Butler addresses gender issues in housing policy

KATIE GOODRICH | EDITOR IN CHIEF | kmgoodri@butler.edu

Every residence option, except Ross Hall, now allows gender inclusive housing.

Gender inclusive housing means anyone on the gender spectrum can live together. Roommates who all want to live in a gender inclusive unit can share a pod in Fairview House or an apartment in University Terrace.

Doug Howell, associate director of residence life, said this move came from a larger university initiative to address gender issues on campus and also a reflection of life after graduation.

“Look at the landlords for senior year and beyond, they don’t care what the genders of people living together are,” he said. “We took that into mind and said we can manage to figure something out.”

Junior Kyle Roe lives in the Apartment Village in a gender inclusive apartment and said he shares that sentiment.

“I think the university is finally reflecting a real world setting, not just a college one,” he said. “Once you’re a senior and once you graduate, you can live with whoever you want, so why not start in college?”

Roe said he wanted to live with his friends and not be confined by gender when choosing roommates.

“I have a really wide-range of friends both male and female, but I wanted to live with the ones I got along with the best,” he said. “It gives non-Greek people more options that aren’t [chapter houses.]”

In the past at Butler, men always lived with men and women always lived with women. Starting in 2014, three buildings in AV became gender inclusive, as reported in the Collegian.

Ross Hall is not built to be gender inclusive due to its community style bathrooms.

The other residence halls have private bathrooms, which makes it easy to place people with different genders in the same unit.

“But as we look forward, Ross might not always be there,” Howell said, referring to the plan to replace Schwitzer Hall with a new residence hall. The new residence hall, which could replace Ross as well, will most likely have private bathroom options to allow for gender inclusion.

The university has addressed some gender inclusion issues recently, such as creating more than 40 gender inclusive bathrooms and referring to freshmen students as first years.

Stacie Colston Patterson, Butler’s Title IX Coordinator, said the university’s gender policies are not perfect, but she is still proud of the progress, especially the gender inclusive housing and bathrooms.

“As long as we’re building an environment that is open and inclusive, then I am proud of the things we’re doing,” she said.

Patterson used to work at Earlham College, a small private university in Richmond, Ind.

Earlham had gender inclusive housing and bathroom policies in 2004-06, almost a decade before Butler.

“Coming back to Butler, it was shocking that we hadn’t made progress, especially for me as an alum,” she said.

Roe said he thinks it took Butler too long to change the outdated policies.

“At a smaller school, [gender inclusive policies] make more of an impact, because more people know what’s happening on campus,” he said. “They waited too long to change it, especially the apartments. I think they were just behind the times.”

Moving forward Patterson said she wants to normalize more gender policies to make transgender, gender fluid and nonbinary students more comfortable and ensure they feel safe.

“It might be a challenge for some people, but we have to make that change,” she said. “We’ve done it before. So much national change started at higher ed institutions, and we need to be a part of that.”

She said she hopes the policy breaks down barriers between students.

Howell said the policy change went over very well.

“We saw a lot of people create their own gender inclusive living units,” he said. “First years used it the least, which makes sense since they don’t know anyone on campus usually.”

Ross Hall also experienced a big change in gender policy. Women are now located on the second and third floors This is the first year that they were not “locked in,” because until this year, the top floor of Ross housed only women, and they all had to use a separate key to gain entrance to the floor.

Howell said residence life wanted the first year residence hall to reflect the gender breakdown of the class itself.

The ratio of the class is roughly 60 percent women and 40 percent male, which reflects national averages based on National Center for Educational Statistics data.

Howell said the move was also made to shatter some gender stereotypes.

“Locking the women on the third floor reinforced the gender stereotype of women needing this extra level of protection,” he said. “It is a little statement, but it goes a long way.”

Howell also said the students do not notice a change because none of them have lived there before, except the resident assistants.