Student government to hear resolution to support inclusive housing options
by Elisabeth Arriero
Originally published at The Charlotte Observer: Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012
When he realized he was going to have to live with a group of girls in his dormitory, UNC Charlotte student Anthony Dondero worried about his safety.
Dondero is transgender. Although he had been living as a male for more than a year â€“ and had even grown a full beard â€“ he was biologically and legally a female still, and could only live with females under UNCCâ€™s housing regulations.
â€śI was concerned for my own safety and comfort, both internally and externally,â€ť Dondero said.
Dondero said that instead of living in the dorms, he chose to live at his momâ€™s house nearby.
This week, university administrators and students will begin discussing whether the campus is ready for gender-neutral housing, which would allow students the option of living with same-sex or opposite-sex roommates.
Currently, the university has co-ed residence halls, but does not mix genders within suites.
In mid-November, UNC Chapel Hill became the first public university in the state to allow gender-neutral housing when the schoolâ€™s board of trustees unanimously endorsed the new housing option.
Under the plan, UNC Chapel Hill students will have to apply to be part of the program, and university administrators say it will affect only a small percentage of suites and campus apartments.
A number of private colleges, including Duke University and Warren-Wilson College, already allow opposite-sex roommates in the dorms.
â€śThe fact that they got it made me work a lot harder,â€ť Dondero said. â€śWe know that the first school who gets it is going to have a domino effect.â€ť
Both UNCC and UNC Chapel Hill have been working for more than a year to bring gender-neutral housing to campus. Both have also sought aid from the Charlotte-based LGBT advocacy group Campus Pride.
On Thursday, UNCC may come one step closer to having gender-neutral housing when its student government association meets to discuss â€“ and possibly vote on â€“ legislation asking administrators to add the housing option.
â€śThis is all about campus safety,â€ť Shane Windmeyer, founder of Campus Pride, said. â€śThat should be the number-one concern of every campus â€“ to make sure every student has the ability to go to classes, get good grades and then go home to their residence hall and feel safe and secure and welcome.â€ť
If student government approves the legislation, it will then go before Housing and Residence Life. Ultimately, university officials will also need to approve the legislation to begin the program.
Chauncey Gilliam, a freshman at-large senator who sponsored the bill, said he hopes the university will have gender neutral housing by fall 2013 but a more realistic bet is fall 2015, he said.
â€śEveryone deserves the same respect and opportunities,â€ť he said. â€śI want to make sure UNC Charlotte is really living up to our policy of nondiscrimination and inclusiveness.â€ť
Concurrent to student governmentâ€™s conversations, UNC Charlotte Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Art Jackson confirmed that administrators will begin formally discussing gender-neutral housing at the university in early December.
â€śWeâ€™re at the very beginning of the process,â€ť Jackson said in a statement. â€śItâ€™s been discussed informally but there hasnâ€™t been a formal discussion until now.â€ť
Jackson added that administrators will discuss how gender-neutral housing would fit into the UNC Charlotte campus.
â€śWe will examine the situation and see how it would work on our campus,â€ť Jackson said.
Many LGBT advocates on campus said they believe that UNCC is ready for the change.
Sophomore Asia-Marie Terrell, who is co-president of the universityâ€™s PRIDE organization, said she thinks itâ€™s an important step toward decreasing LGBT-centered bullying on campus.
â€śThis will raise awareness about whatâ€™s going on,â€ť Terrell said. â€śAt least (trans-gender individuals) will have somewhere to go where they know they can lay their head at night and know that when they wake up there wonâ€™t be someone outside their door wanting to hurt them.â€ť
Added Dondero: â€śUNC Charlotte has made a lot more strides to become more trans-friendly on campus. Weâ€™re really lucky to have a lot of allies on campus.â€ť