Lawrence is increasing its initiatives to ensure the comfort of all students on campus. The student-led Residence Life Committee as well as Campus Life and the Housing Committee are facilitating a discussion about gender-neutral housing.
Associate Dean of Students for Campus Life, Amy Uecke stresses the administrations minute role in these policies.
“Lawrence is really unique in the sense that student initiative drives these policies, hands down,” said Uecke, “Students are making these decisions, administrators aren’t.”
Uecke and Campus Life aim to offer input and carry out what the students decide in terms of policies or procedures. Senior and Chair of Residence Life Committee Lindsay Browne plays more of an active role in this process.
“Residence Life Committee ensures the fairness of housing,” began Browne.
Currently, these efforts are focused on acquiring a greater diversity of gender-neutral housing available.
“One of the things brought to our attention was that not everyone can or even wants to live in Hiett or the Execs,” continued Browne.
A survey was e-mailed to the entire student body that lives on campus to better gauge the need for gender-neutral housing on campus. Students responded to this survey anonymously.
“The survey questions were revised several times by the committee, and we sought additional advice in regards to proper wording/content of questions from concerned students, and I believe a staff member from counseling services,” stressed Browne.
Rose Wasielewski, Kohler & Draheim Residence Hall Director and Student Affairs Projects Coordinator, works with Residence Life in a capacity similar to an advisor. She emphasizes that the survey can reflect a variety of student opinion.
“[It is important to remember] that there are people who don’t prefer [gender-neutral housing]. Some students would rather live on a cis-gender floor,” emphasized Wasielewski.
While the survey aims to assist further discussion on the need to expand gender-neutral housing, actions are being realized to make housing more accommodating for all this coming school year.
Starting this fall, Brokaw Hall will be a gender-neutral dorm by floor and by room. Previously, the dorm was gender-neutral by floor but not by room. Housing Coordinator Wendy Osero explains that this change increases the likelihood of a wider variety of students receiving gender-neutral housing.
“These changes in Brokaw help students acquire gender-neutral housing in a location that is not as sought after as Hiett or the Execs,” said Osero.
Brokaw is becoming gender-neutral in more ways than just by room.
“While there are gendered bathrooms on the fourth floor, the third floor has a gender-neutral bathroom as well as gendered ,” said Wasielewski.
The survey aims to consider providing gender-neutral options for first year students.
“Currently, first year students fill out a Housing Questionnaire where they can state specific housing needs,” said Uecke.
Students who do not feel comfortable in the standard gender-segregated spaces have to go through the Dean of Students and it is arranged in the same way as medical housing.
Browne comments on the existing method’s potential drawbacks, “We came to the conclusion that this isn’t the best way to go about this. Everyone should feel comfortable and not have to go through extra hoops to feel comfortable in their living space.”
Residence Life Committee plans on analyzing the survey’s results in the upcoming weeks. The survey is available until Monday, May 19.