The University of Kansas has designated a full residence hall wing as “gender inclusive housing” for the upcoming school year, and there’s already a waiting list to live there.
“It tells me we’re hitting a need,” KU Student Housing director Diana Robertson said of the allocated rooms being filled.
The goal is supporting LGBTQ students and ensuring they feel comfortable and connected at KU, Robertson said.
The wing, titled the Gender Inclusive Housing Community, welcomes students who are “in the process of discovering their gender identity” or who might not want to identify themselves by any gender, according to KU Student Housing. Students will be assigned roommates regardless of sex, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.
After informal suggestions by students and a work-group process, KU Student Housing piloted gender-inclusive housing during the 2016-17 school year, though only a few students signed up, Robertson said.
For the 2017-18 school year, the department designated a full wing of Lewis Hall for gender-inclusive housing, and all available spaces have been reserved, Robertson said. She said more than 20 students have signed up and that there is a small waiting list.
The rest of KU’s on-campus student housing options are divided by gender. Some entire buildings are all male or all female; others have separate men’s and women’s wings, suites or apartments.
KU’s gender-inclusive wing is open to any student.
“There’s no questions asked,” Robertson said.
Students who want to live there simply indicate the gender-inclusive community preference on their housing applications, and it’s granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Residents are asked to sign an agreement that includes the following regarding behavior and privacy:
• If I exhibit behavior that is contrary to the spirit of this agreement, I may be relocated to a different housing assignment on campus.
• It is my choice whether or not to communicate about the decision to live in a gender-inclusive housing option. KU Student Housing will not share this information with anyone other than the student contracted.
• I understand that my roommates and others in this community may not wish for others to know about their participation in gender-inclusive housing, and that I am expected to maintain the privacy of those in this community.
In the past, Robertson said, KU Student Housing worked on a case-by-case basis to place students who did not fit the traditional gender profiles.
Even with the new gender-inclusive wing, KU Student Housing leaves open the door for students to live in a residence or scholarship hall that is “congruent” with their gender identities instead of their legal sex.
“Our commitment is to helping students find the living environment that best meets their needs while affirming their gender identity,” the housing department website says, and directs students to work one-on-one with a housing manager.