First Year Student Policy

Gender Neutral Housing: An Introduction

At Dickinson, we hold diversity and inclusion as a central tenet because it is an essential foundation for learning and excellence in a global society. The residential experience represents an important foundation for students overall academic and social success. As an integral part of the out-of-classroom experience, students living in college residences can expect an inclusive living environment to fully benefit from the Dickinson experience.

What exactly is gender-neutral housing?

Gender-neutral housing is a residential space in which roommates of any combination of biological sexes, gender identities or gender expressions choose to live together. This includes small houses, apartments, suites and traditional rooms that comprise our current residential facilities.

Why does Dickinson College offer a gender-neutral housing option?

There are some students for whom traditional, same-sex room assignments are not ideal or appropriate, and we believe it is important that housing policies evolve to meet the needs of all students to create an inclusive, welcoming environment. This policy helps create an environment that acknowledges, appreciates and respects the diverse nature of the Dickinson student body, while giving students more options in finding a roommate who is truly compatible.

While this housing option has been available for upper-level students, this new policy provides the opportunity for first-year students to share a multiple-occupancy bedroom regardless of students’ sex or gender. This option may be meaningful for a variety of students: those who feel uncomfortable rooming with members of the same sex, transgender students in the process of discovering their gender identity, students who feel they would be more compatible with a roommate of a different sex or gender, and students who do not want sex or gender to be a primary factor in choosing a roommate.

How do I select gender-neutral housing?

First-year students who feel that gender-neutral housing will be the best option for them will signal this request on the housing preference form that goes out in May as part of the housing selection process.

Students who indicate a preference for this option will be contacted by a professional staff member for a conversation that will help us provide housing that best meets a student’s individual needs.

Are bathrooms gender-neutral as well?

Generally, there are two types of bathrooms within residential facilities: single person and group bathrooms. All single person bathrooms (one toilet, one sink and one shower) are gender-neutral (anyone can use the bathroom).

Group bathrooms are those with multiple toilets, sinks and showers. These bathrooms are designated at the beginning of the year as male or female, but residents are given the opportunity to review and determine the final designation of these bathrooms.

Based on the conversation with a staff member, students will be assigned to a housing facility that will best meet their needs regarding housing and bathrooms.

How will vacancies be managed?

When there is a vacancy in a stand-alone gender-neutral double room, the student remaining in the room may elect to pull in any new roommate. Both students must agree to live together. If a roommate cannot be identified, the room will default back to single-sex status. In this case, the Office of Campus Life may place a student of the same sex in the room.

Can students be randomly assigned to a roommate of the opposite sex?

No. Students who wish to take advantage of the new policy must enter into any roommate arrangement as willing partners.

What if a student chooses to live with someone in a gender-neutral arrangement and becomes uncomfortable with the situation?

As with any roommate or housing issue, the college has an established room-change process, the outcome of which may allow for re-assignment in any living situation where there is a problem that cannot be resolved.

What if my parents don't want me to live in a gender-neutral housing space? Will they be notified if I select this option?

Students 18 years of age and older may make decisions about their housing assignment without parental consent. We encourage students to maintain an open dialogue with their families so that they can be supportive of a student's housing decision. For adult students, it is the student’s choice whether or not to tell their parents or guardians. Students under 18 should discuss housing plans with their families, as they must provide parental consent for a gender-neutral option.

What other institutions offer a gender-neutral housing option?

Dickinson is proud to join a community of more than 100 colleges and universities who offer some form of gender-neutral housing. Polices that resemble ours include American, Colby, Connecticut, Gettysburg, Hamilton, Oberlin, Princeton, Skidmore, University of Pennsylvania, Vassar and Wesleyan. There are also variations of these policies across institutions. To learn more about other institutions offering gender-neutral housing, please click here.

What if I want to learn more about gender identity and expression?

If you have questions regarding gender-identity, gender-expression, gender non-conforming or transgender student support, feel free to contact the Office of LGBTQ Services at LGBTQ@dickinson.edu.

The Office of LGBTQ Services offers education, outreach, advocacy and support to the Dickinson LGBTQQIA community. Please visit the Office of LGBTQ Services’ Web site for more information at dickinson.edu/LGBTQ.

For the purpose of gender-neutral housing, the following definitions may be helpful:

Gender non-conforming: individuals whose gender expression is different from societal expectations related to gender.

Gender expression: the external manifestation of one's gender identity, usually expressed through "masculine", "feminine" or gender non-conforming behavior, clothing, haircut, voice or body characteristics.

Transgender: people whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth, including but not limited to transsexuals, cross-dressers, androgynous people, genderqueers and gender non-conforming people.

Definition Source: National Center for Transgender Equality; Mara Keisling, Executive Director, http://transequality.org.