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January 28, 2011

Ohio University begins gender-neutral housing

Athens, Ohio--Ohio University starts a pilot program in the fall 2011 semester that will assess gender-neutral housing. University President Roderick McDavis approved the program on January 11.

The test will make Ohio University the fourth college in the state to have some form of gender-neutral housing. Oberlin was the first to introduce it. Miami University and the Columbus College of Art and Design also have programs in place.

The program allows LGBT students to live in a more comfortable social setting without having to come out to staff. The university already allows special accommodations to be made for LGBT students, but that requires disclosure.

“While confidentiality is promised, coming out to a stranger, especially in a new environment, could be hard for many transgender students,” said Amelia Shaw, vice commissioner of the Student Senate LGBT Panel.

LGBT students also have the option of signing up for single rooms, where they would not have a roommate, but they cost more.

“We value diversity, and it’s the right thing to do, even if it upsets some people,” vice president for student affairs Kent Smith told the Columbus Dispatch’s Encarnacion Pyle.

The university has been examining gender-neutral housing since the summer.

The pilot program will be able to accommodate around 50 students in the beginning, and will not be open to freshmen. Students who wish to participate will have to fill out an application explaining how the program benefits them and how the program would benefit from their presence.

Those applications will be examined by a committee of students and staff members to select the residents, who can either pick their own roommates or opt to be assigned ones with similar interests. Students will talk to staff members about their experience three times during the fall semester.

Students in the pilot program will have their choice of room types, and there will be designated floors in three dormitories taking part.

Couples in a relationship will be discouraged from living together, but not prohibited. That has not been a major problem with programs in the 55 other colleges and universities across the nation that offer co-ed rooming.

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