College to implement gender-neutral housing next year

Gender-neutral housing and penalty-free neighborhood swaps have joined the quiet housing option as recommendations from the Neighborhood Review Committee (NRC) that are being implemented for next year’s student housing.

While the quiet housing draw will take place this evening to begin the room assignment process, Campus Life’s neighborhood draw will take place a few weeks later than usual, due to the wait for the NRC report. Students will be able to apply to change neighborhoods until April 6. The neighborhood change process will use the same criteria as last year: Students of all class years will be allowed to enter the neighborhood draw in groups of up to six and will be assigned lottery numbers. This year, however, students will not be penalized in any way for switching neighborhoods.

Quiet housing

Based on the interest seen by Campus Life, it appears that next year’s new quiet housing option has proven to be popular among students. By the March 10 deadline, Campus Life had received over 130 applications for the quiet housing lottery. Approximately 20 students were approved for advanced placement into quiet housing based upon their requests.

Quiet housing will be located in West College, which has the capacity for 54 students. The 20 students who were approved for advanced placement quiet housing have already been assigned rooms, and the remaining students interested in quiet housing have been assigned lottery numbers based on seniority. These students will participate in a room draw for quiet housing that will be separate from the room draw for upperclassmen housing. The quiet housing room draw is scheduled to be held tonight in the the Campus Life office.

According to the e-mail sent to students who will be participating in the room draw, “beds were allocated to each of the eligible class years based on the percentage of students living on campus in regular upper class housing for each class.” Based on this stipulation, 13 spots in West are available for students in the Class of 2011, 10 spots for the Class of 2012 and 14 for the Class of 2013. The e-mail goes on to say that “classes will not be allowed to select outside their allocated spaces.” Gender caps will also remain in place so that no more than 32 students of the either gender can live in the quiet housing building, in accordance with the 60 percent gender cap that exists in all residences at the College.

Doug Schiazza, director of Campus Life, said that students applied for quiet housing for various reasons, including medical and religious considerations and study and sleep habits. In light of the applications, Schiazza reaffirmed the College’s choice of West as a quiet housing dorm. “It has a good balance of singles and doubles, is a good overall size, is in a location that would not detract from students who could really benefit from this type of housing, is in the largest of the neighborhoods and, in some ways, has been de facto quiet housing in the past.”

Schiazza said that students who opt into quiet housing will agree to a set of rules for living in the building, which will include adhering to set quiet hours.

Aaron Gordon, assistant director of campus life, said that while designated quiet hours will be non-negotiable, the goal is “not to be draconian about silence as much as it is to give the students who feel strongly about living in a quiet place a chance to build the community around that principle.”

Schiazza said the quiet housing community will be able work toward building some of its own guidelines. “Once the house community is established and Baxter Fellows are chosen for the building, the community will come together to discuss further house rules that they will determine in addition to the original parameters,” Schiazza said. “Baxter Fellows in quiet housing will be trained to address issues in the house if or when they arise.”

Gender-neutral housing

In a campus-wide e-mail last week, Campus Life also announced that a gender-neutral housing policy has been approved by the College. According to the e-mail, upperclassmen can choose to live in a double with another student regardless the students’ genders, as long as both students agree to the housing arrangement. Gender caps will apply as usual to all dorms. The e-mail clarified that the gender-neutral housing policy is optional and unless students of opposite genders decide to live together, housing placements into doubles will otherwise be based on same-gender placements.

Gordon specified that gender-neutral housing applies only to upperclassmen, and first-years will continue to be housed as they have traditionally been, with same sex roommates.

“I’m pleased that the College can go forward with gender neutral housing,” Dean Merrill said. “It’s been an issue that students have been talking about for at least as many years that I’ve been dean. There’s been a lot of student effort, both here, and around the country, and I’m glad that we can be part of a growing number of schools that offer it.”