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Gender Neutral Housing: Frequently Asked Questions
What is Gender Neutral Housing?
Gender neutral housing (GNH) communities focus on creating an inclusive environment where students can live in the same room with any student - regardless of sex, gender, gender identity/expression, or sexual orientation. This is one of the specialized living communities where participation is voluntary.
Gender neutral housing is now a permanent housing option at OHIO, and is available to all residential students.
Why did we introduce Gender Neutral Housing?
Residential Housing launched a project group during fall quarter 2010 composed of students and staff members to research the concept of GNH. The project group was charged with identifying components of successful GNH communities, the rationale for the option, and the potential for implementing GNH at Ohio University. Through the course of fall quarter, the group partnered with students to ensure that the proposed plans matched student interest.
Assessment conducted during the pilot year of the program suggested that the pilot was a success, and a recommendation was made to make the program permanent.
How many schools have GNH? Have there been issues with other school's GNH programs?
Currently, 55 schools in the United States have GNH or a policy that supports this option. Miami University and Oberlin College in Ohio both offer GNH living options. Wright State University, Ohio Wesleyan University, and Denison University are exploring the concept for upcoming academic years.
Research indicated limited concerns regarding GNH community implementation. The most common concern has come from parents asking whether students would be placed in the community without requesting it. No increase in undesirable behavior (by students within or outside the community) was reported by any school with whom we communicated.
How will this compare to other specialized living communities (e.g. substance free, quiet study, international, scholars)?
All of the specialized living communities (SLCs) are unique residential environments that foster community growth and development through targeted programmatic and staff supported efforts. These communities are centered around a common set of values or ideals and are provided to students who are interested in connecting with other students with similar interests, backgrounds, or experiences. Some of these communities require a contractual agreement aimed at upholding community standards and peer accountability.
Who is eligible? What are the qualifications?
GNH is open to all residential students who complete the application process. Students will indicate an interest in the option through their housing contract (MyHousing). Students with questions about Gender Neutral Housing should contact Residential Housing directly. Residential Housing can be reached at 740-593-4090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How many students can be accommodated?
An exact cap has not been put on the size of the community, but we anticipate housing approximately 50 students in multiple GNH communities.
Where will this be located? What room types are available?
GNH will be located in Smith House on the South Green for the 2011-2012 academic year.
Will it cost more?
No, the cost will be based on hall and room type, not on community participation.
What student support exists for this initiative?
Student Senate conducted a student survey regarding support for GNH during fall quarter 2010 and received feedback from 1,176 students. Survey results showed that students support GNH at Ohio University, with 1,026 of 1,176 respondents (87%) in favor of the option. A large number of students expressed an interest in living in GNH as well. Six hundred and fifty-nine (659) of 1,026 respondents (56%) stated they would be interested in living in GNH. Following the survey, Student Senate voted on Resolution 1011-8 in support of launching a pilot program for GNH at Ohio University.
Additionally, during the 2011-2012 school year, student senate passed resolution 1112-15, which called for making Gender Neutral Housing a permanent housing option at Ohio University.
What is the process? How will students be selected?
GNH will be presented as an option for students during the room selection process. Interested students should indicate the GNH option on the standard housing contract that all residential students complete.
Students who indicate an interest will be sent a supplemental application that will ask students to identify how they will both enhance and benefit from living in the GNH community. Applications will be reviewed by a team of staff and students.
Participating students will be asked to sign a community contract prior to living in the space. The community contract summarizes potential benefits of living in the GNH community and clarifies expectations of community members. Such expectations will be further clarified through the drafting of community agreements, which Residential Housing already uses in the halls to empower residents’ voices in establishing community expectations.
Can a student be placed in GNH without requesting it?
No. A student who would like to apply for GNH will have to go through a specific application for that community. Without the application to that community, no student will be allowed to live in this specialized living community (SLC).
How will roommate matching be done?
Students will provide information on the supplemental application regarding roommate and lifestyle preferences. No identifying characteristics (e.g. sexual orientation) are required to be shared. Students are given the option to share or be matched based on criteria with which they feel most comfortable in disclosing.
As with all residence halls, students in GNH will be required to complete roommate agreements discussing lifestyle preferences, communication standards, shared space, and expectations for each roommate.
What about couples? Will I be able to live with my significant other?
Couples of any gender mix will be allowed to live together in GNH; however, the intended purpose of the program is to provide a living option for students who do not feel comfortable in current housing options.
