In order to become a more inclusive community, the Office of Residence Life (ORL) is piloting a gender inclusive housing program in university owned housing. While not limited to any specific population of students, it is our intention to offer a more welcoming and inclusive environment for our transgender, gender fluid and gender non-conforming students.

 

Gender Inclusive Housing Pilot Program

JMU’s gender inclusive housing option acknowledges the diverse needs of the student body and underscores the importance of community. Gender inclusive housing helps further a residential climate that is positive, respectful, and inclusive for all residents. Living in gender inclusive housing is completely voluntary.

Many schools across the country offer gender inclusive/neutral housing. Currently, the Campus Pride organization (stewards of the Campus Pride Index) lists over 260 colleges and universities that offer this option (https://www.campuspride.org/tpc/gender-inclusive-housing/).

 

Definition of terms*:

Sex/Sex at Birth: Typically defined as one’s biological sex based on anatomical differences.

Gender Identity: The personal sense of one's own gender. Gender identity can correlate with assigned sex at birth, or can differ from it.

Gender Inclusive Housing: On-campus housing that allows students of different sexes, genders, or gender identity to live together in the same residence hall room

Gender Nonconforming: A person whose behavior or appearance does not conform to prevailing cultural and social expectations about what is appropriate to their gender.

Transgender: A person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.

Mutual Roommate Request: A housing situation in which all potential occupants of a room or apartment have requested to be housed together. This differs from a “random roommate” situation in which the Office of Residence Life assigns roommates based on the housing questionnaire. A mutual roommate request is required in order to participate in the gender inclusive program.

*This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of terms having to do with gender nor is it meant to represent the sole definition of these terms. It is intended only to help understand the description of the gender inclusive housing option at JMU.

 

What is gender inclusive housing? How do we define gender inclusive housing in the residence halls?

Gender inclusive housing allows students of different sexes, genders, or gender identity to live together in the same residence hall room. Students living in this option must opt-in and have a mutual roommate request. During the online housing application/contract process, students will answer yes or no to the following lifestyle question about gender inclusive housing: “I prefer to live in gender inclusive housing.” Only students who select yes will be opted in. No identifying characteristics (e.g., sexual orientation) are required to be shared.

The pilot program for gender inclusive housing will begin with students being housed in Jennings Hall and the Apartments on Grace,  and then may expand to other locations in subsequent years. The new residence hall has lockable bathroom pods that have a mirror, sink, toilet, and shower and are designed for individual students to have a private bathroom experience. Students of any gender or gender identity could use any of the bathrooms on the floor. The bathrooms in the Apartments on Grace are all private bathrooms contained within the individual apartments.

 

Who can take advantage of this living option?

This program is intended for students who wish to share a room with friends of a different gender or biological sex. As with any on-campus option, it is not intended for romantic couples. We strongly discourage students of any sexual orientation from living with someone with whom they are in a romantic relationship. Research has shown that most students who chose to live in gender inclusive housing do so with friends and not with those whom they are dating.

Gender inclusive housing offers a safe and inclusive housing opportunity for students who identify as transgender or gender nonconforming as well as for any student who prefers to live with students of a different gender or biological sex than their own. Returning students, who would like to live in Gender Inclusive Housing, will self-select this option through the Online Room Selection process. New students should contact the Assistant Director of Housing for more information.

 

How does the program work?

Because some students have already signed their housing contract for academic year 19-20, for the first year of gender inclusive housing, students will be sent an email about gender inclusive housing detailing the steps students will follow to opt-in. Students interested in participating in gender inclusive housing MUST do three things:

  1. Complete the Gender Inclusive Housing form by March 11, 2019 at 10AM.
  2. Have either one or three roommates, as all available Gender Inclusive rooms in Jennings Hall are double rooms and in the Apartments on Grace all are one bedrooms double (2 person) or two bedroom double (4 person) apartments.
  3. Students and their roommate(s) will ALL need to complete the Gender Inclusive Housing form, have a signed Housing Contract, and pay the Contract Fee by March 11, 2019 at 10AM.

  

Will random roommates be assigned in gender inclusive rooms?

No. Gender inclusive housing is voluntary; no student will be assigned to gender inclusive housing unless they have opted in. Students will not be matched with random opposite-gender roommates through the housing process. Please contact the Assistant Director of Housing in ORL if you are interested in gender inclusive housing but do not have a requested roommate.

 

What if one of the roommates wants to change rooms, cancels their assignment, or leaves mid-year?

Residents participating in gender inclusive housing can participate in the room change process. However if one resident cancels or leaves during the year, the remaining resident:

  1. Can request another roommate (preferred),
  2. Move to a new location,
  3. Or the entire space can revert to single sex (based on the remaining student’s gender as listed on their official university record).

If a vacancy arises, the first opportunity is given to the remaining student residing in the room to identify a new student with whom they wish to live. If the resident is unable to find a new roommate, then the resident will be given the opportunity to move to a new location or the room will revert back to single gender.

 

Roommate Conflicts

If a student has a conflict with their roommate for any reason, they should talk to their Resident Adviser, Hall Director, or Area Director.

 

Will gender inclusive housing cost more?

No, the cost will be based on the room and board rates of the university.

 

Communication with family and/or others about housing decision

It is the student’s choice to communicate with parents, family members, and/or others about the decision to live in a gender inclusive housing option. ORL encourages this conversation about the housing choice so that they can be in support of the student’s decision.

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