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More students expected to use gender-neutral housing next semester

Boston University student Maya Inozemtseva said having the option of gender-neutral housing made for a more pleasant experience this semester, as her boyfriend Daniel Smith was able to move into her dorm room in Danielsen Hall earlier this fall.

“I got his support and he was always close to me,” Inozemtseva, a Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences sophomore, said. “We haven’t had any problems. Sleeping arrangements, they all work out. I wake up earlier than him, and he goes to sleep later than I do … We plan to stay where we are.”

Gender-neutral housing officially became an option for BU students via direct room swap at the beginning of the fall 2013 semester. Inzometsva and Smith, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore, were the first two students to take advantage of this housing option at BU.

Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore said while only a few students ultimately decided to take advantage of the new option through direct swaps, university officials are unsure as to how many will choose gender-neutral housing during the full room selection process.

“Next semester, we’ll have a much better sense come room selection time because that’s where the system opens up a lot more,” Elmore said. “People are in the process and will be in the process, certainly during early parts of the semester leading up to room selection, thinking about who they’re going to room with so we’ll get a much, much better handle on it.”

Elmore said he is looking forward to see how many students end up living in gender-neutral rooms.

“In terms of being predictive about it, I don’t know,” he said. “I feel like we’ve got to get a good year or two under our belts, if you will, so that we can get a good baseline on how we think students act within selecting rooms based upon he approach that we’ve got. I’m still in ‘wait and see’ mode.”

Students are currently able to pull in other students regardless of their gender identities in all dormitories except West Campus, Myles Annex, The Towers and Warren Towers, according to the BU Housing website.

“Gender-neutral housing provides students increased choice in selecting roommates,” the website states. “It provides students maximum responsibility for their own room assignment, and is consistent with the Boston University’s commitment to learning through students’ active decision-making and engagement in the learning environment.”

Rea Sawan, a CAS junior, was involved in the original effort to establish gender-neutral housing at BU. Pushing BU officials to approve gender-neutral housing was a part of a long-term effort by the entire BU student body, Sawan said.

“It [the establishment of GNH] says a lot about the student body, and it says that if the student body wants to rally to make something happen, they will regardless of any resistance that comes from any outside sources, including the administration,” Sawan said. “Things like this show that there is a lot of radical activism at BU, and honestly, it is what gets a lot of things done.”

Providing the option of gender-neutral housing proves that BU listens to the needs of its students on campus, Sawan said.

“It [gender-neutral housing] is a great option, whether you are doing it because you don’t identify within a gender binary … or you’re doing it because you would feel more comfortable living with a friend who on paper is not the same gender or sex as you,” Sawan said.

BU spokesman Colin Riley said Inozemtseva and Smith were the only two people to take advantage of gender-neutral housing this semester. He said it is still undetermined how much demand there will be for this housing option next semester.

“If our [BU] experience is like other schools, it won’t be a tremendous amount, it will just be a small number of people, but we don’t really know,” Riley said.

Sawan said although only two people have taken advantage of the housing option this semester, there are many people who plan to take advantage of it in the spring.

“I know a lot of people who are hoping to take advantage of it next semester, but I think that the numbers don’t really don’t matter,” Sawan said. “If this policy helps just one person, then that would be one person’s safety.”

At the conclusion of the fall semester, Smith said living with Inozemtseva has been a great experience thus far.

“My grades went up because Maya made me study and I’m a huge procrastinator,” Smith said.  “She keeps me in line … We do each other’s laundry on occasion. We are always there for each other.”

Margaret Waterman contributed to the reporting of this article.

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