Last spring, Student Government proposed a 5-year plan for implementing gender neutral housing at Boston University. The plan took into consideration the results of months-worth of research and an online survey of over 2,000 members of the student body, who indicated with overwhelming majority that they support or would not be negatively affected by the introduction of gender neutral housing at BU. Hundreds of universities nationwide, including Northeastern and Harvard, already offer some form of gender neutral housing on campus.
When students headed off into summer vacation in May, the word was good: come Spring 2013, gender neutral housing would likely be a housing option here at Boston University, as well. Indeed, as recently as October, Student Government announced to the public that administration had passed the initiative and talks about logistics were ongoing.
December 9, however, the news broke that administration was going back on its word. The gender neutral housing option has been tabled indefinitely, the administration says, in order to address what they feel are more pressing housing-related concerns. Among these issues include providing more housing for transfer students and assuring that incoming freshmen do not have to live in Danielsen Hall.
As a swift response to the news, the Center for Gender, Sexuality & Activism held a meeting on Monday evening for those interested in fighting the administrative decision to table gender neutral housing. Members of Student Government were also in attendance.
Many present at Monday’s meeting were disgusted that administration placed gender neutral housing at a lower priority level than the aforementioned issues. For some students, the promise of gender neutral housing meant the promise of a safe living space, with no fear of judgment, discrimination, or harassment related to their gender identification.
Sasha Goodfriend, Co-Director of the CGSA, said, “I want to be a part of a student body that is going to challenge the administration […] before a hate crime happens. We still have the time to be the heroes on a horse before a hate crime happens.”
Some also felt the timing of the administrative decision was unfortunate, and potentially even strategic. Students are at the busiest time of the semester, with little time to organize opposition, and winter break is less than two weeks away.
Beyond this, however, those in attendance were disappointed in a university administration that promises to honor the democratic process and heed the requests of those it serves–its students–and breaks that promise, if only “indefinitely.”
The mission of the meeting was to brainstorm and plan productive ways to urge administration to reconsider, and once again move forth with the original 5-year plan. Using the campaign name “Gender Neutral BU,” these students will develop cohesive PR and action plans. They began filming reactions to the unfortunate news, and cries of support for gender neutral housing, of those present during the meeting, and will compile these to create a video to spread awareness around campus.
In a statement to The Quad, Student Government public relations chair Cherice Hunt said:
We at Student Government are very proud and excited that students are organizing around an initiative they are passionate about. Gender neutral housing was promised to students and the fact that students are taking it upon themselves to directly respond to administration’s repeal of that promise is impressive. We stand by our peers wholeheartedly and look forward to making strides next semester.
With the current student body government’s reputation for change-making, the CGSA’s band of activists–the same students who successfully fought for our new Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center– and the support of student body at large, the administration may just be forced to reconsider.