A select number of students can now live in the dorms together regardless of gender.
In a campus-wide email sent Jan. 23, Alan Hargrave, the director of Housing and Student Life, announced the start of a pilot program which would allow students to register to live in gender-inclusive areas on campus.
During the 2018-19 academic year, there will be 60 bed spaces allotted to the pilot program. For students to live with each other in gender-inclusive housing, they must be at least 18 years old and mutually confirm their desire to live in the inclusive housing in person at the Office of Housing and Residence Life.
Hargrave said these rooms will be in residence halls with “bathroom privacy,” including Kinghorn Hall, Park Hall, Johnson Complex A and B and Studebaker East.
This program aligns with legislation passed by both the Student Government Association and the Residence Hall Association last February which laid the foundation for this change to be made.
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Brooklyn Arizmendi, the president of Spectrum, said this inclusivity is “incredibly important” in reassuring gender minority students their place on campus.
“I’ve known trans males who lived in Woodworth, an all-female dorm, and how weird that is to know that you’re male in an all-female dorm and everyone immediately assumes things about you and maybe doesn’t treat you the best because they know you’re different,” Arizmendi said.
The new housing pilot and efforts by SGA and RHA, however, spells hope for Ball State’s future, Arizmendi said.
Kam Bontrager, an SGA senator who worked on the legislation that passed, said that for him, the housing pilot is personal.
“I identify as a gay man and this directly affects the community I belong to,” Bontrager said in an email. “LGBTQ+ rights have reached new heights in recent years, but there is so much progress that still needs to be made. I believe this pilot is critical to the progress that needs to be made.”
Student reaction to the initial announcement was mixed. Some saw the housing as a step toward inclusiveness — others felt some students might be misguided in their intentions for living there.
Hargrave said the pilot is good for the university and student intentions for choosing roommates is not something Housing and Residence Life has examined in the past.
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“I think that this is something that is a positive move forward. The feedback I have received from email, particularly from the campus community has been overwhelmingly positive of a message of inclusion,” Hargrave said. “Our office is not going to pry into the relationship between people. We don’t do that now.”
Though supportive of the pilot, Bontrager and Arizmendi both said campus still needs more gender-neutral bathrooms.
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Arizmendi said she appreciates progress towards inclusivity, like the pilot program and this year’s diversity statement on syllabi, but the university still needs an LGBT resource center, like the one at Indiana University Bloomington.
The pilot is only slated to be offered for next school year. After the Spring 2019 semester, administration will see if the housing option is viable for years to come.
Contact Sara Barker with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @sarabarker326.