Gender Neutral Housing @ USC
Contact: Kelby Harrison
Director, LGBT Resource Center
3601 Trousdale Pkwy, STU 202B
Los Angeles, CA 90026
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 20th, 2014
During the Spring semester, the Undergraduate Student Government passed a proposal for Gender Neutral Housing (GNH) beginning academic year 2015-16. The resolution asks that all apartment and suite-style accommodations on campus be made available, based on demand, for all students— freshman, upperclassman, and graduate—requesting GNH. This student initiated proposal has been well received by the administration of USC. The initial logistics for implementation will be worked out in the upcoming months with Residential Education and Housing. As student need and interest is communicated, and education on gender identity and expression continues across campus at all levels— staff, faculty, and students—this change in University housing policy stands to make a significant increase in the inclusive, welcoming, and affirming environment of the Trojan Family. The Center for Women and Men and The LGBT Resource Center are in full support of this change in housing policy and encourage its implementation with the greatest flexibility and breadth.
In 2004, USC included “gender identity/expression” in its anti-discrimination policy. This was in lock-step with the University of California school system, but ahead of the national curve. When USC was recognized in 2006 as one of the two best schools in the U.S. for LGBT identified students, this commitment to protect and support genderqueer, agender, non-binary, transgender, and androgynous students was part of that recognition of excellence. The other “best” school was the University of Pennsylvania, which currently has the most flexible and wide-ranging Gender Neutral Housing policy among the elite American Universities, and has had this policy since 2005-06. UPenn is a forerunner and ahead of the national curve. The GNH student committee of USC has identified UPenn as their model program. As of 2014, all 10 of the UC schools have Gender Neutral Housing to varying degrees. The rapidly changing climate of LGBT inclusion, protection, and non-discrimination in University education means that not only does USC need to catch up with our peer institutions in California, but we must also think ahead of the curve to do all that we can to protect, support, recruit, and retain every student meant to be a Trojan.
Gender Neutral Housing allows for any full-time enrolled student to request housing accommodations with any other full-time enrolled student regardless of gender, gender identity, or gender expression. GNH would involve a second housing application, and students would not be required to specify why they want to participate in GNH, nor would they be required to reveal their gender identity/expression. While the sensitivity to the need for Gender Neutral Housing is most easily recognized within the Trojan LGBT community, this is not a change in housing policy directed to solely meet the needs of the LGBT community.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are keenly aware of the heterosexism (considering the needs of heterosexuals above other sexual identities) and cisgender privilege (accommodating male and female students designated as such at birth, without considering the needs of all other gender identities/expressions) inherent in single-sex only housing options. However, many individuals across the gender and sexual identity spectrum, including heterosexual and cisgender students, may find that they are most comfortable living with someone who does not qualify as a potential roommate in the traditional single-sex model of university housing. It is our belief that students should have the autonomy to request and have roommate situations that optimize the students’ comfort level in University housing.
Gender Neutral Housing is currently available at many prestigious private institutions that are comparable to USC including Harvard, New York University, Stanford, Northwestern, and the University of Chicago. Single-sex housing at USC will also still be available for all students requesting and preferring to live in single-sex dorms or apartments.
We strongly support and encourage an implementation of GNH for USC that is as flexible and wide-ranging as it can be, in order to provide every Trojan with comfortable and equitable housing.
Additional information on GNH @ USC: