It’s generally believed that a room assignment at the College can be narrowed down to one key component — gender. Well, not for students in the College’s Gender Inclusive Housing program.
Those who feel as though their sex should not be factored into room assignment selection and who desire an accepting space are encouraged to sign up for housing through the College’s GIH program.
This year, 25 residents are involved with the program and live in spaces throughout Decker Hall, the townhouses and the college houses.
The housing option has been available, in some shape or form, for four years now, according to director of Housing Ryan Farnkopf.
“We kind of tailored it to the people who were interested in it at the time,” Farnkopf said. “One year we did an apartment as a trial. One year we did some spaces in sophomore and upperclass housing.”
According to Farnkopf, having this option of housing available to students is important because, simply, it is what the students want.
“Students want it, and if students want it, it’s our obligation to provide it for them,” he said. “It’s something that makes people feel comfortable. It’s something that helps people acclimate to college. It helps people feel secure in their own environment, and so we want to offer it if people want it.”
Sophomore deaf and hard of hearing education and iSTEM double major Sophia Roth chose to live in GIH because she wanted to live with her best friend, whom happens to be a boy.
“Living in GIH isn’t really any different from living in ‘normal’ housing. I knew living with him would be the best and most comfortable situation for me,” Roth said. “I love living in gender inclusive housing. I share a bathroom with a boy, but that is no different than living at home.”
Residential Education and Housing believes customizing its processes and services to meet residents’ demands is crucial to college students’ development.
“Issues of gender are certainly central to who we are as people,” Farmkopf said. “If you have a bad experience, if you live with somebody who is not comfortable with you — and there are a lot of issues that can arise from that — that hurts someone’s development. That hurts someone’s educational career. And so we want to make sure people feel safe, comfortable and at home in our facilities.”
Becoming a member of the GIH community was a smooth process, according to Roth.
“It was really easy to apply,” she said. “I just had to fill out a simple questionnaire, and I was in. The housing rooms were set aside already, so when I went into my housing portal, I knew which rooms were included and picked from those.”
Farnkopf said that he hopes that GIH can expand in the future, and predicts that as gender identity becomes more common in everyday conversation, the College will see an increase in requests to be a part of the GIH community.
“Right now, it’s mostly upperclass students who request (GIH housing), but occasionally we will have a first year student who does,” Farmkopf said. “We will deal with them on an individual basis right now, but I think, in the future, maybe even the near future, we’ll have something institutionalized for each class. That would be my goal, to offer it to anybody that wants it regardless of class year.”
Residential Education and Housing encourages for people to reach out to them about the program and says that it wants the community to be student-driven.
“In order for it to meet student needs, it has to come from the student body,” Farnkopf said. “We don’t feel as though we have a lot of students who really reach out to us and complain about issues, and certainly there are more people who have issues related to this than voice our concerns to us. So if they can bring our concerns to us, that could help us design a program that meets those needs.”
According to Farnkopf, there are many reasons that a student might want to live with someone of a different sex, and Residential Education and Housing hopes to find a solution.
“Whether they have issues or concerns with living with someone of the same gender, whether they have internal kind of deliberations about their own gender identity, if they feel like they’re transitioning or they just want to live with somebody because they want to live with somebody — there’s a lot of different populations that fit into this group regardless of what they are,” Farnkopf said. “If they reach out to us, we can design a community that reaches all those needs.”