A slow start to gender-neutral housing
Published: Sunday, October 7, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
UB expected 40 students to take advantage of gender-neutral housing (GNH). Twenty-three students are participating in the new housing option.
Fifteen live in the GNH dorms. Campus Living saved three Red Jacket tower floors and only one filled up. In Hadley Village, two of the three GNH apartments were needed.
The number of students involved in GNH did not meet UB’s anticipation, according to several resident advisers.
The decision to expand the co-ed housing will depend on the feedback from this year’s participating students. Brian Haggerty, senior associate director of Campus Living, said his staff received positive comments from the current GNH residents.
Some students in the dorm did not apply to live in the GNH area but agreed to be placed there when nothing else was available.
“I think it’s because the option wasn’t nearly as publicized as it needed to be,” said Jeremy Mauro, the program’s resident adviser. “Although I think it’s great for everyone, whether they are LGBT or not.”
So far, many have been pleasantly surprised by the setup.
Previously students were assigned rooms based on sex and not gender, making dorm life difficult for those who identify as LGBT or simply find themselves better friends with the opposite sex.
According to Campus Living, the program aims to make students feel more comfortable when living on campus.
“I don’t know if there are any transgendered kids [on the floor],” said Thomas Flynn, a sophomore nursing major who lives in GNH. “But it doesn’t really matter. I don’t ask around. It’s really just the person’s business.”
The small, 15-student floor encourages friendliness and seems homier than the traditional layout, residents of the floor said.
“It’s nice because people are more open-minded,” said Daniel Siew, a junior art major. “I lived in a large dorm on South Campus, but a lot of people on that floor seemed not sociable.”
Unmarried couples can now live together. Although it’s still early in the semester, there have been no related problems, according to Haggerty.
The Campus Living staff has been specially trained to help non-traditional roommates/suitemates resolve conflicts. GNH residents also had a special informational meeting.
“The meeting was about being mindful of the floor’s residents and your roommates,” Flynn said. “They told us to be open to different sexual orientations and that if you can’t tell someone’s gender, use their proper name.”
The new experience of living in non-traditional brought students together who may have not met otherwise.
“The room down the hall has two guys and a girl, like us,” Flynn said. “We usually hang out with them because we all know what it’s like living with a girl. No offense, but it’s different.”
The floor also has gender-neutral bathroom.
In the first week of school, Flynn was shaving in the bathroom and a girl in a towel walked in. At first it caught him off guard, but now he has settled in and is more comfortable.
If given the chance to live in GNH again, Siew and Flynn would apply.