News | Student Life

CU approves gender-blind housing

Come room selection in March, students will have the option of living in select residence hall doubles with any upperclass student, regardless of gender identity, Dean of Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger told Spectator Wednesday morning.

After considering a revised proposal from a task force of students and administrators, Dean of Columbia College Michele Moody-Adams and Dean of the Fu Foundation of Engineering and Applied Science Feniosky Peña-Mora gave the go-ahead to a pilot program that will allow students to room with those of the opposite sex in six residence halls.

“After careful and thorough consideration of the student-led proposal for open housing, we have approved a one-year pilot program that will begin with the Spring housing lottery and take place over the 2011-2012 academic year. … It is our hope that this pilot program will broaden students’ choices and help ensure living arrangements that are welcoming and inclusive for all members of our community,” Peña-Mora and Moody-Adams said in a joint written statement.

The pilot program will begin in Wien, East Campus, Ruggles, Nussbaum, Claremont, and Woodbridge. Shollenberger said that, after an assessment in Spring 2012, the program may be opened up to all upperclass residence halls.

Sean Udell, Columbia College Student Council 2011 class president and a member of the task force, authored the original proposal. Udell said he worked closely with Joyce Jackson, the executive director of Housing and Accommodation Services, to ensure that the participating residence halls would be accessible to most upperclass students, regardless of lottery number.

“We believe that the vast majority of students interested in participating in this program will be able to do so,” Udell said.

Shollenberger said that in addition to introducing a pilot program for six residence halls, the revised proposal formalizes educational materials and assessment strategies, which he said was appealing to administrators.

“Not very much of the actual educational materials have been put in place yet. … They’ll explain the kind of rationale and reasoning for this and how it will impact other students and the university, and also why this came about for the students who don’t know,” said Heidi Ahmed, SEAS ’11 and vice president of policy for the Engineering Student Council, who was also on the task force. She added that there is still a lot of work ahead for the group.

“What is probably different is this is a lot less ‘dunk in the tank.’ … It’s a much more controlled rollout,” Udell said.

The administrators said that they planned to meet with resident advisers, as well as special-interest and religious student groups and the student governing boards.

Shollenberger said that he informed Dean of Barnard College Dorothy Denburg of the deans’ decision yesterday. It remains to be seen if Barnard students will be allowed to participate in the pilot program.

Associate Dean of Campus and Residential Life at Barnard Annie Aversa said her office will make recommendations to Barnard’s senior administration, who will release a final decision at a later date.

“The College is currently considering its own Open Housing policy, which will operate in cooperation with Columbia and within the CU housing exchange. Under Columbia’s new policy, only upperclass Barnard students who are over 18 would be allowed to participate,” she said in a statement.

Under the new policy, upperclass Barnard students who live in Columbia University housing will be given the opportunity to live in co-ed rooms in addition to the co-ed suites already available in EC, Ruggles, and Claremont.

“Because of our historic partnership with Columbia, Barnard is unique among women’s colleges in that students are able to participate in co-ed housing on campus. We are not aware of other women’s colleges who participate in this type of housing arrangement,” Aversa said.

The student-initiated campaign to bring gender-neutral housing to Columbia began a year and a half ago when Barnard’s Student Governing Board proposed changing the university-wide housing policy.

“I think the takeaway message is that we are so fortunate to be at a university that recognizes our voices and is willing to work with students to make things happen. But sometimes to do that takes a lot of pushing and a lot of work,” said Avi Edelman, CC ’11 and one of the original authors of the proposal. “This is a good start, but there’s still a lot left to do.”

leah.greenbaum@columbiaspectator.com

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Anonymous posted on

huh? I am a Columbia parent. The article does not unpack the logic of this policy.

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Anonymous posted on

It was designed with the needs and comforts of LGBTQ students in mind. And the idea that as adults we should have the right to choose whomever we want to live with.

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Anonymous posted on

The objective seems clear - "It is our hope that this pilot program will broaden students’ choices and help ensure living arrangements that are welcoming and inclusive for all members of our community.”

In college, students learn in their living environments just as much as they do in the classroom. Students will learn about the importance of diversity, tolerance & acceptance through this program. This has been rolled out at colleges across the country & I'm happy to learn that Columbia is onboard with this important trend.

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Anonymous posted on

yup props to columbia for this, about time.

Serious congratulations to Sean Udell though, never thought this kid or anyone on the council could make such significant changes, well done indeed.

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Anonymous posted on

Good for Columbia. I hope other colleges follow soon.

I confess I don't really understand the need for sex/gender segregated housing. I went to a college where the only rule about gender and housing was that you couldn't force a man and a woman to room together. (My college was not particularly known for being politically progressive, and in fact hadn't admitted women until the 1970's.)

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