Under the urging of a number of student groups, the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill has agreed to offer co-ed or “gender neutral” housing in order to protect transvestite or transsexual students on campus.
The school’s board of trustees unanimously approved the measure this month, due to a turn-around from chancellor Holden Thorp, who had rejected the proposal in February. UNC junior Kevin Blaybren is said to have spearheaded revitalizing the effort beginning in September, asking students to send the board postcards and videos telling them why they think the recognition of gender should be nixed on campus. Blaybren pointed to UNC’s Greensboro location, which facilitates co-ed bathrooms. Young Democrats, the Black Student Movement and the LGBTQ Center were stated to all be behind the push to the board.
“Gender-neutral housing is an important project that is vital to protecting the safety of our students,” Thorp stated prior to the vote, changing his view on the matter.
While some may have concerns with male-female co-habitation and the impropriety that can accompany co-ed housing, students state that the reason they sought the allowance was to eradicate the division between the genders in order to create a welcoming environment for homosexual and transsexual students.
“This is not about morality or political affiliation,” said Terri Phoenix of the LGBTQ Center. “This is about students having safe housing, so they can have a shot at academic success.”
Heretofore, male students that began living as female students were still required to reside in the male housing facilities, and vice versa. One female student, who has changed her name to “Anthony” and has grown a beard, told reporters that they refused to live on campus due to fears over how the girls in the female housing facilities would react.
“I was concerned for my own safety and comfort, both internally and externally,” the student stated.
However, some students do not think that the changes are needed.
“I don’t really think it’s necessary for students to live with opposite genders,” sophomore Chris McCue told World on Campus. “I guess it would be kind of ideal if you want to live with your girlfriend or boyfriend, but at the same time I don’t really think it’s going to affect life on campus.”
University Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Art Jackson says that further discussions and planning will begin next month.
“We’re at the very beginning of the process,” he wrote in a statement. “It’s been discussed informally, but there hasn’t been a formal discussion until now.”
While men and women will not be allowed to live in the same room, the building itself will be shared by all genders, including the bathrooms and common areas.
A number of universities nationwide currently offer some type of co-ed or “gender neutral” housing for students, such as Columbia University, Princeton and the College of William and Mary.