Students have expressed frustration over how Residential Life has handled certain aspects of gender inclusive housing, with some citing difficulties with getting into gender inclusive housing and how Residential Life has communicated with students.
One student expressed frustration with a situation in which they had to find available housing for a fellow student that expressed a need for GI housing. The student spoke to the Daily Campus on the condition of anonymity.
“I had a friend who I met last year, and it was their first year on campus, and they had been assigned to live in North. They had a whiteboard on the door, and someone kept writing slurs on it,” said the student.
The student reported this was somebody from their floor that they had been bullied by in high school.
“She was coming to me because she knew I lived in GI, and I’m an upperclassman, I know about the Rainbow Center and the workings of all these things, and she was like, ‘Is there any way I can get into GI like, I don’t feel safe in my dorm,’” the student said.
“I had a friend who I met last year, and it was their first year on campus, and they had been assigned to live in North. They had a whiteboard on the door, and someone kept writing slurs on it.”Anonymous
They continued to elaborate on how Residential Life did not accommodate this student quickly enough, and how they had to use their own time and resources in order to help this student achieve a safe living environment.
“I was like, yes there must be, I know there are open rooms, there are rooms where people are literally not living. So I reached out to the GI coordinator, whose name is Christina Gray. She works in the Rainbow Center, and so she reached out and basically told us, ‘No, like, you cannot, this isn’t something we can do right now.’ Even though, over the course of semester, the police are getting involved with this situation with her having slurs written on her door and not feeling safe in her own living space,” the student said.
The student concluded by explaining the mental toll this process had on them and the impression the lack of resources provided by Residential Life in moving this student gave them.
“That was incredibly frustrating. So what ended up happening was, I kind of worked with this person individually and someone else in GI who did not have a roommate, and they were able to pull my friend in that way. […] To have to put that on my plate and make that my responsibility because no one else was going to help my friends literally have a safe space to live was really just wild to me,” the student said. “I just I feel like the resources that are given to queer students are so sparse and I think it’s possible that the people in power don’t understand the magnitude of the problems that are going on.”
Chrissy Gray, the Residential Life Policy and Process Coordinator, who also works extensively with gender inclusive housing, responded to the claim by the student.
“My intention is never to cause harm to folks. But it does sound like in this instance I did, even if that wasn’t my intention, which I do apologize for. I don’t know what was shared with me when the student reached out and asked to move into gender inclusive. Sometimes folks don’t give me all of the information. They don’t know me, so sometimes they don’t feel comfortable disclosing those things with me which I can respect and understand. From my perspective, as an administrator, sometimes I need that information to make a call and say, ‘We’re outside a room change process, but this sounds like an extenuating circumstance,’ versus, ‘We’re outside the room change process, can you hold on two weeks until I can determine that we have a vacancy?’ I think that’s a challenge,” Gray said.
“They are in a situation where they want something to happen quickly, which I can understand and respect, but there are things that we have to do from our side to ensure that we can actually offer the room. It may have appeared vacant, but it could have been that we had someone who was supposed to move in, and we were still working to confirm whether or not they were arriving, or […] we were having a maintenance issue in the room and it really wasn’t suitable for a student to move in. I am glad that whatever was happening, the student was able to find a way in, but I am sorry to hear that. […] For me that’s good feedback too, because then moving forward when I get those outreach emails, maybe I can dig a little deeper as a first step,” Gray continued.
Gray also spoke on how students are normally added to gender inclusive housing outside of the deadline to apply.
“We are currently just starting up our fall room change process. Students can move during the fall semester, then we have that mid-year process where they can make a change between the fall and spring semesters,” Gray said.
Gray continued by explaining that sometimes there is a waitlist for students because Residential Life can’t accommodate at certain points in the semester, such as a request for a room change during move-in.
“So I currently do have a waitlist for the community with a couple of students that wanted to move into the community but for whatever reason they missed a deadline or they didn’t mark it on their application,” Gray said. “But, we do have these periods of time where we really can’t make a change.”
Another student who spoke to the Daily Campus on the condition of anonymity expressed similar experiences had over several meetings with Residential Life.
“We’ve had several meetings with ResLife. I’ve been in GI since my freshman year and only this year I decided to leave because it’s been a hot mess. We’ve talked to them about stuff and most of what they’ve done has been like, ‘Well, we can add more posters explaining how pronouns work in the, in the buildings,’ which doesn’t really help at all. We’ve talked about accessibility problems, and they were like, ‘Well, we’ll work on it,’ […] but nothing has really changed,” the student said.
Another problem raised was the lack of advertising that gender inclusive housing receives, with one student saying they have been asked about it due to lack of information from ResLife.
“But I get a lot of incoming underclassmen saying to me like, ‘I want to live in GI, how do I do it?’ And I guess because GI isn’t really advertised, people don’t know it exists. Not a lot of people are applying to it. But at the same time, I know of many people who wanted to be in it and there wasn’t room,” the student said.
Gray responded to this claim by emphasizing that ResLife tries to reach out discreetly on its website.
“So we have a whole section that sort of references other terms used in other institutions for that type of housing. So you might see the word ‘lavender,’ you might see, obviously ‘transgender’ as listed there and a number of other terms as well, because we know that gender inclusive isn’t necessarily the language that everyone is coming to the table with. So we can always do a better job of advertising, and we’re certainly open to that feedback,” Gray said.
Both students cited creating a gender inclusive dorm hall as an ideal solution to many of the problems they have cited.
“I feel like, for one thing, if GI was its own building, that would really do a lot for feeling safe in a living environment,” one student said.
“I feel like, for one thing, if GI was its own building, that would really do a lot for feeling safe in a living environment.”Anonymous
“That would be so nice. It’s my senior year, but I would move back if that was the case,” the other student concurred.
Dr. Pamela Schipani, the Executive Director of Residential Life, commented on the claims made by students, reiterating the support ResLife gives to students seeking GI while also saying why ResLife has not made a dorm hall gender inclusive. She stated that they support them in talking through what issues and concerns they have, and specifically what would make members of this community feel safer.
“You know, we certainly would not be opposed to having a building that’s all gender inclusive housing, but the concern then is that it’s clearly identifiable by the campus and by others,” Dr. Schipani said, “and we have not had the number of students requesting to live in the GI community that would fill the building.”
The anonymous student who initially reached out regarding the treatment their friend received by Residential Life concluded by assessing the current relationship they and many of their peers have with ResLife.
“I think you can post a picture and say, ‘we love our queer students,’ but you can also completely neglect and ignore them and give them so many minor inconveniences.,” the student said. “I think if they literally stopped performing and started acting and own up to their mistakes and had a genuine conversation with queer people at the university about what they can do to help us, that would be a step in the right direction.”