Members of Boston University’s Center for Gender, Sexuality & Activism and Student Government, as well as other BU students, expressed frustration with the administration’s decision to halt the gender-neutral housing initiative at a public meeting hosted by CGSA Monday night.
About 30 students gathered to strategize how to vocalize their opinions to BU officials and further communicate how gender-neutral housing remains an important issue for students.
“This wasn’t really on top of their [the administration] priority list in terms of things they want to get done,” said D.A. Whatley, SG vice president of finance and School of Management sophomore. “Students need to show the administration that this is more of an issue in order for them to go ahead with this.”
In October, SG announced gender-neutral housing was confirmed to be an option at an unspecified future date.
On Sunday, however, SG officials said Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore informed them on Nov. 21 that the administration halted the gender-neutral housing initiative indefinitely to focus on other housing concerns.
Elmore said in an interview Monday with The Daily Free Press that the gender-neutral housing proposal remains under review by the administration and that BU has to address a number of more pressing housing issues, including keeping freshmen out of Danielsen Hall, offering more housing options for transfer students and establishing Kilachand Hall.
“I think what we had decided to do is to look at the important aspects about how we assign students here on campus and the room selection process,” Elmore said.
“Part of what we’ve got to do is make a decision whether or not it [gender-neutral housing] is possible,” he added. “Then we’ve got to have a conversation about whether or not we want to do it. I don’t think we’re even at a point where we’ve had that conversation … we’ve got to make sure we look at feasibility.”
SG officials said they received about 2,000 student responses in support of the initiative and about 700 student signatures.
Dexter McCoy, SG president and College of Communication junior, said administration officials told SG there were no updates, but then called during Thanksgiving break to say the priorities for the administration had shifted and housing was going to focus on different projects.
“The administration made a particular promise to the student body and is now reneging on that,” McCoy said. “It has been suspended indefinitely.”
Rea Sowan, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore who does not identify with the gender binary, said BU has an obligation to provide gender-neutral housing to those who require it.
“In our Lifebook … it says that BU has an anti-discrimination policy against people based on their ability, based on their age, their family status, their sexuality, their gender,” Sowan said. “That we don’t have facilities that cater to people who need them goes directly against that.”
Sowan said the issues they face stem from both a cultural problem on campus and from having limited options at BU in terms of housing and bathrooms.
“Going to the female bathroom, on some days it’s not something I want to do and it’s something that would be detrimental to my mental and emotional health and that should be recognized,” Sowan said. “Going to the male bathroom is something that would be detrimental to my physical health.”
Sowan said gender-neutral bathrooms should be considered as well as gender-neutral housing.
“We are all here today because we want to fight back against their decision and I think that our fight back against their decision should include also support and a little nudge for the gender-neutral bathroom proposal,” Sowan said.
SG is in the process of developing a video of student testimonials advocating gender-neutral housing to present to administration.
Luke Rebecchi, SG associate director of social affairs and College of Arts and Sciences junior, said a number of SG members put time into the gender-neutral housing initiative with the implicit trust that their effort would be matched by the administration.
“Just receiving a phone call saying that this no longer matters … That really bothers me personally,” Rebecchi said.
He said having 2,000 student responses in support of gender-neutral housing demonstrated BU students care about the initiative, especially considering only 1,300 students voted in the previous SG election.
“When they actually take the time in their class-packed day to fill out a survey, that says something,” he said. “That should be enough.”
On Monday night, a group called Gender Neutral BU created a Facebook event for a demonstration on Dec. 14 where students will hand-deliver the gender-neutral housing proposal to President Robert Brown’s office at 1 Silber Way.