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Gender-neutral housing subject of town hall meeting

College of Arts and Sciences senior KC Mackey discusses ideas of how to spread knowledge about gender-neutral housing on campus with College of Arts and Sciences junior Chelsea Schwalm, who facilitates the Gender Neutral BU meeting at the Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Activism Tuesday night. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS

College of Arts and Sciences senior KC Mackey discusses ideas of how to spread knowledge about gender-neutral housing on campus with College of Arts and Sciences junior Chelsea Schwalm, who facilitates the Gender Neutral BU meeting at the Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Activism Tuesday night. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS

About 20 students suggested methods for continuing the gender-neutral housing conversation and gaining support from the BU community  Tuesday night.

Gender Neutral BU held the town hall meeting at the Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism to consider gender-neutral housing on the Charles River Campus.

“It’s really important for us to focus this semester on getting student support,” said Rea Sowan, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “For all of us that met in this room today, it’s really obvious why having gender-neutral facilities and gender-neutral housing is important.”

Sowan said GN BU’s focus during the spring 2013 semester is to make resources accessible and get the entire student body behind gender-neutral housing.

GN BU, a non-hierarchical collectivist organization, voted at the meeting to become an official student group.

Although BU’s Committee on Student Life and Policies is working to present President Robert Brown with recommendations on gender-neutral housing, Sowan said GN BU members hope that, by becoming an official student group, they will be able to better spread the word about gender-neutral housing and relative concerns regarding the issue.

“Being a student organization would really help us to connect more with the BU community by allowing us to be more visible by giving us the ability to put up posters, physically be in spaces like the George Sherman Union Link and Marsh Plaza,” Sowan said.

Hannah Stolarski, a College of Communication sophomore, said GN BU members plan to work with administration and BU officials.

“Showing that we want to work with the administration rather than work against them is really positive and will really help make change on campus,” Stolarski said.

CAS senior KC Mackey said GN BU becoming an official student group is another important step towards informing the BU community.

“Once you have the group, you can get things approved by [the Student Activities Office] so that you can reach out to other sources on campus to just get more backing and spread the word farther,” Mackey said. “This is about safety first and foremost.”

Students at the meeting brainstormed other media through which they might be able to communicate with the BU population. They proposed ideas including a video and a student-made magazine, or “‘zine.”

Stolarski said a video dedicated to better educating students would be beneficial.

“I don’t think we hear a lot of stories in the media in general about gender-varying people,” Stolarski said. “Basically, gender in general in the film industry and media as a whole is very binary-oriented — there [are] men, and women and nothing in between.”

Mackey said ‘zines are a successful educational tool for teaching students about why BU needs gender-neutral housing.

“Often, they’re very easy to read and convey a lot of important information that you might not learn in the classroom or watching the news,” Mackey said. “It comes straight from the students that are speaking, that are making it or anybody that’s making it.”

Forms of literature like ‘zines might include personal testimonials of those in need of gender-neutral housing, explanations of terminology like “genderqueer” and “gender binary” and other relative concerns to the initiative, Mackey said.

“A ‘zine is a creative, do-it-yourself way to make your own media,” Mackey said. “If you want to spread information that you find to be important but that is usually left out of mainstream media sources, you can put it on pieces of paper in cool, creative ways and make it funky looking and make copies of it and spread the word to people.”

Stolarski said promoting tolerance and acceptance to everyone is part of BU’s mission as a whole and will produce better students and better people.

“A lot of talk has been going around about how such a small group of people are affected when really, everyone is affected,” Stolarski said. “Creating a safe space on campus will be beneficial for so many different people.”

1 Response for “Gender-neutral housing subject of town hall meeting”

  1. Chas says:

    I spearheaded the original Gender Neutral Housing Initiative my freshman year through the then Student Union. Our original intent was simple, clear, and relatable for all students. Nearly all BU students are legal adults and should have to right to live with whomever they please, especially given the fact that students pay huge amounts for their on campus housing.

    We had nothing against the “gender-biased” argument. It was, in fact, not even on our radar in 2008-2009. In order to gain widespread student support, I believe the attitude needs to shift to the argument that we are all adults who should be allowed to choose who we live with regardless of reason.

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