SUNY Purchase: Gender Neutral Housing Expands

Starting next fall, gender neutral housing will be expanded to include all members of the campus community, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. The move seems to have the support of most students and faculty.

“Gender neutral housing provides our students the opportunity to have a housing option that does not require all of the students in the apartment to be of the same legal sex,” said Emily Balcom, associate director of Residence Life.

Gender neutral housing has already been adopted at other SUNY campuses, including Geneseo, Stony Brook, and Potsdam. A number of New York colleges, including Sarah Lawrence, Bard, and Skidmore also offer the housing option.

Students who apply for gender neutral housing must apply in groups of four to fill any four-person apartment. The process is no different than individuals of the same gender applying for an apartment. All students in the group must meet the requirements for the apartments on campus. Like the rest of the campus, each student must have either 36 completed credits or be 21 years of age.

“We don’t want gender neutral housing to be seen as different,” Balcom said. “It’s been looked at that way. We want to create a community. We want students to feel safe. Some students have a tough time with their roommate, other students have trouble coming out, some students come here because they’ll be socially accepted here,” she said. “We want everybody to be comfortable and we don’t want non-heterosexual students in one area. We don’t want a certain apartment to be known as the ‘gay apartment’,” she said. “The change fits who Purchase is.”

The gender neutral housing option was originally administered for non-heterosexual students. Balcom said that the Department of Residence Life has been approached by students, including heterosexual students, about the option. She said that the expansion of gender neutral housing will broaden what ‘gender neutral’ means.

“I think this will cause more issues, even though I’m excited about it,” said Natalie Jeanmary, senior journalism major. “They should have looked at possible issues they might have, like rape,” she said. “I’d like to live with my two friends who are girls, plus my gay friend, who is a guy. He prefers to live with women. He’s been stuck with ‘bros’. He doesn’t feel like he fits in and I feel bad for him. It’s good for people like him.”

When it comes to concerns about things like sexual harassment and rape, Balcom said that the students who apply to live together should all know each other well.

“They know what they’re getting themselves into,” Balcom said. “They’ll create an environment to feel safe in—it’s one of the main reasons they’ll apply for it. Our CAs are going to be trained how to deal with issues, they’ll be prepared,” she said. “Other SUNY campuses have this option, and they haven’t seen any issues.”

She said that if there is a double in an apartment, both students residing in the room must be of the same sex. There also must be an even amount of members from each legal sex.

“I think this is great,” said Marcus Callendar, junior acting major. “I have close friends that are females. It’d be cool to live with some of them,” he said. “It’s not like I’m going to try to have sex with them; we’re friends. It fits Purchase. It’s a Purchase thing. We have all of this other gender neutral stuff, so why not have this, too?”

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