Gender neutral housing begins at CU

We all have things that we hide. Things that we think others will judge us for. Everyone is guilty of putting up an exterior that may be different than how we feel inside.

Why do we do this? Because at our core, there is one thing that we all really want: to feel accepted for who we are.

Castleton University is making strides in this direction with a new floor of gender-neutral housing in the fall 2016 semester.

There had been talk about just changing some of the bathrooms on campus to gender neutral – until a group of students from the Spectrum Pride Club pushed for housing.

“It’s funny, we actually had a big presentation planned. We went to (Director of Residence Life) Mike Robilotto to make our pitch and as soon as we brought it up, he was completely on board and ready to start planning,” said Chelsea Carey, a member of the Spectrum Pride Club and the CA in charge of the gender-neutral floor.

Originally, plans were for a floor in Ellis and a floor in Babcock to be gender neutral, but not enough interest was shown to need more than one building, leaving the first floor of Ellis as the only gender neutral floor for now.

Area Coordinator Cora Churchill believes the lack of interest is due to a lack of awareness.

“I think a lot of students right now just don’t know about it because it came up so quickly. This year is going to be a big trial year for us. Just getting it out there and showing people what it is,” Churchill said.

Once the group of students requested the change, things moved very quickly, according to Robilotto.

Many schools all over the country are moving toward a more gender-fluid plan on their campuses, including Green Mountain.

The residence life offices at Castleton and Green Mountain meet on a monthly basis to discuss different policies and how to implement them as smoothly as possible, according to Robilotto.

“Freshmen can’t select gender-neutral housing on their housing contracts, but if they get here and that’s something they are interested in, we can make that change for them. We would never place a student in a room that they wouldn’t be comfortable with,” Robilotto said.

Though this change is geared toward the LGBT community, there were other factors as well.

Carey had two main reasons she felt this change was necessary.

“For people who are trans, it can be very stressful to be rooming with someone who you’re not comfortable with. We felt it was important for people to be able to room with whomever they wanted and felt comfortable with,” Carey said.

The second reason was simple.

“People who feel more comfortable living with someone of the opposite sex should be able to do that. I wanted to room with my best friend Kyle because he is the person I feel most comfortable with,” Carey said.

The main goal of gender-neutral housing is to make people feel more comfortable.

Senior CA Emma Blaiklock believes this change is simply keeping up with the times.

“It’s a thing that a lot of universities and colleges are doing. It’s a way to be a lot more accepting and go along with that movement because it is a great population in the U.S. at this point. People should be able to feel comfortable no matter who they are,” Blaiklock said.

So, where will this policy be in five years?

Blaiklock is hoping for an entire gender neutral dorm. Carey and Robilotto are just hoping for more awareness to be brought to this type of housing, and hope that anyone who would like to switch to gender-neutral housing feels comfortable coming forward.

Because this change was implemented to make students feel more safe and secure in who they are, Carey made it clear that there will be zero tolerance for any sort of bullying around the new change.

“There are always going to be problems with any sort of change. Of course, we’re hoping that doesn’t happen. There are going to be strict rules when it comes to privacy with the new bathrooms. People need to know that it will not be taken lightly if they misuse them,” Carey said.

Churchill has been on board from the start, but mentioned that the students are really what pushed residence life over the edge.

“Students have more power than they think. Once we had some students pushing for this, it moved along very quickly. Students’ opinions matter,” Churchill said.

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