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BU administration considers gender-neutral roommate selection

Posted by Your Town  May 10, 2013 06:45 PM

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Boston University officials are discussing a proposal to implement gender-neutral roommate selection for on-campus housing.

Colin Riley, a BU spokesman, confirmed that a proposal is under consideration by the Dean of Students and members of the University Council, a faculty group. He would not elaborate because no decision has been made.

Currently, BU students are housed by gender. Aditya Rudra, the student body president for BU, said that under a gender-neutral policy, a gay student or a transgender student who felt more comfortable rooming with a person of the opposite sex could indicate that preference on their housing application.

Rudra said in a phone interview that the idea was first endorsed by the university’s student senate in 2011, and that he is pleased the plan is being considered by the university council.

“I’m very happy to see it move to the university council, because the administration was silent for a long time,” Rudra said. “I don’t necessarily see it as progressive. I think our university is very well behind.”

A number of local colleges offer gender neutral housing including Northeastern University, Harvard College, Tufts University, and Emerson College.

According to Rudra, in August of 2012, the BU Housing office created a proposal for gender neutral housing, but the initiative was halted in November 2012. At the end of the fall semester, students protested in President Brown’s office, and he responded by consulting a Committee on Student Life and Policies, of which Rudra was a member.

The committee met bi-weekly from the start of the spring semester until February 12, when it passed a proposal for gender neutral housing and addressed Brown’s concerns.

Rudra said he was told last week that Dean Elmore had taken the proposal to the University Council on behalf of the Committee on Student Life and Policies.

According to an earlier version of the proposal, the “traditional paradigm” of student housing is changing across the United States.

“Gender-neutral housing provides students increased choice in selecting their roommates. It provides students maximum responsibility for their own room assignments and is consistent with the University’s commitment to learning through students active decision making and engagement with the learning environment,” the proposal says. “It is the intent of a gender-neutral housing program to contribute to the creation of a campus climate that is supportive of all students.”

Rudra said that when talking to his fellow classmates, nearly all support the initiative.

“You shouldn’t always assume that gender is a key connection between people, it’s more about how well you get along,” he said.

At the end of April, the UMass Boston student government unanimously voted for the inclusion of gender-neutral bathrooms in new campus buildings. They called the proposal an affirmation of the school’s “commitment to creating a supportive and inclusive campus environment.”

Joey Nguyen, speaker for the UMass Boston student government, who was in strongly in favor of the initiative, said in an interview last week that "the whole goal is to create a community or environment where we strive for progress, we strive for equality."

Katherine Landergan can be reached at klandergan@globe.com. For campus news updates, follow her on Twitter @klandergan.

Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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