UB offers gender-neutral housing
Published: Saturday, June 23, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
If Samantha Hochstein was going into her sophomore year this time last summer, she wouldn’t be allowed to live with her two best friends.
But due to a change in UB housing, Hochstein, a business major, will be sharing her dorm with the people she grew closest to in her first year at UB – they just happen to be two guys.
Starting in the Fall 2012 semester, UB Campus and Living will be launching a pilot program of gender-neutral housing (GNH). Two floors in a residence hall in the Ellicott Complex and several apartments in the Hadley and Creekside villages are now set aside as gender neutral. Unlike traditional dorming, which separates students based on their sex, GNH will allow males and females to live together. UB is the first school in Western New York to allow this living option.
Hochstein thought about living with another female roommate in Greiner Hall. But rooming with sophomores Philip Wright, a computer science major, and Russell Oliver, a communication major, was something she always wanted to do once the trio became inseparable during their freshman year. It’s something they thought about before the option was even announced.
“It was kind of like a pipedream at first,” Oliver said. “Like, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if we could do this?’ And then it actually ended up happening.”
But Hochstein’s decision to try out the untraditional setup didn’t come without a lot of thought. When the group decided they wanted to apply for GNH, Hochstein said they envisioned their room being a split single-double, but they discovered that wasn’t an option. The three will be tripled in one room.
“I was a little iffy about it,” Hochstein admits. “But they were both really into it, and if they were comfortable with it I had nothing to worry about.”
Hochstein held worries typical for any college student facing a roommate decision, like that the boys typically stay up later than her and aren’t as diligent about their schoolwork. In addition, she had qualms those ascribing to traditional dorming don’t have to think about, like how she is going change her clothes.
Hochstein jokes she will no longer have the luxury of not wearing a bra to bed, and the roommates decided to get a tri-folding wall so she can change comfortably.
The three met up recently and stayed together in the same room for three days with no issues. To them, it’s clear they all click and will probably be able to work through whatever little obstacles being opposite sexes may bring.
“When I first moved to college I lived with two random people I had never met before,” Hochstein said. “At least now I’m comfortable with two friends that I trust.”
That’s the purpose behind GNH – to make students more comfortable with housing options that fit their needs, according to Trey Ufholcz, a graduate student in the School of Social Work, who helped conduct research regarding this type of housing for UB.
“UB promotes leadership, education, and the wellness of their students,” Ufholcz said. “If the basic needs of a student are not being met because of traditional housing policies, then the wellness of the student body is at stake.”
GNH is expected to attract a variety of students, groups of friends – like Hochstein, Oliver, and Wright – as well as romantic couples, and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Ufholcz, a transgender student, created a student advocacy group called UB TransAction to provide a voice to those students in his research. Ufholcz found that those students were uncomfortable in their living spaces, in part due to the lack of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.
The gender-neutral floors in the Ellicott Complex will have gender-neutral bathrooms.
“At first I thought it was weird to have the gender-neutral bathrooms, and I thought that was pushing it too far,” Hochstein said. “Then I thought about it, and if you’re going to separate the bathrooms then you might as well separate the rooms because it’s making the exact same point.”