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The Scarlet & Black

Gender Neutral housing grows

By Matt Bachtell

With the approach of room draw, Grinnell students are eagerly discussing their living options for next year. However, some changes have been made to the process of gender neutral housing, in order to better accommodate the needs of the gender neutral community on campus. The changes were enacted in response to the emerging challenges within the current housing setup.

“Gender neutral housing is really fundamental, and really intrinsically tied to self-governance, so in a lot of ways gender neutral housing takes active participation from all members of the floor to work,” said Ragnar Thorisson ’11, an SA in Younker North.

This year, gender neutral areas will include the language houses, Rawson Hall and the Mini Co-ops, increasing the number of potentially gender neutral beds on campus by 30. Additionally, two floors—Cowles 1st and Lazier 1st—were declared gender neutral since each floor contains one bathroom apiece.
Younker North will no longer be gender neutral, which was seen as no longer viable due to the number of students who request to live there.

“The idea was we want[ed] to develop with gender neutral housing an intentional gender neutral community,” said Vice President of Student Affairs (VPSA) Ben Offenberg ’11. “That just couldn’t happen in Younker because Younker’s such a popular spot.”

Making gender neutral living options available during normal room draw normalized the process, but as a result students who needed gender neutral spaces were not necessarily getting them.

“I think the transition from moving from Younker to Rawson was a really great step, because we felt there wasn’t necessarily the community support there that we were seeing in Loose,” said Technical Assistant for Student Affairs Laura Gogg.

Rawson was selected for its decentralized position on campus, making it a less popular pick. Therefore the residence hall is ideal to foster the kind of community the gender neutral housing was intended to create.
“It’s not just the structural changes Student Affairs can do, but also making sure that it’s a very intentional space, that people are intentionally living on that floor to create that space,” Thorisson said.

Alongside the housing reform, Student Affairs is adding a gender neutral focus to New Student Orientation (NSO) and Student Staff training, so that they will be better equipped to deal with the social dynamics, activism and programming that student leaders may face while living in gender neutral housing.

“This also I think is reflective of the commitment to ensure that the student staff members in both gender neutral and sub-free spaces are committed to that environment in that we’re going to afford them the opportunity to select that ahead of time,” said Director of Residence Life and Orientation Andrea Conner.

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