GAMES Seeks Gender-neutral Housing on Campus

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The club’s name may be GAMES, but when it comes to advocacy, they’re all business.

Gender Awareness Movement Enacted by Students, GAMES, is a student advocacy group raising awareness about gender identity and expression to meet the needs of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning (LGBTQ) community at SUNY New Paltz.

GAMES hopes to introduce gender-neutral bathrooms and housing options to the New Paltz campus. While GAMES, founded in spring 2009, is moving forward and growing, the group’s initiative for having gender-neutral options has not come without a challenge.

“I think the importance of having the options of gender-neutral bathrooms and housing is simply about the human right to be comfortable in our living situations,” said Ruth Linder, one of the three GAMES co-founders.
Linder, a junior majoring in women’s studies, said some of the arguments against gender-neutral housing include “money factors, lack of facilities, that people will abuse the option to live as couples and/or the people won’t use the option.”

Martin Geraghty, also a co-founder, added, “It’s incredibly difficult to make changes in state-funded institutions.”

Geraghty, a junior majoring in philosophy and English, believes the importance of having gender neutrality options is not only to help students of the LGBTQ community but to help students as a whole. Regardless of gender, he believes people should live with whomever they feel most comfortable.

“GAMES wants to make sure we’re open to everyone,” he said.

As one of the first steps to move forward, GAMES is conducting a “bathroom sweep” of campus where the members count the number and document the location of the bathrooms in each academic building to see which could be converted into single use, gender-neutral facilities.

While GAMES has expressed their concerns with the administration on campus, Vice President of Student Affairs L. David Rooney believes meeting students’ needs through the options of gender-neutral housing and bathroom facilities is a struggle because it’s a progressive, newer movement for colleges throughout the nation. He also said that the changes in the buildings and facilities cannot happen in a short time period and that gender-neutral housing as a living option should be an educational experience.

“We are purposeful for accommodating people who are transitioning, but we’re not interested in creating co-habitation for the sake of doing so,” Rooney said.

“Campus housing serves an educational need,” he added.

Rooney believes if couples had the option of living together, conflicts could arise, resulting in more room changes and more conflict mediation.

“There needs to be incremental steps in this process to have gender-neutral options,” Rooney said.

Ray Schwarz, associate vice president of student affairs, added, “This is something worth looking at and working toward in a progressive manner.” Schwarz said in the future, he hopes that through building another residence hall, there could be a floor or an accommodation with neutral facilities and co-ed living.

“It’s not the administrations’ inclination to say any gender, any room, but we are sensitive to meeting students’ needs,” Schwarz said.

Since 2004, Oberlin College, a college of arts and sciences and conservatory of music in Ohio, has given students the choice of living in one of four gender-neutral halls after their first-year. Ehrai Adams, assistant director of housing administration, said Oberlin College offers a total of 100 beds in the halls that are either singles or quads, but mostly doubles.

“The challenge from the students’ perspective is getting space in one of their desired facilities and the challenge from the administrators’ perspective is making sure students’ needs are always met,” Adams said.

Adams also said that for incoming students, they fill out a survey that asks what type of housing interests them and with which gender the students identify. She said that through this assessment, Oberlin College has a better understanding of the student body and their need.

Allison Duarte

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