Recent moves have brought gender-neutrality to the forefront of campus discussion.
The College is planning to expand gender-neutral housing options for the next academic year, with 123 gender-neutral housing spaces allotted for next year. Gender-neutral housing will be available in Younker North, Loose South, the Cowles Apartments, and all project houses, which include themed college-owned housing such as Eco House.
Gender-neutral housing allows students who opt for it to room with any other student, regardless of gender identification, and ensures access to gender-neutral bathrooms. “The whole concept of gender-neutral housing at places like Grinnell has been to provide housing for people for whom the gender binary is not ideal,” said Dean of Students Travis Greene.
According to Erin Duran ’09, who serves on the Gender Neutral Committee, the move will be accompanied by increased education on gender-neutral housing on campus in order to extend campus awareness. “Gender neutral housing is for everyone, not just one group,” Duran said. “It’s to make sure that everyone is comfortable and has options.”
According to Greene, students may draw into gender-neutral housing just as they would into other dorm rooms during room draw. Incoming first-years will also have the option, which they must opt into by notifying the Office of Residence Life. Greene said anyone who applied, regardless of year, would be allowed to live in gender-neutral housing.
Greene said that while couples of all sorts already live together on campus, he advises against using the new housing option to live with a significant other. “If you’re in a relationship with someone, probably the quickest way to end that would be to live together in a cramped dorm room,” he said.
In her campaign platform last year, SGA President Neo Morake ’09 included gender neutrality issues.
“In light of the … hate crimes that were happening, there were a lot of students who were noticing that our college was not very gender-neutral friendly,” Morake said. “We decided that this is something that should be addressed. [Since] the initiative passed, this is something that is important to the student body.”
“We knew there was a demand and a need for it, so we’re trying to figure out how we can move forward without shaking the earth,” Greene said.
Currently, the 18 gender-neutral rooms on Loose second South represent one percent of all housing. Next year, gender-neutral housing will increase to ten percent.