Student government at Michigan State University passed a pair of bills in support of flexible housing and gender-neutral bathrooms last Thursday.
The flexible housing bill allows Associated Students of MSU to advocate for a campus-wide housing policy that would permit students in residence halls to choose their own roommates, regardless of their gender.
Central Michigan University offers similar housing options, but only in select cases. Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals who would prefer gender-neutral housing can apply for them with the Office of Residence Life.
“If someone is in a situation they feel warrants gender-neutral housing, they can talk to someone in the office,” Residence Life Director Joan Schmidt said. “If it’s something that will work to their benefit and helps them stay here, we will work individually with them.”
On rare occasions, gender-neutral housing has been arranged for transgender students in the residence halls. The graduate housing on campus also has a flexible housing policy.
Currently, MSU has the same policy about flexible housing for transgender students. The passage of the new bill will lead to discussion about the university instituting a more widespread flexible housing policy within residence halls. Schmidt said she is unsure about the possibility of CMU adopting a similar campus-wide policy in the future.
One benefit of gender-neutral housing is it allows members of the LGTBQ community to create a safe environment by choosing who they live with. LGTBQ Services does not track statistics on students, so it is difficult to say how many students identify themselves as transgender at CMU.
“Gender-inclusive housing is an option that benefits a variety of individuals, including our trans students,” LGBTQ Services Director Shannon Jolliff-Dettore said. “It provides a level of safety and comfort to know you can be authentic to who you are in the space you are living.”
Another bill passed by the ASMSU was in support of building more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. This accommodation is also beneficial to students in the transgender community because choosing which bathroom to us can be problematic.
There are gender-neutral bathrooms available in some of the university buildings and residence halls at CMU, including the Towers residential halls. Jolliff-Dettore said the university’s current policy is to include a gender-neutral bathroom in the construction of all new facilities on campus, but some of the older buildings lack this feature.
“I do think that our campus needs to continue to develop more gender-inclusive restrooms across campus,” Jolliff-Dettore said. “Eventually, hopefully, we will have one in every building.”