Senate to Discuss Gender Neutral Housing Proposal

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.