Expanding Housing Options

December 01, 2010

Responding to student proposal, university to offer gender neutral housing.

Dec. 2, 2010

Students electing to live in gender neutral housing for the fall 2011 semester will have more options. Gender-neutral housing allows students of different genders to share the same room or adjacent rooms within a suite. The expansion of this pilot program is designed to broaden students’ choices and help ensure living arrangements that are welcoming and inclusive for all members of our community. Transgender and LGBT student groups have been working with the dean of students on the expansion of the program. The program is not designed for couples who are romantically involved or may become romantically involved.

The university’s decision to expand housing options is a direct response to a student proposal which came through the GW Student Association in spring 2010, according to Peter Konwerski, senior associate vice president and dean of students.

“I credit our students with identifying the need and urging our administration to take an in-depth look at these issues,” says Dr. Konwerski, B.A. ’91, M.A. ’93, Ed.D. ’97.

A GW review committee convened earlier this year conducted extensive analysis of national best practices and solicited student, alumni and parent input on the issue. The committee, which included students, faculty, staff, alumni and parent representatives, adopted a definition of gender neutral housing publicized by Brandeis University.

The committee recently recommended to senior management that GW offer, as Brandeis puts it, housing options “in which two or more students may share a multiple-occupancy bedroom, in mutual agreement, regardless of the students’ sex or gender.”

David Glidden, president of the student-run Residence Hall Association, says the flexibility gender neutral housing affords students is yet another example of the ways living in a residence hall constitutes “an extremely beneficial and meaningful part of student life at GW.”

“We are excited to continue to represent the interests of on-campus residents throughout the development of this program,” says Mr. Glidden, a senior studying international affairs and Spanish.

The Residence Hall Association voted last year to support gender neutral housing, which will be a completely voluntary program. Gender neutral housing environments can be implemented in all residence halls except the female-only Strong Hall, Merriweather Hall and 2109 F Street.

About 50 other colleges and universities nationwide offer similar gender neutral housing options.

“While we will continue to monitor this pilot program over the next few years, I think all of our administration was pleased with the thoughtful, inclusive manner in which these discussions were conducted,” says Dr. Konwerski. “The results are hard to dispute based on what we heard from our students.”

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