Members of various student organizations met last night to discuss the future of a proposal to offer gender-neutral housing in residence halls and in the process voted to change the name of the policy to “open-housing.”

In April, the University’s Residence Halls Association passed a resolution in favor of establishing gender-neutral housing options at the University. The Michigan Student Assembly also passed a resolution in support of a gender-neutral housing option in Dec. 2009.

Brendan Campbell, chair of the University’s chapter of the College Democrats, said the stakeholders in attendance — including representatives from MSA, the Spectrum Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, College Democrats and RHA — voted to change the name because it sounds more accessible.

“I think if we change the name now to ‘Open Housing,’ it gives us more opportunity to really begin the education campaign in advance and re-establish what this means on campus,” Campbell said.

Social Work student Allison Horky, co-chair of the Spectrum Center Student Advisory Board, and other students present at last night’s meeting are working on a gender-neutral housing report to be presented to the University’s Board of Regents in November. Horky said gender-neutral housing would be an option for students applying to live in residence halls next fall if the report is approved.

“If you look at where we started, which is no awareness, no one on campus knowing what it was, what the issue would be, then we’ve come a long way,” Horky, who has worked on the issue for more than two years, said in an interview.

Jacqueline Simpson works with Horky in the Division of Student Affairs in the Spectrum Center. Simpson said in an interview that the gender-neutral housing option has received widespread support.

“It’s not a Spectrum Center thing; it’s not a gay student thing,” Simpson said. “There’s lots of groups, lots of organizations, lots of different identities that are interested in this particular policy change.”

At the meeting, Trevor Grieb, Business sophomore and RHA president, compared the current aversion to gender-neutral housing with the aversion to making residence halls co-educational during the 1960s. He said that many people believed at the time that the pregnancy rate would increase after the residence halls became co-ed.

A survey conducted in March by the Gender Neutral Housing Coalition yielded supportive results from University students. According to an April 1 article in The Michigan Daily, 67 percent of students who responded to a survey sent by the Gender Neutral Housing Coalition, would welcome a gender-neutral housing option for University residence halls.

Nineteen percent of respondents said they wouldn’t support the option.

LSA senior Syed Muhammad Raza, a resident advisor in South Quadrangle, said in an interview that the majority of people he has spoke to about gender-neutral housing are against the option because they want personal space.

“There’s people for it and there’s people against it,” Raza said.

He said he feels opting for gender-neutral housing is an individual choice that would not affect his decision to live in the residence halls.

LSA senior Sandhya Simhan, who also lives in South Quad, said she can understand other people’s apprehension, but gender-neutral housing would have been something she would have chosen if it was offered when she lived in the residence halls.

“It’s high time,” Simhan said.

— Anthea Mitchell and Sarah Alsaden contributed to this report.

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