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On Monday, February 27th, ASCMC Senate will be discussing a proposal for gender neutral housing in some dorms at Claremont McKenna College. The issue was scheduled for discussion during last night’s weekly Senate meeting but failed to reach the floor after a contentious vote on altering ASCMC Executive Board stipends. Miles Lifson ’13, the Senate Pro Tempore and member of the Residential Life Committee working on the housing proposal, spoke about the matter after Senate had adjourned and answered questions on the proposal and its implications.

Lifson summarized the proposal as follows: “For already mixed gender floors, the college isn’t going to place arbitrary restrictions on the gender of roommates.” In other words, the proposal would allow students of different gender identities to live in multi-occupant rooms on mix-gender floors. Under the new policy, returning students would have the option to live with a roommate of whatever gender they wish, and freshmen would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Examples of dorms that would be affected include Marks Hall, Claremont Hall, and Stark Hall.

None of this, Lifson assured, will change any bathroom designations or the room draw process as a whole. He emphasized that the process would be  “entirely self-selected, nobody will be put into this against their will.”

The second part of the proposal is specifically designed to address the needs of transgender students and recommends the college take steps to include single-occupant bathrooms in future residential buildings and renovations where possible. One option the Residential Life Committee has proposed is the re-designation of a floor in Claremont Hall by gender and wing. The bathroom at the end of each wing that does not correspond with the sex of that wing would be made gender neutral.

Lifson pointed to some of the key advantages of supporting the gender neutral housing proposal. Specifically, he noted that “we’re turning away qualified applicants” who consider gender neutral housing to be a priority. He also called the current arrangement an “affront to student choice.” At a school where the students are given so much freedom to make their own decisions and exercise their own judgment, he argued that it was silly that the school currently has restrictions on this practice.

If this policy were adopted, CMC would be far from the first school to implement a gender neutral housing option. The Los Angeles Times points out that around 50 American colleges currently use this model, including schools such as UC Riverside and Dartmouth College. Most notably, CMC’s consortium neighbors have taken action to promote gender neutral housing. Nearly two years ago, Pomona College voted to incorporate gender neutral housing policies into their room draw process and  has made efforts to increase the availability of gender neutral bathrooms in residence halls. Harvey Mudd College and Pitzer College both have gender neutral housing policies in place. Scripps College has also taken steps toward gender neutral housing and actively supports the model.

Some will undoubtedly have worries about students engaging in gender neutral housing responsibly, especially when romance enters the mix. Lifson dismissed these concerns, stating “CMC students are responsible, they’re pragmatic, they realize that’d be a bad idea.” He added, “Changing relationship statuses aren’t considered grounds for [room] reassignment.”

For any interested in hearing more about the gender neutral housing proposal and participating in a discussion on the topic, Lifson will present it to ASCMC Senate at their meeting on Monday the 27th at 9:30 PM. “Next week we will have a formal draft of the proposal,” said Lifson. “We will have a statement of support for Senate to pass as a resolution. We’ll be taking that same statement of support to [ASCMC] Exec Board, to RAs, [and] to clubs that want [us] to.”

Additional student feedback sessions will be held in the Claremont Hall Conference Room at 7:00 PM tonight, 4:30 PM on Wednesday, and 11:00 PM on Friday. These sessions are open to the student body and allow students a chance to better understand the proposed policy.

To summarize, Lifson finished his explanation by adding, “DOS supports this, the [ASCMC] administration supports this, the [ASCMC Executive] Board unofficially supports this… This is just updating regulations to reflect contemporary understandings and the diverse student body we have now.”

Rachel Brody ’12 contributed reporting.

This article was updated to clarify Miles Lifson’s statement at the conclusion of the article. Both the “administration” and “Board” refer to those of ASCMC, the student body government, not of CMC generally. This article was updated again to reflect new vote totals.

Update on February 29 at 3:35pm: The ASCMC Executive Board and the ASCMC Senate voted to support the gender neutral housing resolution presented by the Residential Life Committee. The Executive Board voted unanimously for the proposal and 33 Senators supported the measure. A 34th vote is being challenged on the grounds that it was counted incorrectly. This will be dealt with at the next Senate meeting.

13 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t know much about this issue, so please forgive my ignorance.  Without speaking for or against this measure, I’m curious: how does gender-neutral housing work at Scripps?

  2. in response to Confused, technically there isn’t gender neutral housing and technically there is. Scripps assumes that their students are women and identify as such, even if it’s not true. so all housing is “female” housing but anyone with any gender identity can live with anyone else. This is not the official policy, just how I see it as a scripps student. There may be better info on it at the scripps website.

  3. This is the way of the world; the extreme left is considered entirely reasonable and “progressive” and those with any semblance of so-called “traditional” values will be viewed as ignorant, bigoted, or otherwise insensitive. Color me all of the above. I, for one, will never say or do anything to harm any individual human being, but I cannot say that I support such actions for a variety of reasons. Of course nobody will listen to the others who undoubtedly feel like me but refuse to speak up for fear of being labeled something negative. This post will inevitably inspire Forum riots, but can we not have an open discussion about the implications of, if not such individuals, such policies? Granted it won’t affect every dorm, but I sincerely wonder whether those who are put off by lack of “gender-neutral” housing outweigh those who are put off by the presence of it and why their radical preferences take precedence…

    • Hi Respectfully,

                  I
      wanted to thank you for your comment and assure you that the committee DOES
      want to hear from you and from any other student with opinions about the
      proposal.  If you feel you can’t support
      the proposal, we want to hear your reasons and see if we can address them.
      We’re reaching out to the student body precisely to have the open discussion
      you mentioned. We
      invite you to attend one of the feedback sessions we’ve set up this week, or to
      email me your comments and I will share them with the committee.  If you’re worried
      about being harassed for your views, send them to me through an anonymous
      remailer, and I will share them with the committee with no name attached.  I also encourage you to share your opinions
      with the dorm senators who represent you in the Student Senate.  I raised the matter at the last Senate
      meeting, and we are discussing it again on Monday.    

      Most
      students are perfectly happy under the status quo and we realize that.  What we’ve tried to do is craft a policy that
      gives students another housing option. 
      The proposal is designed to do that without significantly impacting
      anyone else.  The policy is entirely
      voluntary. No single-sex floors will be changed. All students will still have
      access to single-sex bathrooms. The net impact of the proposal on you is
      essentially this: if you choose to live on an already mixed gender floor, your
      neighbors might be a girl and a guy instead of two guys.  That’s it.

      I fully
      agree with you that others shouldn’t be in the position of making judgments
      about your personal values, but that applies doubly to the school. What we’ve
      tried to do is get the college out of the business of claiming it knows your
      moral values better than you, traditional or otherwise.

      Best Regards,

       

      Miles Lifson

      •  It looks like the formatting broke on my comment.  I’d appreciate it if someone from the forum could either correct the line-breaks or delete the comment so I can repost a corrected version.

      • This was a truly fair and helpful response, which are getting harder and harder to come by these days. I’ll look into this and see if I have anything constructive to offer the committee. Thank you!

    • Because you spent the first five sentences of your post sounding indignant, I’m not quite sure what exactly your objection is other than that some people might be “put off” (even though they can choose to live in the other 10 dorms). Mind expanding?

      • I don’t want to deviate too much from the topic at hand, but the long and short of it is that enabling the “gender neutral” movement is a loaded action, if you will. CMC is not viewed by anyone as blantantly anti-GLBT because they do not offer such housing (truly very few colleges and universities do offer such accomodations) and that is because they likely have no issue whatsoever with these students at their school.
        Single rooms are always an option, and human beings can only be born with body parts X or Y, so two types of bathrooms are truly all that is needed. That there has to be this additional fringe option that is in-your-face socially radical is simply questionable in my mind, and I am hoping for an open discourse on why it is really needed.
        Again, the argument will be put forth that students can live in the other 10 dorms, but this action is more principal than anything else, and until the principal of it is clearly explained, it will be hard for me to truly understand why such actions are being taken. So, color me indignant, ignorant, or whatever else you’d like, I just sincerely want to understand the rationale behind this.
        As I said above, I am not stating that male-female room sharing is taboo or evil, but that is not what this move is really about anyways.

        •  You’re right. CMC is not viewed as anti-LGBT because we don’t have mixed housing. CMC is viewed as anti-LGBT because we have a culture that is both trans and homophobic.

          Gender neutral housing probably won’t go too far in addressing the sorts of things that would scare transgender people away from the school, but I’m not ready to turn down anything that might help.

    • The removed comments below were this post.  The formatting did not work and so the Forum deleted it at my request to allow me re-post.

      Hi Respectfully,

            I wanted to thank you for your comment and assure you that the committee DOES want to hear from you and from any other student with opinions about the proposal.  If you feel you can’t support the proposal, we want to hear your reasons and see if we can address them. We’re reaching out to the student body precisely to have the open discussion you mentioned. We invite you to attend one of the feedback sessions we’ve set up this week, or to email me your comments and I will share them with the committee.  If you’re worried about being harassed for your views, send them to me through an anonymous remailer, and I will share them with the committee with no name attached.  I also encourage you to share your opinions with the dorm senators who represent you in the Student Senate.  I raised the matter at the last Senate meeting, and we are discussing it again on Monday.      Most students are perfectly happy under the status quo and we realize that.  What we’ve tried to do is craft a policy that gives students another housing option.  The proposal is designed to do that without significantly impacting anyone else.  The policy is entirely voluntary. No single-sex floors will be changed. All students will still have access to single-sex bathrooms. The net impact of the proposal on you is essentially this: if you choose to live on an already mixed gender floor, your neighbors might be a girl and a guy instead of two guys.  That’s it.

           I fully agree with you that others shouldn’t be in the position of making judgments about your personal values, but that applies doubly to the school. What we’ve tried to do is get the college out of the business of claiming it knows your moral values better than you, traditional or otherwise.Best Regards,Miles Lifson

  4. I will not support this at all unless it comes with a clause that does not require a minimum number of gender neutral rooms if not enough are registering.  Lets face it, some (most) people would feel uncomfortable living with the opposite sex for a whole semester.  There are major privacy issues, as well as others.  So it is doubtful that there would be very many students lining up to live in these rooms.  If CMC declares a whole floor or any certain number of rooms to be gender neutral housing, this will immediately add to the housing crisis, if those rooms become unavailable to those unwilling to live gender-neutral.  

    However, if CMC simply plans to offer the option within these dorms, go ahead.  I think its a dumb idea and an unpractical one that you will regret once you find out how different the sexes really are…but if it does not add to the housing crisis, by all means, go ahead.

    • I could easily be wrong, but I believe the (original) intent of such housing, at least at other campuses, was to better accomodate the GLBT community. Guys and girls share rooms at CMC every night, but quickly realize they’d rather not continue once the sun comes up…

    • You don’t have to live with a member of the opposite sex to live in a designated gender neutral room. It just means you have that choice. Bathrooms are still single sex, as all gender neutral rooms will be on currently mixed gender floors.

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