Binghamton University to introduce gender-inclusive housing options for fall semester

Rainbow Pride Union's petition reaches President Harvey Stenger, Residential Life within 24 hours

Binghamton University is set to include gender-inclusive housing options for the fall 2014 semester.

Gender-inclusive housing would allow students at BU to live with anyone, regardless of gender or sexuality. The main purpose of the option is to accommodate for transgender and gender-queer students uncomfortable with being forced to identify as either male or female.

Rainbow Pride Union (RPU) created a petition on change.org Tuesday, asking for “Gender-Inclusive Housing Options in all of the communities on campus in order to create a more inclusive living environment.” The petition was created by Nicole Perlman, a sophomore majoring in psychology, and Alexander Ortell, an undeclared freshman.

According to Perlman, Residential Life contacted RPU within a day of creating the petition. They met with Suzanne Howell, director of Residential Life, and Paola Mignone, associate director of business affairs at Residential Life, to discuss the logistics and implementation of the new housing options.

“They were very open to our ideas, and were more than happy to listen to what we had to say,” Perlman wrote in an email. “They’re very on-board with the idea of creating Gender-Inclusive housing for next year. Not only would this be for incoming freshman, but an email will be sent out offering Gender-Inclusive housing options to returning students as well, even if those students have already signed up for housing.”

The petition received 292 signatures before it was closed as a result of its success.

According to Donald Lodge, director of RPU and a senior double-majoring in Chinese studies and political science, the choice would be something student can opt into, similar to chemical-free housing. While Hillside and Susquehanna Communities allow coed apartments, students are required to fill a four- or six-person group.

“Having gender-inclusive housing as a formal option allows all students, not just the ones who are able to fill an apartment, to live comfortably with any gender,” Lodge wrote in an email. “Since freshman can’t even choose the apartment communities as an option, this option would give incoming freshman a chance to have a more comfortable and successful freshman year without the fear that their gender identity or sexuality will affect their roommate relationships.”

Perlman said the specifics regarding housing assignments would be discussed at another meeting, but RPU will be heavily involved in the process.

“We will be working closely with ResLife to try to work out any kinks in the process that may arise,” she wrote.

Lodge said it was important to inform administrators of this need and match the standards of competitive schools.

“The main goal is to alert the administration that this is an issue that people care about and something that should be changed,” Lodge wrote. “Many other schools already offer gender inclusive housing for people who ask for it.”

SUNY Geneseo and University at Albany, both schools within the SUNY system, already accommodate for students who apply for gender-inclusive housing.

Lodge said that gender-inclusive housing is essential for transgender and gender-queer students, but it benefits everyone regardless of how they identify themselves.

“It allows cisgendered–people who identity as the gender they were assigned at birth–individuals to live with the opposite gender if both parties desire to live together,” Lodge wrote. “It also helps some people who identify as Gay or Lesbian because they can choose any roommate without worrying that they’ll be discriminated against for their sexuality.”

According to Perlman, while gender-inclusive housing has been successfully pitched to Residential Life, gender-neutral bathrooms are not currently part of the plans.

“There has already been a push to create more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, and the Rainbow Pride Union plans to further advocate for them to the administration in the future,” Perlman wrote.