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GNH petition gets hundreds of student signatures

Hundreds of Boston University students are rallying behind Gender Neutral BU’s efforts to make gender-neutral housing a top priority for the administration for the 2012–13 academic year.

More than 1,600 students signed an online petition on Change.org posted by Gender Neutral BU, an advocacy group recently created by students, as of Tuesday night. The petition implores the administration to make gender-neutral housing an option for fall 2013.

Student Government officials announced Sunday the BU administration indefinitely halted the gender-neutral housing initiative after it was approved for an unspecified future date.

“This action represents a deliberate violation of the commitments made by administration officials to implement Gender Neutral Housing as an option for students by fall 2013,” the petition stated.

Swanson Ninan, a representative of Gender Neutral BU, said the petition is a collaborative effort.

“The petition came about Monday night at the open action planning meeting hosted by the CGSA,” Ninan, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said in an email.

“Members of the CGSA, Student Government and many other non-affiliated students came together to write the petition as a way to demonstrate to the BU administration why the issue of Gender Neutral Housing should be a priority.”

BU spokesman Colin Riley said there is great demand for proximity to campus and that housing for transfer students. These concerns are taking precedent over phasing in gender-inclusive housing options for the 2012–13 academic year.

Dean of Students Kenneth 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.

“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.

Elmore said the administration’s support of the LGBTQA’s student population and the administration’s housing priorities are different issues.

“We look a those in different ways,” he said. “We have to think of how we support our students. LGBTQA has one separate [set of] student issues.”

Gender Neutral BU’s petition stated the administration’s excuses are not sufficient.

“The collective voice of the student body has been silenced,” the petition stated. “We understand the importance of other initiatives being undertaken by the university but it is unacceptable to disregard student priorities.”

Gender Neutral BU created a Facebook event Monday night for students to demand gender-neutral housing in person at BU President Robert Brown’s office.

“The petition will be peacefully delivered, along with the original proposal written by Student Government, to President Brown on Friday at 12 p.m.,” Ninan said. “This is a demonstration to show the administration visibility of the group and the importance of Gender Neutral Housing to the BU community.”

Elmore said administration must still consider the possibility of gender-neutral housing.

“Part of what we’ve got to do is make a decision whether or not it [gender-neutral housing] is possible,” he said. “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.”

Steph Solis contributed to the reporting of this article.

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