Over the past several years, gender identity and sexual orientation have become one of America’s, and Kansas’ biggest controversies and the new residential housing project provides an opportunity for Fort Hays State University to become a frontrunner in tolerance among Kansas colleges.
With the variation and differences in people, there are so many different ways to identify personal sexual identity. A few identifications include: homosexual, asexual, transgender, and bisexual. Different orientations are known. But, in all reality, why should people, especially teenagers and young students be required or forced to choose an orientation or pursue a specific identification?
Although FHSU’s halls offer co-ed living spaces, but only co-ed in the minimalist sense. McMindes separates genders by wings, while Stadium Place only allows four of the same gender in one unit, or married couples. Wooster Place offers co-ed living, but almost specifically for married couples or upper classmen.
Having these current housing options on campus allows some students to live where they want, but many others with no option at all. Upperclassmen who want to live in Wooster Place have the chance to live with who they want to live with, but this option is unavailable to freshmen. Would the new students on campus find gender neutral housing more comfortable or welcoming? Having that option for them would at least be a start and as an added bonus there is a considerable chance that a student may pick FHSU over another regent school because we would offer that new, unprejudiced space.
With the new residential housing being constructed on campus within the next two years, there is no reason for not potentially creating a space for people to live in an environment where they can be themselves without the stress or judgment of living in a gender-separated dorm.
There is the option for any student organization to buy-into the housing, and the themed housing would provide the added privacy for those individuals.
“The Wiest Replacement housing will consist of private rooms and private baths. Given that, the pods [themed housing units] can all be co-ed,” said Dana Cunningham, director of facilities planning.
So, there is the opportunity for students with similar identities to live together, but that would require a specific group of students to buy-in to the new housing, pay around $200,000 to commit, and they would have to guarantee 21 or 28 students would live there.
Unpredictably, there are over 50 colleges in the United States that offer gender-neutral housing. A few of those colleges include: Stanford University, Cornell University, University of Chicago, Wesleyan University, and Colorado College. The number of colleges and universities with this option is destined to increase.
FHSU may want to jump ahead of other regent schools in the state like Kansas State University and the University of Kansas by making gender-neutral housing an option for all students. Having this availability would not only benefit the students on campus, but the entire university as a whole.
“These options would benefit FHSU because it would foster a more accepting environment for LGBTQ (and more) students, it would also give students a more connecting environment,” said AJ Ladner, Lawrence KAMS senior and Gay-Straight Alliance member.
According to CampusPride.com, “It’s about inclusiveness, safety, and comfort. Gay students would have the option of rooming with someone of the opposite sex if this makes them feel more comfortable. Transgender students would never be forced to room with someone of the opposite gender. Intersex students would not have to be defined by an arbitrary sexual designation. Two friends, male and female, would be trusted to be roommates in the same way that two female or two male friends currently can.”
A simple way to advance the university’s current housing situation, would be to simply utilize a couple dorm wings, or spare dorm space, and offer it as gender-neutral. Every year, the students who want to live on campus must fill out a housing application. This application always asks for the student’s preferences about a potential roommate or rooming situation. The people in charge of assigning roommates, the staff at Residential Life, could update their application and add a section for each student to add whether or not they are interested in gender neutral housing or not. The application would then ask the student if they would be more comfortable living in an environment around people who identify as men, women, or neither. The residential life housing committee that is in charge of assigning roommates could then use the rest of the basic application and assign the roommates by interests, like all other students.
The fact is, much bigger schools, KSU and KU do not currently have this option on their campuses. If FHSU were to implement gender neutral housing, the university would be one step above other regent schools when it comes to acceptance of students’ identities, as well as creating a sense of welcoming on campus.
Some may see this new idea as a way of “segregating the gays,” but in reality, we’re already “segregating” the male and female populations. We’re allowing the people who identify as “straight” to have their own space, so why couldn’t the transgender, homosexual, or other students to have their own space as well?
Overall, the option of gender neutral housing would create a safer, more accepting factor on the FHSU campus. The new sector of housing would put FHSU above other regent schools in Kansas, and allow the student body to flourish, grow, and be comfortable with who they are.