The residential living halls nearly reach capacity every year, but in the fall of 2018, the university decided to set aside a floor in Wyckoff Hall because it had fewer rooms than most.
Now in its second year, even with more residents than last year, the university faces challenges filling the floor.
Sophie Orlet, a sophomore animation major and resident of the floor, feels the space is necessary to have on campus, even if it’s slow to grow.
“I feel like theres a good amount of people who would come here because of the gender neutral floor, and it’s a good alternative to the singles dorms because the singles cost way more,” said Orlet.
Currently, there are 12 residents, and 14 rooms, three of which are empty
“If we would have had a larger floor [for open-housing] we wouldn’t have had the students to fill it,” said executive director of residential living and student conduct, Ryan Bair.
Bair said he wanted to create an accommodating environment for all students, even if that means filling fewer beds in residence halls.
“I would like to create, for all of our specialty communities, better options,” Bair said. “A lot of it comes down to just how things are set up, what we can and can’t do right now.”
Orlet said she and her roommate’s situation is exactly why the university needed the open-floor.
“My roommate, she’s transgender and we’re in that special situation where it’s like ‘We wanted to be roommates, but we couldn’t unless we did the gender neutral floor,’” Orlet said.
Currently, if transgender students choose to live in a campus residence hall, they will be automatically placed based on the sex they were assigned to at birth, not the gender they identify as.
In 2018, Student Senate proposed a resolution for transgender students to be housed based on their gender. However, the resolution did not pass with the two-thirds majority it needed.
Orlet said she saw reasons to vote both yes and no, especially in situations where the student goes “random.”
“I have a lot of friends who are gender non-conforming and I know how much of an issue that can be, because there’s a large percentage of people, larger than you would think, that don’t really fit the traditional male or female, and even if they do, there are people who are trangender and you don’t know if someone’s going to be supportive of that,” Orlet said.
The university’s decision to implement gender inclusive housing in the fall of 2018 lagged behind the trend. A number of public and private schools including Lake Forest College and Northwestern University began offering the option to students by 2010, according to campuspride. org.
Bair said he looked to Northern Illinois University, where he previously worked, for ideas.
“We looked at what other school in our “cohert,” or other schools we compete with have done, they’re the ones that are private and might have the same kind of logisticals we have,” Bair said. “We also had to look with the university and see in their housing system we had a problem and this is what took us a while to get it up and running.”
Looking to the future, Bair said he hopes to see the floor grow.
“It’s more full this year, which is great,” Bair said. “The biggest thing we’re trying to provide is an accomodation, not just advertising is as LGBTQ community theme.”