than another. It is not only transgender students who face harassment or uncomfortable situations that open housing could potentially combat. Critics of full open housing argue that students would abuse the policy in order to live with their significant others in residence halls. But the poor decisions of a few should not be a hindrance to the majority of students who would greatly benefit from a comprehensive gender-neutral housing policy.

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