The George Washington University announced yesterday that it will offer gender-neutral housing for the 2011-2012 academic year, as talks of gender-blind living arrangements at Georgetown are only getting off the ground.
At GWU, the new program will give students the choice to live with each other regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
Students will be required to request gender-neutral housing and room with a student they know, GWU spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard told The Hatchet, GWU’s student newspaper. No student will be randomly assigned to a mixed-sex room. The gender-neutral assignments will exist in all but three residence halls.
Gender-blind housing is being discussed on the Hilltop, but success seems more distant. A Georgetown University Student Association Senate resolution advocating more dialogue on the issue was passed Nov. 14.
GUSA Senator Josh Mogil (SFS ’11), the driving force behind the effort, hopes that the approval at GWU will reinforce the efforts of Georgetown students to promote gender-blind housing on campus.
“It’s just a sign that the times are changing,” said Mogil. “It reaffirms our commitment to make every Hoya feel comfortable.”
Georgetown’s proposal for gender-blind housing, however, is fundamentally different from GWU’s gender-neutral option. Gender-blind housing would not take gender into account when finding the best situation for an individual student, such as one who does not identify with a gender.
“We’re asking for [gender-blind housing] only for kids who need it for safety and security issues,” said Mogil. “We want to implement more options or at least education about current options.”
GUSA has not taken a formal position on the policy.
ogil is convening a preliminary meeting about the issue next Thursday with the administration, but university spokeswoman Julie Bataille has said there are no plans to change the protocol at Georgetown. Mogil predicts that the upcoming changes at GWU won’t affect Georgetown’s position due to the university’s Jesuit background.
However, Todd Olson, Vice President for Student Affairs, said he was willing to speak with students about possible changes.
“I am open to discussing ideas and interests with students as they pursue this dialogue,” Olson said.
Gender-neutral housing is not entirely new to GWU’s campus. In 2008, students formed a living and learning cohort titled Escaping Gender, which allowed students to live with others of the opposite sex. The cohort houses six students and is the only gender-neutral housing option currently available on campus. Frustrated by the lack of more options, student Michael Komo formed Colonials for Gender-Neutral Housing in the fall of 2009. The group researched gender-neutral housing options at other universities and pushed for a campus-wide expansion of the cohort.
Komo followed this up with a push among the student government; in January 2010, he sponsored a resolution advocating gender-neutral housing options for all students that was passed by the GW Student Association Senate. In response, GWU’s administration created a policy review committee for the issue. Finally, on Dec. 2, Komo’s vision became a reality.
“It’s been a constant dialogue on how to implement this, and it feels wonderful,” Komo said. “Once we get the involvement a little bit higher, there will be a sort of domino effect. I think we will need some of those tools to be on the progressive end and implement this at other universities.”
At Georgetown, Mogil will keep working for the sake of students who feel uncomfortable in single-sex housing on the Hilltop.
“I am personally ecstatic that GWU has made this incredibly bold move,” said Mogil. “This is a path that other D.C. schools should follow.”
– Hoya Staff Writer Caitlin Mac Neal contributed to this article.