How will roommate conflicts be handled? If I want to move out of my living situation but remain in GNH, will this be possible?
The best way to avoid roommate conflicts is to have roommates proactively discuss expectations of each other and the shared living space. This includes guests/visitors, expectations regarding privacy, cleanliness, shared items/food, etc. One of the best tools to avoid conflict is a roommate agreement. Copies of sample agreements are available on the housing website (www.ohio.edu/housing) or from your Resident Assistant (RA).
When/if disagreements occur, it is best to talk about them as soon as appropriately possible. If you need assistance initiating a difficult or uncomfortable conversation with your roommate(s), speak with your RA or Residential Coordinator (RC)/ Resident Director (RD). Sometimes it is best not to remain roommates. If that is the best option, your Residential Housing staff member can let you know of open room spaces on campus. If other GNH spaces are available, you are welcome to choose a space in that designated area.
Can a student apply for GNH mid-year?
Following the housing application deadline, students interested in moving into the GNH community are encouraged to contact Residential Housing to see what spaces are currently available. Moving into the GNH community can occur outside the traditional time frame but will still require students to submit the supplemental application.
Can a student move out if I find this isn't a good fit?
Students interested in leaving GNH will pursue the standard room change process available to students throughout campus.
We strongly encourage students to consider this before applying to this kind of specialized living community (SLC) because participation and support are significant components of this community.
The student can work with the RC/RD to find a more suitable place to live.
Do all the normal residence hall rules still apply?
Residence hall policies and procedures are consistent in all hall environments on campus. To see a complete listing of policies and procedures, please review the Student Housing Handbook, available online at www.ohio.edu/housing
If a parent does not want the student in GNH, can the parent have them moved?
It is Ohio University’s practice that students select their rooms. We encourage parents and students to communicate about selecting a room and about any concerns or questions that arise during this process.
Will there be specialized training for staff?
Yes, ongoing training is conducted for all Residential Housing staff, including those working with the Gender Neutral Housing community.
What type of education will be provided to students outside of the GNH community?
Educational efforts will be incorporated into our ongoing residence hall programming efforts.
What are the plans regarding the safety and security of the facilities?
As with all residence halls on campus, the exterior doors of the building are kept locked at all times with exceptions made during fall quarter move in.
Students are encouraged to either confront or report people who do not appear to live in the building. Students are strongly discouraged from allowing others who do not live in the building from following them into the building. All guests and visitors should be escorted. All suspicious persons or activities should be reported immediately to OUPD.
What about restroom facilities /showers?
Care is used in the selection of rooms so that the restroom facilities will offer the appropriate level of privacy.
Will the GNH community be separate from the hall(s) in which it is located?
GNH rooms have been reserved on specific floor sections in select buildings.
Our hope is that all students, including those in the GNH section, will be involved in the greater residence hall community. A good way to do this is to get involved in the building or complex’s hall council. Hall councils represent all students in the building/complex.
How does GNH support student growth and development?
GNH is intended to provide a comfortable, inclusive environment where students can live in the same room with any student – regardless of sex, gender, gender identity/expression, or sexual orientation. Living in a group with similar values and expectations is a positive opportunity for all students, regardless of the specific situation. Identity development, like broader student development, is dependent on social support. Providing a supportive, inclusive living space is critical for developing a healthy place for students to learn, develop, and grow.
How does GNH support OHIO's 5 C's (Philosophy)?
Developing a community that supports students of all gender identities, sexual orientations, and living preferences will help our department and university truly live up to OHIO’s 5 Cs. The interdependency and potential impact of the 5 Cs in GNH is significant. Incorporating and including all students into the campus environment foster Community. Providing education and support for this community will encourage Civility. Community standards and accountability will develop Citizenship. Ongoing development and growth will strengthen Commitment.
Where can I find additional information?
1. LGBT Center: www.ohio.edu/lgbt
Listing of student and community organizations serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and ally students
Athens area resource guide for LGBT friendly businesses
Student and community oriented programming related to LGBT and ally issues
2. Women’s Center: www.ohio.edu/womenscenter
Sexual assault advocacy, education, and support
Student and community oriented programming related to women and gender issues
3. The National Student Genderblind Campaign: www.genderblind.org/resources
Listing of all schools with a GNH policy or option
Sample GNH proposals and policies
4. Athens PFLAG Group: Potential resource for GNH parents/families