Concerned Hofstra students and faculty gathered to weigh the options of establishing permanent gender neutral housing on campus in the Center for Civic Engagement’s (CCE) latest Café Conversation. In a safe and welcoming space, those in attendance took turns voicing their opinions to a circle of their peers about why they believe allowing students to tailor their room assignments to their preferred gender is a step in the right direction for the university.
“Gender neutral housing is something that we’ve really needed as a community and especially as an LGBTQUIA community,” said sophomore Adam Gustafson, the CCE fellow who initiated the discussion. “Hofstra’s making a lot of really good changes right now … but this housing issue is something that we haven’t seen a lot of progress on, and we’re just talking about how we can organize ourselves to start making a push for that.”
Although there is no set universal policy guiding the placement of LGBTQ+ students in residential life, accommodations are handled on a case-by-case basis as concerns from individuals arise. Despite the generally happy endings for students who are able to reach out to administration, there are countless cases in which students keep their concerns to themselves, thus limiting their options to the standard gendered housing offered by Hofstra, or in many cases, opting for a more costly single room.
As an alternative, Gustafson suggests that there be gender inclusive housing available in the top floor of each of the tower dorms, and a floor in both the Netherlands and in Colonial Square designated to those who desire to live in a gender neutral environment.
The idea is that this option would be available on the standard housing form, and offered to all Hofstra students. Collectively, the group also discussed the possibility of pitching a gender inclusive Living Learning Community (LLC) to be instated in the following year.
Sophomore Shenoa Erny notes the struggles that many face when bound to a housing arrangement that contradicts their gender.
“I have a decent number of friends on campus who are either trans or gender non-conforming, and I just hear about how hard it is all the time,” Erny said. “Having to pay for singles or rooming with people who are the gender that they don’t identify as – it’s hard … I don’t understand why gender neutral housing isn’t a thing yet. I’m glad that we’re moving towards it, but I just feel like it’s something that shouldn’t be as hard to push through as it is.”
And “pushing through” is definitely what Gustafson, Erny and the 12 other students in attendance are determined to do in order to see that their goals are met. As the discussion carried on, the group brainstormed tactics for spreading awareness through the student body by petitioning, using social media, speaking to classrooms, meeting with administration, talking to the Student Government Association and even filming a documentary – an effort spearheaded by Gustafson – highlighting their journey to inclusive housing for everybody.
Chad Freeman, Hofstra’s assistant director of Intercultural Engagement and Inclusion, offered nothing but support to those involved in getting this movement off the ground.
“This is an absolutely fantastic project,” he said. “I’m very excited that students are willing to take up this mantle to work with the administration to make positive change on campus for all of our students, but particularly making room at the table for trans folks.”
The students present at the discussion walked away from the circle with optimism and hope for the future of residential living at Hofstra. Adding her final thoughts to the conversation, Erny stated that she looks forward to seeing the progress made by the group as they continued their discussion and planning for the future.
“This is our home,” Erny said. “We have to live here for so long, and if you’re uncomfortable in where you’re living, I just don’t think it’s fair.”