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Aug 9, 2013

UNC Board of Governors Ban Gender Neutral Housing

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors voted Friday morning to eliminate proposed gender-neutral housing plans on the system's 16 campuses. The vote will force officials at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to eliminate planned efforts to offer gender-neutral housing options to students beginning in 2013-14. Students will begin moving into UNC-Chapel Hill campus housing facilities Aug. 17.

The pilot program would have allowed students of different genders to share apartments or suites but would not allow students of different genders to share bedrooms. Students would be required to opt into the program in order to participate. The Department of Housing and Residential Education set aside 32 spaces for the pilot program (.4% of total available housing).

UNC’s Board of Trustees adopted the optional “gender-neutral” housing policy last year in part to alleviate harassment or bullying faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender students.

"We are extremely disappointed with the Board of Governors decision to bow to outside and uninformed pressure and strip gender-inclusive housing options that have been shown to not only promote LGBT student safety but also improve the overall campus climate as well," said Stuart Campbell, Executive Director of Equality NC.

“There is no sound reason to reverse this policy,” continued Campbell. “Students were required to submit an application for an extremely limited number of gender neutral housing units, and the units themselves had separate bedrooms. This could literally make a life or death difference for kids who are struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity and want to have a safe space they can call home while they are on campus. This move has stripped away an important tool university administrators had to protect their LGBT students.”

Today's vote comes after two years of hard work by the student-led Gender Non-Specific Housing Coalition to build a statewide coalition among UNC system schools, diverse student organizations, senior administrators in the UNC system, and the UNC-CH Board of Trustees, that secured gender non-specific housing and defeated subsequent attacks on its existence.

Equality NC and other groups successfully lobbied to remove a similar ban on the University of North Carolina's gender non-specific housing policy from legislation proposed during the General Assembly's 2013 long session.

"In the interim, Equality NC is dedicated to working with our partners and the University to find a solution that will ultimately offer a safe space for some of the state's most vulnerable students," added Campbell.

Why is gender-inclusive housing important?

  • Gender-inclusive housing provides a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
  • Gender-inclusive housing is an important step to retain at-risk LGBT students in often challenging campus environments.
  • Gender-inclusive housing involves shared living spaces and separate, secure rooms for students -- important to the safety and comfort of students who apply for and receive these limited number of units, but that in no way translates into an intrusion on other students.

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