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BU halts gender-neutral housing, angers students

Many Boston University students expressed frustration at the BU administration for indefinitely shutting down Student Government’s gender-neutral housing initiative.

Administration officials told SG members that with a number of other pressing housing issues, gender-neutral housing is no longer a top priority and will not be implemented in 2012, said SG Advocacy Department Director Caitlin Seele at the last meeting of the semester Sunday night.

After years of advocating for gender-neutral housing, SG announced in October that the initiative was passed and would be available as a housing option at an unspecified future date.

Seele, a School of Management junior, said on Nov. 21, Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore called her to inform her the administration is putting a halt to the initiative.

“He said it definitely wasn’t going to come this spring for sure because of a lot of reasons — for the revamp of the housing system,” she said.

Administration officials decided that ensuring no freshmen live in Danielsen Hall and creating more on-campus housing for transfer students are the administration’s current points of focus, Seele said.

SG received about 2,000 student responses in support of the initiative and about 700 student signatures, Seele said.

“It’s important to note that we’ve really gone through the proper channels to get this done,” said Luke Rebecchi, SG associate director of social affairs and College of Arts and Sciences junior, during the meeting. “At the finish line for them to just stop the race, that’s just not okay.”

Seele said the news was hard for SG to take as they had been working on the initiative over the summer and for the last year.

“Communication has been a little hard, and I think that this just kind of took us by surprise,” she said. “He [Elmore] said he’d keep it in his list of things to keep on tabs with, but that by no means is a guarantee.”

Elmore did not immediately respond to an email inquiry.

BU spokesman Colin Riley said the initiative was under careful consideration by the administration.

A number of students expressed disappointment with the administration’s decision to strike down the gender-neutral housing initiative.

CAS junior Alex Kara said he does not see any academic or pressing reason why gender-neutral housing should be rejected.

“It seems like a lot of emphasis is placed on these arbitrary values,” he said, referring to values countering gender-neutral housing. “ … It seems kind of old-fashioned.”

Hannah McKechnie, a junior in the College of Fine Arts, said BU officials should offer gender-neutral housing, considering the diversity of BU’s student population.

“It doesn’t affect me, but I think there should be a place for everyone,” she said. “If there are people who want that, our school should offer it.”

Madi Wachman, a first-year graduate student in the School of Social Work, said the university should consider the living preferences of all genders and identities within the campus.

“I think this campus should be inclusive of all genders and all ways students identify,” she said. “I understand the difficulties that the administration faces, but I think they should support what the Student Government puts forth.”

Considering its implementation at other universities, Wachman said, the administration’s decision to strike down the proposal seems unfair to the students at BU.

“If there’s a model in place, it seems like BU should be able to look into that,” she said.

To raise awareness and to encourage the administration to understand the importance of the initiative, Seele said SG might put together a number of responses from students explaining why they would want to apply for gender-neutral housing.

“Gathering those stories, even if they’re just anonymous without a name or anything to them really sends a message that this has actually happened to people,” Seele said.

Cherice Hunt, SG director of communication, said SG is in the process of creating and sending out a video on the importance of gender-neutral housing.

Hunt, a College of Communication junior, said the production of the video was temporarily halted when SG received the phone call from Elmore, but it could be an important tool in getting the initiative back up and running.

Hunt said administration and student leaders alike should realize the importance of gender-neutral housing.

“Even if it’s only important for 20 people, we should care about that,” Hunt said.

Swanson Ninan, public relations coordinator for the Center for Gender, Sexuality & Activism, expressed displeasure over the administration’s decision.

“The Center for Gender, Sexuality & Activism is disappointed to hear the news, but we are interested to hear more about the administration’s decision,” Ninan, a CAS sophomore, said.

The CGSA will be hosting a public meeting Monday at 8 p.m. to discuss how to raise gender-neutral housing to the top of the administrator’s list of priorities, Ninan said.

SG announced the administration’s decision as part of its agenda for the last meeting of the semester. The meeting focused on the gender-neutral housing initiative, the passing of the gavel and the final speech of the fall 2012 president, COM junior Dexter McCoy.

At the end of the meeting, the spring 2012 SG executive board was officially sworn into the office. SMG juniors Aditya Rudra, Lauren LaVelle and Justin Jones will serve as SG president, vice president and vice president of finance, respectively. Jasmine Miller, a CAS freshman, will serve as vice president of internal affairs.

The winning slate, BetterBU, ran on a platform of stabilizing tuition, running vacation buses and increasing safety on campus. BetterBU ran unopposed and won about 1,300 per candidate.

Steph Solis contributed to the reporting of this article.

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