NORMAN — Members of the University of Oklahoma student groups Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Friends and Students for a Democratic Society staged a campus rally Wednesday for implementation of gender-neutral housing on campus.
OU President David L. Boren met the group of between 75 and 100 students, accepted the proposal and heard a personal testimonial by one of the students. Boren promised to discuss the policy with the university’s Board of Regents.
“I have a very strongly-held personal view of respect for all people and that every single student here matters,” Boren said. “I will review the proposal myself and make the Regents aware of it.”
The rally concluded by peacefully accompanying Boren back to his office in Evans Hall.
The 22-page proposal is the latest step in a three-year battle between student organizations and university administration for on-campus residences that allow students of different sexes to occupy the same rooms, suites or apartments.
According to the groups, meetings with Dave Annis, housing and food services director, and Clarke Stroud, vice president of student affairs, have resulted in “polite rejections.”
“Gender-neutral housing is a crucial step toward ending harassment of LGBT students on our campus,” rally organizer Axton Nichols said.
Gender-neutral housing is a special concern for the GLBTF community due to the mutual discomfort and possible hostility resulting from assignment of homosexual students with same-sex, heterosexual roommates, according to the groups.
In their proposal, the Gender Neutral Housing Coalition cites the success of other universities in their gender neutral housing policies, as well as a 2005 study by the National School Climate Survey that indicated 64 percent of GLBT students reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
The proposal also calls attention to the university’s mandatory dorm residence policy for freshmen and how the university seeks to tailor dorm life to other students by offering special housing for National Merit or international students.
The National Student Genderblind Campaign, a grassroots network of student activists, reports that more than 54 colleges and universities across the nation have adopted various gender-neutral housing policies. Notably among these is Rutgers University, which implemented its policy after the high-profile suicide of Tyler Clementi, a gay student whose roommate is accused of intimidating and humiliating Clementi due to his sexual orientation.
Under section 1.3, titled “Rationale,” the proposal states, “Students who are unable or unwilling to hide their gender identity or sexual orientation face increased levels of verbal and physical harrassment. In both cases, students’ comfort and safety are jeopardized, and their ability to perform academically is diminished. Providing a gender-neutral housing option can help relieve these issues and serve the needs of the GLBTQ community as well as other students who do not feel comfortable or safe in sex-segregated housing.”
Caitlin Schudalla 366-3541 cschudalla@ normantranscript.com