PRIDE! debates KSU’s gender-neutral student housing denial

This burger made from the garden begins with a pretzel roll, beef patty and goat cheese. It features crisp spinach, tomato, caramelized onion, tomato vinaigrette, basil pesto and vinegar relish.

Drew Parker

Director of Residence Services Betsey Joseph discussed gender-neutral housing at a PRIDE! Kent meeting Thursday night.

Joseph and residence education coordinator Charles Holmes-Hope conducted a question-and-answer session with PRIDE! members about last semester’s failed gender-neutral housing proposal, which would have allowed students of opposite gender to live together to better accommodate LGBTQ students.

Joseph said she was disappointed when Greg Jarvie, vice president of enrollment management and student affairs, denied the proposal.

“I am not specifically aware of why it was declined,” Joseph said. “It was just not understood as to why this was something we needed on campus.”

Joseph said she urges PRIDE! students to educate the university community about the benefits of gender-neutral housing for LGBTQ students.

“What’s really important is to try to educate the community about what [gender-neutral housing] is and what this isn’t.”

Joseph said the proposal was meant for LGBTQ students to feel more comfortable and was not intended to help straight students live with the opposite gender.

“This would be an important component for LGBTQ students,” Joseph said. “[Gender-neutral housing] is not an opportunity for heterosexual students to shack up.”

During the meeting, Joseph said Kent State’s resident assistants are not required to take any ally training because it may conflict with their personal beliefs. However, some LGBTQ training is required before taking an RA position.

Holmes-Hope said Residence Services requires LGBTQ training for all staff during the summer.

“We focus on skill building to prepare ourselves to work with residents,” Holmes-Hope said.

“We try to prepare the staff to be as welcoming as they can be.”

Greg Porter, senior visual communication design major and PRIDE! vice president, said he believes that gender-neutral housing could greatly improve safety for LGBTQ students on campus.

“Does somebody have to die before this is implemented?” Porter said. “Does there have to be a hate crime before someone cares?”

Morgan Blackwood, a graduate student in sociology, said she believes the university should ask if students associate themselves with or support the LGBTQ community on the Residence Services housing application to prevent future problems.

“I don’t live on campus, but I’m personally trans,” Blackwood said. “I wouldn’t want to live with somebody that was not okay with that. If there were a better process to indicate who was willing to live with a transgender person, that would be effective.”

Josh Bailey, junior economics major, said he believes someone’s gender or sexual preference should not be an issue for university housing.

“In modern society, we should be assigning people to rooms, not assigning genders to rooms,” Bailey said. “Someone’s gender is none of the university’s business. It’s embarrassing to Kent State that we still choose to house people based on gender.”

Kent State currently has a system in place for transgender students to live with students of the opposite sex on a case-by-case basis.

Contact Drew Parker at [email protected].