By Tara Cavanaugh
After a student-led push, Grand Valley State University now offers gender neutral housing in its campus dorms.
A group of students formed a group called the Gender Neutral Housing Coalition and worked with the GVSU Student Senate and student housing administrators to create the housing option.
“They met with different administrators, the director of Housing and Residence Life, the vice president, the provost and dean of students, and began to tell the stories of students whose needs were not being met by the current policy and the way that that impacted them personally and academically,” said Colette Seguin-Beighley, director of GVSU’s LGBT Center.
Earlier this year, the Day of Silence march ended by going to the office of Housing and Residence Life, Beighley said. “That definitely brought attention to the issue.”
Andy Beechnau, director of Housing and Residence Life, said the creation of the housing “is really the result of student leadership and talking with colleagues in the state.”
Few students requested the housing this fall, Beechnau said. “We don’t have a lot of demand but I think as we move in this direction we’ll see if a few more students take advantage of it.”
Students who request gender neutral housing are not limited to certain housing options – when a student requests gender neutral housing, the room or apartment given to that student becomes gender neutral. This means that the student’s roommate will also have requested gender neutral housing.
“If you make students live in only certain areas, you really are determining their cost,” Beechnau said, noting that different on-campus housing carries different prices.
“We’d much rather say, here’s our whole list of options, if it’s available and that’s the option you want, feel free to select it and we’ll do the best to match you up in a way that makes sense.”
Beechnau also said Housing and Residence Life has started training housing staff on gender and sexuality issues.
“We’ve made some very positive strides in training and partnering with some resources on campus,” he said. “But given this, it will be something we’ll continue to train on.
“The response I’ve received, both internally and externally, has been very positive. And it kind of makes sense. You want all of your students to be able to succeed, and that’s just what we’re about.”
According to a recently released Campus Pride Index, which surveys schools for LGBT-inclusive policies and practices, six other state schools offer LGBT housing options: The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, U-M Flint, Grand Rapids Community College, Lansing Community College, Northern Michigan University and Central Michigan University. Not all of the 14 schools who were ranked in the index offer housing options, and participation in the index is voluntary.