Situated in Ithaca, NY, Cornell University initiated gender-inclusive housing for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year students.
The policy was launched in the Spring of 2013 and allows for students to have the option to live in a co-ed facility. Gender-inclusive housing is only offered in some buildings, including program houses, language houses, the university run co-op, and the West Campus. Buildings reserved for first-year students and women-only housing do not accommodate gender-inclusive housing options.
A resolution was passed by Cornell’s Student Assembly on October 2012 to implement gender-neutral housing. The idea here was to give students as many housing options as possible to ensure comfortable living situations for all students.
Cornell’s neighboring school, Ithaca College, offers co-ed college apartments and co-ed off campus living options as well. However, Ithaca does not currently have a plan to implement a gender-inclusive housing policy.
At Ithaca, mixed-gender housing is only offered to LGBT students. A housing process for transgender students was introduced in 2004 where transgender students had to fill out paperwork and then meet with the the director of the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Education, Outreach Services, Luca Maurer to discuss their most preferred housing accommodation.
“For each individual student, their needs are different, and our transgender housing process on campus honors the fact that a cookie-cutter approach is not going to meet the needs of all students,” Maurer said in an interview with The Ithacan.
Assistant director of residential services at Cornell, Carlos Gonzalez, said that he expected 90 students to sign up for gender-inclusive housing. But when registration rolled around, only 26 students requested the inclusive housing.
Gonzalez also explained that bathroom accommodations depend on the particular building and that suites offer unisex bathroom facilities.
“Some buildings have bathrooms exclusive to males and females. Some properties have a mix of male, female and co-ed bathrooms,” he said.
Ithaca College attempted gender-neutral dorms through a few trial years but never officially implemented the gender-neutral housing option because there simply wasn’t enough interest. Should interest rise, they say they would reconsider.
“We had picked a location in the quads that we were going to offer as gender-neutral housing,” Ithaca’s director of the Office of Residential Life, Bonnie Prunty, said. “We needed a certain number of returning students to be willing to select that as a housing option, knowing that fewer new students would probably be comfortable in that arrangement. We have new students who don’t even want to live in coed-by-door housing.”
During the first year trial run only two students opted to live on the gender-neutral floor and the next year only one student signed-up for the option, Prunty explained.
“Maybe students today would have more interest in that arrangement than they have in the past,” said Prunty. “We would only move in that direction if we were hearing from students that that was a housing arrangement that they were looking for, and we just haven’t been hearing that.”
Senior Isabel Galupo voiced her opinion, saying that there was no need for gender-neutral housing as the co-ed apartment option meets that need.
She followed up by indicating that transgender and gender-queer students don’t feel the need to have designated housing options.
“Trans and genderqueer students felt safe and comfortable enough to not need a designated ‘safe space,” Galupo said.
Prunty added that in the event that gender-neutral housing did take place at Ithaca, that Residential Assistants (RAs) would need to undergo training to help prepare them for conflicts relating to romantic relationships.