Program strives for inclusivity, participants say
9/14/2012 2:42 PM
A new pilot program that offers gender-inclusive housing on a LGBT-themed floor has been dubbed a success, according to Vincent Vigil, director of the LGBT Resource Center.
According to Vigil, the program, which was approved last March, aims to make the LGBT-themed Rainbow Floor in Century Apartments more inclusive for transgender or gender-variant students.
A gender-inclusive option currently exists in two apartments on the floor. Participants live in rooms with students who identify with the same gender but share the apartment with students of all genders.
Elizabeth Soriano, a junior majoring in communications who lives on the Rainbow Floor, said living in one of the gender-inclusive apartments has improved her USC housing experience.
“It’s a really good experience so far because I’ve had previous experiences with housing…and compared to this housing experience, I feel like I’m in a better place,” Soriano said.
Vigil said so far, residents of the gender-inclusive apartments have had positive experiences.
“The rooms have not had any major conflicts as of now,” Vigil said.
He went on to say that though the pilot program is new for USC, many universities already offer comparable housing options.
“Other institutions have been doing something similar on their LGBT-themed floors for years,” Vigil said.
Kevin Steen, the floor’s resident adviser, said the gender-inclusive apartments integrated smoothly into the rest of the building.
“It has really added to the diversity of the floor and has really legitimized our movement toward gender-friendly housing at USC,” Steen said. “The Rainbow Floor is really a reflection of the community, and USC really leads the way in terms of movements and changing mentality.”
Soriano said living in a gender-inclusive apartment and on the Rainbow Floor is preferable to past housing options.
“It makes me feel much more comfortable to know that identity won’t be a factor with any conflicts that would rise up among my apartment mates,” Soriano said. “So far, it’s been great.”
Other California universities, including Stanford, have made the shift to offer gender-neutral housing. Gender-neutral housing allows students to live in the same room, regardless of their gender identification, as opposed to gender-inclusive housing, which allows students of opposite sexes to live in the same apartment but not the same bedroom.
“This transition toward gender-inclusive housing is a way for USC to make the Rainbow Floor more inclusive and create a safe environment,” Vigil said. “This was not a move to make the USC campus gender-neutral.”
Vigil said in order to make the shift, the university would have to invest many resources to renovate the current traditional-style dorms and build gender-neutral bathrooms where each stall and shower is enclosed from floor to ceiling. He also said that the case for adopting gender-neutral housing must come from the students.
“At Stanford, student government put petitions together and took surveys of the student body,” Vigil said. “In order to have gender-neutral housing at USC, students need to advocate for it. Just like every other issue on campus, students need to move it forward.”
Though there has not been a huge push for gender-neutral housing so far, Steen said he feels encouraged by the response the program has received.
“I’ve had members of the Greek community and people in Residential Education checking in with me to see how its going, so I feel like we have a lot of support,” Steen said.
A wider-reaching program would come at a great benefit to students, Soriano said.
“I feel like it would be great if it could be expanded, the Rainbow Floor included,” Soriano said. “I feel like a lot of other people can benefit more than I can currently.”