Tuesday, August 13, 2013

UNC System Passes Ban on Gender-INCLUSIVE Student Housing

North Carolina is quickly gaining a reputation as the most regressive state in the Union, giving Texas a run for its money! Another indication of bad public policy being established in the Tar Heel state is that the University of North Carolina system just passed a ban to prevent gender-inclusive housing being established at any of its 17 campuses. What the heck?

The text of the new policy is:
The constituent institutions shall not assign members of the opposite sex to any institutionally owned and operated dormitory room, dormitory suite, or campus apartment unless the students are siblings, parent and child, or they are legally married. This policy applies to housing assignments beginning with the fall 2013 semester.
The Daily Tar Heel reports:
UNC-Chapel Hill had planned on instituting a gender-neutral housing pilot program in the fall. The program, which would have included 32 spaces in Carmichael Residence Hall, Craige North and Ram Village, was approved by the UNC Board of Trustees in November.
BOG Chairman Peter Hans said he thinks there are other ways to ensure student safety in on-campus housing than gender-neutral accommodations.
“Our board wants every student to be safe and comfortable and included,” Hans said. “The board believes there are more practical ways to achieve that goal than assigning young men and women to the same campus suite.”
So it is clear that the motivation for this is to preserve traditional gender roles and enforce heteronormativity among students. There is an assumption that all the students must be heterosexual, which is just ludicrous, especially if you analyze the sexual orientation data for the college-age cohort. What is also somewhat amusing is the unintended consequences of adopting this policy. Insisting that only members of the same sex are able to be roomed together at UNC-controlled residential spaces will almost certainly increase same-sex sexual activity, even though the intention was most certainly to try and reduce opposite-sex sexual activity through  misguided belief that keeping sexes apart will do so.

Also, it is well-known that single-sex environments are more homophobic and heteronormative, as the imputed homosexuality of the participants leads to more rigorous policing of heterosexual-only behavior and strict controls on gender expression. This will lead to bad outcomes and bullying of gender non-conforming and students questioning or exploring their sexuality who live in these housing spaces.

One immediate consequence of the policy change is to negatively impact what housing choices UNC campuses will have to accommodate their transgender students

Campus Pride has been following this story and called the move "dangerous, reckless and unsafe":
Campus Pride was in attendance at the meeting where UNC students were not allowed on the agenda. Nor did the UNC Board of Governors hear any research related to how the ban negatively impacts campus safety.  Based on Campus Pride national research conducted by Dr. Sue Rankin, “trans-spectrum students are already an at-risk population.”  She also writes, “The Campus Pride 2010 State of Higher Education report was one of the first national studies to examine the climate on college campuses. The study involved more than 5,000 LGBTQ students, staff, and faculty and found that almost a quarter of the LGBTQ respondents and about one third of the trans-identified respondents had experienced harassment or violence on campus because of their sexual or gender identity.”
According to Campus Pride, the UNC Board of Governors clearly do not have the safety of all students in mind in passing this policy to ban Gender-Inclusive housing, “Banning gender-inclusive housing on the seventeen UNC system campuses does not serve the safety of any student. It is a dangerous, reckless and unsafe to take such a broad sweeping action,” said Shane Windmeyer, Executive Director of Campus Pride. “Research shows that LGBT students experience heightened rates of harassment and discrimination at our colleges and universities, including in campus housing. Students should not have to feel unsafe or be fearful where they eat, sleep, and live on campus.”
Despite the ban passing, Campus Pride is continuing its work supporting students in the UNC system and creating necessary resources to support the expansion of Gender-Inclusive housing across the country.   This week Campus Pride launched its Trans Policy Clearinghouse which is the most up-to-date resource of its kind with trans campus policy and safety issues.  
Hat/tip to Campus Pride for publicizing this. I suspect it will not be the first such public policy change among public University systems, especially those in red states.

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