When students start logging on to HomerConnect to register for Fall 2008 housing, they’ll have one more option than they might expect: gender-neutral housing.
The Office of Residential Life will offer the specialty housing option on the odd side of the second floor in Eastman Hall, where students will be able to live with the roommate of their choice, regardless of their gender.
Bonnie Prunty, director of residential life, said the decision stemmed from growing student interest in this type of community.
“I think students who are looking for this kind of living environment will see this as a very positive change,” she said. “Students, at least that I’ve talked to, are interested because this option allows them to live somewhere where they can live with a person they feel most comfortable living with, regardless of gender.”
Prunty said the bathroom will be renovated this summer to provide greater visual privacy. The new option will address the needs of students seeking a more supportive community.
“There are students at [Ithaca College] who have different sexual orientations or are members of different gender minorities, who are looking for a community where people are most open and accepting,” Prunty said. “The hope is that a floor that offers these kinds of housing arrangements would be made up of people that will be accepting.”
Junior Bri Lewis, president of the Residence Hall Association, said members of RHA had discussed gender-neutral housing in the past and were pleased to see it available at the college.
“[Gender-neutral housing] is something other schools in the county have been moving towards, she said. “With Ithaca being a liberal institution, it’s something that I think will be a really positive change for us.”
Freshman Joni Sweet said she has been interested in promoting gender-neutral housing at the college since viewing a presentation about it in the fall at an RHA conference.
“I think it’s almost childish to assume a man and a woman can’t live together platonically,” Sweet said. “If I want to be able to live with a guy, I should be able to.”
Freshman Renee Addington said this will be a positive change for the community but thought some parents might be worried about students of opposite genders living together. Sweet and Lewis voiced similar concerns.
“In our society we still have these definitive ideas that a man and a woman can’t live together unless it’s a sexual relationship,” Addington said. “But we are all mature adults, and if you want to make it work, you can.”
Prunty said if there is enough serious interest in the new option, Residential Life has plans to implement the program on the entire floor of Eastman in Spring 2009.
Sweet said gender-neutral housing isn’t for everyone, but it at least gives students another opportunity.
“I probably won’t be into [gender-neutral housing]. I like my roommate a lot,” she said. “It’s not necessarily the right decision for me, but I’m sure for some people it’s the right thing.”
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