College to expand gender-neutral housing options in fall
By Amelia Acosta, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Thursday, April 26, 2012
As Dartmouth students gear up for room draw, they will have additional options for gender-neutral housing, as Mid-Massachusetts Hall, the Lodge residence hall and the second, third and fourth floors of New Hampshire Hall will be added to the list of locations where students of any gender can cohabitate, according to Director of Housing Rachael Class-Giguere.
These residence halls will join the Maxwell Channing Cox and Ledyard Apartments, designated suites in the East Wheelock cluster and the gender-neutral affinity program in Fahey-McLane Hall as gender-neutral locations, but they will be regarded as separate from the affinity application process required for the program, Class-Giguere said. While the gender-neutral option will be available to students in these locations, it is not mandatory that mixed-gender groups occupy them.
“We’ve wanted to make an expansion in gender-neutral offerings for a long time, and in talking with leadership this seemed like a good year to do that,” she said. “One of the reasons we’ve wanted to expand is so that we could increase the ability of students in their sophomore year who really want a double, even if they have a lower housing number.”
The gender-neutral option will allow for more possible configurations of students in the room draw process, according to Class-Giguere.
The Housing Office selected these particular buildings to be included in the expansion largely for logistical reasons, she said.
“In the Lodge and Mid-Mass, there are private in-room bathrooms, and on the second and fourth floors of New Hamp there are single-use bathrooms available,” she said. “For any student who might identify as a gender different than their legal status, they would have to have the ability to use a bathroom without having to make a distinction.”
Bathroom placement is also important as a “convenience and comfort” for students, according to Anoush Arakelian ’14, a student housing intern.
“It would theoretically be a good idea to have all of the floors be gender-neutral, but think about people who live in the Fayerweather cluster,” she said. “We all use the same bathrooms, and you can’t really have boys and girls using the same bathroom in a way that makes everyone feel comfortable.”
The expanded gender-neutral floors will differ from the Gender-Neutral Affinity Program, which includes a programming aspect and a dedicated application for potential residents, Class-Giguere said.
“In the past few years, we’ve had one or two students ask why they can’t have a double available to them in a mixed-gender pair, and that’s one of reasons we’ve really wanted to expand,” she said. “In [the room draw] system, certain rooms will be designated as available to mixed-gender groups.”
The College will continue its commitment to offering single-sex housing because it is a priority for some students, according to Class-Gigure.
Input from students was a major impetus for the expansion of gender-neutral options, according to Maia Matsushita ’13, a student housing intern who lived on Fahey-McLane’s gender-neutral affinity floor during her sophomore year. Students who want to live in gender-neutral housing will no longer have to “compete for apartments or quads,” which are generally taken by students with top priority housing numbers, Matsushita said.
The Housing Office has seen “a lot of interest” in more options for male and female cohabitation on campus, Matsushita said.
“We’ll get blitzes from students wondering why there have been so few housing options that do not take gender into the equation,” she said. “I know that the response to the expansion of the program has been really positive.”
Matsushita said that while she “loved” her own experience living in the program, it’s “definitely not for everyone.”
“It was one of the most transformative experiences of my Dartmouth career so far, and our weekly meetings always sparked incredible discussions,” she said. “Now, students who may not be totally dedicated to all that living in affinity housing entails can have the option to live in gender-neutral housing, as well.”
The expanded housing will also help accommodate the large number of applicants who express interest in the program floor.
Without the requirements of the affinity program, which could deter some people from applying, gender-neutral housing is a more attractive option for some students, according to Pedro Hurtado ’14.
“I feel like I could live with a girl and a guy and it would make very little difference for me as long as I get along with the person,” he said.
The expansion has seen “no opposition” due in part to the variety of available housing types, which means that “the alternative is always out there” for students who feel uncomfortable with either option, according to Class-Giguere.
“We’ve had options for gender-neutral housing since 2007, and we don’t have a huge percentage of students who’ve been selecting suites or apartments of mixed gender,” she said. “Part of me thinks we might see an increase in those who choose this option, especially among sophomores, but it could be that we’ll basically have the same percentage just spread amongst different room types.”
Incoming freshmen at the College will continue to be assigned to their rooms based on gender, Class-Giguere said.