The Residence Hall Association will be sending out a survey today to gauge students’ interest in the option of gender-neutral housing to those living in University Housing.

In April 2009, the Spectrum Center Student Advisory Board drafted a proposal to reevaluate the current gender-neutral housing option. Since then, many groups on campus like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Michigan Student Assembly, and now, RHA have supported the proposal to make accommodations for students who may feel uncomfortable living in same-sex living arrangements.

Though there are currently options available for transgender students, the proposal would offer students more gender-neutral housing options.

The Spectrum Center website states that current gender-neutral housing accommodations are made on a case-by-case basis and that applicants have no guarantee that their preferences will be met due to limited space.

In addition, according to the University Housing website, students undergoing sex reassignment surgery are placed in rooms according to their birth gender until their surgery is complete.

LSA sophomore Lindsey Schmuker, who is involved with the Gender Neutral Housing Coalition and Working Group and chair of the Housing Advocacy Committee of RHA, said she had a role part in creating the survey.

According to Schumker, the survey is expected to include a brief description of what gender-neutral housing entails, followed by questions that will indicate whether or not students support the proposal.

“We (the GNH coalition) decided to do a survey because we felt it would be the most efficient way to gauge the resident’s feelings on gender-neutral housing,” Schmuker said. “I think the survey will be received well by students. This is allowing residents an active role in deciding the future of their residence halls.”

LSA junior Caitlin Sadler, president of the Residence Hall Association, wrote in an e-mail interview that the GNH coalition was created by a group of RHA representatives from a number of different student organizations and governments in order to investigate gender-neutral housing options.

“RHA is interested in finding out how students feel about this issue in order to make the best decision for all residents,” Sadler said. “The proposal that comes from the Gender Neutral Housing Working Group will depend largely on the information received from the survey.”

Sadler added that the results of the survey will help RHA to figure out the next steps in the process.

“This feedback will provide RHA with more information about how residents actually feel about this issue and will allow this process of exploring gender neutral housing options to move forward,” she wrote.

Spectrum Center Director Jackie Simpson told the Daily in October that while she was hopeful about reworking the gender-neutral housing option, she was unsure how quickly the process would be able to move along, if at all.

However, in an interview last month, Simpson said she was glad that RHA has been taking a look into the gender-neutral housing option within the residence halls.

“It is important to listen to students’ concerns and evaluate whether or not their concerns are viable for the campus at this time,” said Simpson. “The fact that students are the ones taking leadership and responsibility for gathering the information needed in this area and ultimately identifying recommendations to the campus community is what makes Michigan students unique. Students are the best indicators and evaluators of what they need.”

In addition, Simpson said that RHA is the place where students can voice their concerns about the residence halls and said she feels the collaboration between the Spectrum Center and RHA will prove useful.

Schumker said advocates of the proposal still aren’t exactly sure how the logistics might work, but that it’s still important to get students’ feedback on it to figure out the best way to move forward.

“We’re not sure how gender-neutral housing might be structured at Michigan, and how students would apply for it,” Schumker said. “Those are details that are still being explored by representatives from (the) Spectrum Center, Housing and ultimately RHA, too.”

Nonetheless, the survey should prove helpful in discovering the wants and concerns of students living in residence halls.

“The responses of the survey will help inform subsequent discussions with student groups and Housing administration,” Shmuker said, “and we hope will direct further dialogue with the campus community.”

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