(Photo: Dan Sears)
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has opted to introduce a gender neutral housing option effective next fall.
The Board of Trustees for UNC Chapel Hill made the decision Thursday, acting upon a committee's resolution passed Wednesday. "Gender-neutral housing is an important project that is vital to protecting the safety of our students," said Chancellor Holden Thorp in a statement to the board.
"Last year, I told students I supported the idea, but wanted to make sure external stakeholders understood what it means."
The soon-to-be-implemented plan would involve providing students who live on campus the option of sharing a suite or an apartment of students of the opposite sex.
Susan Hudson of UNC News Services told The Christian Post that the new gender neutral rules regarding on campus housing would still have limits.
"Just to clarify one point that has been unclear in some news reports, the option is for co-ed suites and apartments only, not co-ed roommates. Roommates will still be same sex, as always," said Hudson.
According to the Charlotte Observer, the effort to get gender neutral housing at UNC Chapel Hill goes back to 2006 and has been advocated for by a group known as the Gender Non-Specific Housing Coalition.
Terri Phoenix, director of UNC Chapel Hill's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Center and a leader in the Coalition, told Monica Chen of the Observer that it was a matter of creating a "safe" space.
"This is not about morality or political affiliation … This is not just an LGBT issue. This is about students having safe housing, so they can have a shot at academic success," said Phoenix.
As part of the effort to get gender neutral housing at UNC Chapel Hill, about 100 students held a "sleep in" on Tuesday at the location Campus Y to foster awareness. Participants compared it to a "slumber party."
UNC Chapel Hill is not the only North Carolina academic institute recently implementing gender neutral housing. Duke University of Durham took a similar route earlier this year.
Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for Public Affairs and Government Relations at Duke, told The Christian Post about his university's housing policy.
"Duke has introduced gender-neutral housing option for undergraduates this year in which students can share the same two- or three-bedroom suites in part of our Central Campus apartment complex. Students of different genders cannot be assigned to the same bedrooms within a suite, however," said Schoenfeld.
"The university implemented this policy in order to expand the range of living options for students. The policy has been positively received and will be expanded to other parts of the campus in 2013."