Twenty-five students from across campus contributed strategies and solutions for gender-neutral housing at the University during a meeting in the Michigan League last night.

The Open Housing Initiative, first proposed by the Spectrum Center, the University’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and later supported by the Michigan Student Assembly last fall, seeks to give students the right to choose their roommate regardless of their gender identity, gender expression or gender non-conformity. A goal of the initiative is to include a wider range of open housing options on next year’s housing application, and members plan to submit another formal proposal to the administration by Dec. 1.

As a result of MSA’s lobbying last year, the University currently allows student requests for gender-neutral housing. However, the requests are dealt with on a case-by-case basis rather than on the general housing application, and students must have a roommate in mind.

Students at the forum presented a PowerPoint showing the number of universities across the country that offer gender-neutral housing options is steadily rising. The University is the first among the Big Ten schools to add it to its agenda.

LSA sophomore Dencio Manglona attended the student forum and is a member of the Open Housing Initiative. Manglona has witnessed the transformation of the proposal — from its genesis with the ACLU, Spectrum Center and OHI to the substantive approval from MSA and LSA Student Government.

“Seeing this initiative move from theory and proposals to actual boots on the ground, meeting with University officials — seeing that transition really gives me hope for the future of the University … ” Mangloma said.

In an interview before the event, Spectrum Center Director Jackie Simpson highlighted the University’s history of supporting topics pertaining to sexual orientation and gender orientation, including the creation of the Spectrum Center in 1971.

“The University has a lot to be proud for, but it still doesn’t mean there isn’t progress to be done,” she said.

Simpson said she would like to see an even more open policy for students.

“I know that students would like for anybody to room with anybody,” Simpson said. “But at the end of the day I’m most interested in students who identify as transgender and gender non-conforming to be able to have an equitable experience as all our students and to be able to feel safe in the residence halls.”

Simpson added that she values the student enthusiasm, but there will still be a long-waiting process before the University passes any measures.

“We’re talking about not only students, but faculty, staff, alumni, parents. The University institution is made up of a lot of constituents,” Simpson said. “These things take time.”

In an interview last week, MSA Vice President Brendan Campbell, a member of the Open Housing Committee, said the assembly will continue to push for further gender-neutral policies.

“We’re aiming to have changes in place for next year’s housing application and for the next year of students living in the residence halls,” Campbell said. “We’re hoping that each year we will be able to increase the options and inclusiveness for all students.”

He added that he appreciates the administration’s support of the initiative.

“We recognize the challenges that the administration face, and we’re encouraged by their willingness to work with us that we’ll be able to continue making changes in the future,” Campbell said.

Following the presentation portion of the forum, students voiced their ideas for future approaches to the initiative. Many students agreed that the movement’s momentum rests on spreading awareness to freshmen and sophomore students who can set the precedent and follow through with it.

LSA junior Noel Gordon said he thinks the initiative has made progress in LSA but needs to reach out to other schools like the Ford School of Public Policy and the Ross School of Business to gain more support.

Other students mentioned adding gender-neutral options to the scripts of Campus Day tours and organizing an Education Theater Production. The group emphasized that open discussion on the issue is most important, especially for different student organizations and student government representatives.

LSA senior Amy Navvab, a founding member of OHI, monitored the discussion and said she was pleased with its outcome.

“I really appreciated the feedback that everyone brought to the town hall meetings,” Navvab said. “We have a lot of new ideas that we’re definitely going to be incorporating into our next steps for this coming year.”

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