The Michigan Student Assembly passed a resolution in support of gender-neutral housing at its weekly meeting last night, in an effort to influence University Housing to better accommodate transgender students in the residence halls.
The resolution — authored by Business Rep. Alex Serwer, LSA Rep. Chris Armstrong, LSA Rep. John Oltean and Engineering Rep. Pat Pannuto — calls for the LGBT, Peace and Justice and Campus Improvement Commissions to work with the Spectrum Center to lobby the University for a gender-neutral housing option by next fall.
University Housing currently assigns housing by birth gender unless students have undergone sex reassignment surgery, according to the University Housing website. Students seeking gender-neutral housing are given exceptions on a case-by-case basis, though the University doesn’t guarantee accommodations.
“Housing’s policy of assignment according to birth gender until sex reassignment surgery ignores the needs of transgender-identified students who have not pursued sex reassignment surgery,” the resolution stated.
The resolution follows an initial gender-neutral housing proposal from the Spectrum Center Student Advisory Board introduced last April. In the beginning of this semester, the University’s undergraduate chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union worked to move the proposal forward.
Though it passed by a large majority — 23 votes in favor to 3 opposed — some representatives disagreed with the premise of the resolution.
Business Rep. John Lin, who voted against the proposal, said he felt non-LGBT students would take advantage of the system by taking up space that could be used for those who truly need it.
“I do not have a problem with LGBT students,” Lin said. “I have a problem doing this for all students on campus.”
Armstrong, LGBT Commission chair, said MSA and the LGBT community share a similar goal of improving student life on campus, and by working together, they have the potential to implement positive changes at the University.
“If this is an option a lot of people are interested in, I think it will enhance a lot of people’s experience with housing,” Armstrong said.
Serwer, chair of MSA’s Campus Improvement Commission, said MSA members are working with representatives from the Residence Hall Association, the Spectrum Center Student Advisory Board and other student groups to gain support for the proposal.
“We’re proving to Housing that we have student support behind this,” Serwer said. “So we’re talking to as many student organizations as we possibly can.”
MSA is encouraging student organizations to fill out a statement of support for the campaign.
“We join the Gender-Neutral Housing Student Campaign in calling for expanded gender-neutral housing options because we believe that the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness necessitates this policy change,” the statement read.
University Housing Spokesman Peter Logan said in a Sept. 30 article in The Michigan Daily that he has been exploring the option of gender-neutral housing based on the experiences of other universities already offering the option.
“We’re watching those schools and are in touch with them so we can see what their experiences and successes have been,” Logan told the Daily at the time.
— Daily Staff Reporter Stephanie Steinberg contributed to this report.