Gender-neutral dorms still under debate for Kent State residences

Daniel Moore

While Ohio University recently announced a yearlong experiment with gender-neutral housing next fall, a similar plan at Kent State is still under debate.

Ohio will be the 56th university in the country and third in the state to allow men and women to live together in the same room, the Record-Courier reported.

Director of Residence Services Betsy Joseph said in an interview with the Record-Courier she expects the Social Justice Committee of Residence Services to have a proposal for gender-neutral housing ready for submission by this summer.  

The proposal, which Joseph would likely hand to Greg Jarvie, the vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, would be based on research conducted last semester by the committee.

Christina McVay, a faculty associate for the provost’s office, is looking at the university’s acceptance of the LGBTQ community on a larger scale. She is gathering information to submit to LGBT Campus-Friendly Climate Index, an online tool that scores how effectively a campus welcomes the LGBTQ community.

Housing is only one of the eight factors the website uses to score campuses. Other factors include counseling and health, policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment. 

Some universities with gender neutral dorms


  • Columbus College of Art and Design
  • Oberlin College
  • Ohio University


  • Eastern Michigan University
  • University of Michigan
  • Wayne State University


  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Haverford College
  • Muhlenberg College
  • Swarthmore College
  • University of Pennsylvania

As a faculty associate, McVay said her job is to “come up with projects to recruit and retain underrepresented students.” She said she took the position with a certain student’s story in mind.

She said a student came to her and complained about harassment he was experiencing in the dorms because he was gay. 

“They literally felt unsafe, and it really, really bothered me,” said McVay, a lecturer in the English and Pan-African studies departments. “I don’t care how anybody feels about homosexuality. No student should have to live in a place where he or she feels unsafe.”

Although Joseph said she had not heard a “specific demand” from students for gender-neutral housing and Jarvie has “not really heard students talking about it,” McVay said she received a standing ovation when she briefly mentioned the issue at a PRIDE! Kent meeting last semester.“The whole room applauded and cheered,” McVay said. Trae Ruscin, president of PRIDE!, said he thinks it’s a great idea. 

“As a transgender student, it (gender-neutral housing) would have made my experience on-campus less stressful,” Ruscin said. “I could have lived with someone that I identified with more.”

Ruscin said the change could benefit everyone by taking the pressure off any student who may feel more comfortable in a gender-neutral setting.

Mike Kosareo, a senior cellular molecular biology major, said he doesn’t fully understand the point of the change and would want to make sure the university carefully considered every part of it.

“I just don’t think a lot of people would use it,” he said. 

One question Kosareo said he had is how bathrooms would work on a residence hall floor with the gender-neutral option.

McVay said the university needs to look at the big picture as well because, “Kent does not have a really good record” of accepting the LGBT community. She said others have described Kent as a “closeted campus” and “neutral at best” when it comes to tolerance.

“We’ve got a ways to go,” she said.

Contact Daniel Moore at [email protected].