Gender-neutral housing becomes an option for 2015-2016 school year


Photo illustration by Graham Smith

Sabrina Scott

Kent State’s PR!DE organization and Residence Services are working together to make gender-neutral housing an option for the 2015-2016 housing application. 

Brandon Stephens, president of PR!DE, said a gender-inclusive living community would be an essential asset to Kent State University’s Residence Services.

“What we are looking for is to create a more inclusive community-based program,” Stephens said. “A program where not just transgender students can live in gender inclusive housing, but all students; so that we can work on not only diversity on this campus and students living with one another, but creating a safe space for more students.” 

Jill Church, director of residence services, also agreed that this will better the students living on-campus.

“I believe that we should do what we can do to accommodate students with preferences and needs for their living situation,” Church said. “So for some students, that is some type of — what’s worth now calling — gender-neutral housing. If we can accommodate that, then we want to do that.”

For the past few years, Residence Services has offered gender-neutral housing assignments, but not designated floors for living communities.

Church said that 14 out of the 25 residence halls offer transgender or gender-neutral housing in pairs or singles, including Van Campen, Korb, Engleman, the Centennials, Johnson, Stopher, Leebrick, Beall and McDowell.

This option has only been available on the Residence Services website and in the booklet for incoming freshman.

Stephens emphasized on how difficult it was for anyone to find the information, especially for incoming freshmen. 

He mentioned that Ohio University has its own successful gender-inclusive housing that is also nationally ranked.

“We would like a similar program. OU’s works really well. There are a lot of statistics that show that it works really well,” Stephens said. “Anything is better than what we have now.”

Church is hearing that students may want to have a living community on a floor for the LGBTQ community.

Stephens said that this living arrangement will not only help transgender students live comfortably, but succeed academically as well.

Sam Summers, a senior criminal justice major and a transgender student, said that with this innovative idea, they would feel safer taking showers and other things that are necessary in the dorms. 

“I think it is absolutely crucial that we focus on this issue and we have open conversations, not only with the administration but with other students,” said Stephens. “This is an issue that is affecting the lives of thousands if not millions of LGBTQ people all over the place and it is time that, as an institution that has a history for LGBTQ rights, that we get back to that. It is time that we put Kent State on the map for the LGBTQ movement.”

The gender-neutral option will be available Feb 1 on the housing application.

Contact Sabrina Scott at [email protected].

Brandon Stephens, President of PR!DE, organization of Kent State University, [email protected]

Jill Church, Director, Department of Residence Services, [email protected], 330-672-9139

Sam Summers, senior criminal justice major, (did not feel comfortable releasing email address), 330-606-7232