Upper Class Student Policy
Gender-Neutral Housing: An IntroductionAt 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 your overall academic and social success. As an integral part of the out-of-classroom experience, you should expect an inclusive living environment to fully support you in reaping the benefits from all that Dickinson has to offer.
During the housing selection process for the 2013-2014 academic year, an explicit gender-neutral housing option was implemented to continue the college’s commitment toward an inclusive living and learning environment.
What exactly is gender-neutral housing?
Gender-neutral housing is residential space in which roommates of any combination of biological sexes, gender-identities or gender expressions choose to live together. This includes the 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 allows two or more students to share a multiple-occupancy bedroom, suite, or apartment regardless of students’ sex or gender. Gender-neutral housing is not intended for romantic couples. Rather, it provides options 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. Gender-neutral housing intends to help create a campus climate that is welcoming, inclusive and supportive of all students.
What about the bathrooms? Are they 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.
With the exception of the following facilities that house upper-class students, a gender-neutral bathroom facility is available in each residential unit.:
- Kisner-Woodward (KW)
- Reed House
- Todd House
How do I select gender-neutral housing?
The information below reviews Dickinson’s approach to gender-neutral housing for upper-class students. Incoming first-year and transfer students will receive housing selection information that will detail the way that they may request gender-neutral housing. Interested first-year and transfer students will have a conversation with a professional staff member so that the college can provide housing that best meets the needs of the student.
If you are a rising sophomore, junior or senior:
1. To live with a roommate of any sex or gender you will simply select to do so online through the MyHousing system and as a part of the roommate preferencing process.
2. You must apply with your prospective roommate(s) following the same processes and deadlines of all students entering the housing selection process.
3. Students will not be assigned to gender-neutral housing unless they have elected to do so.
4. This housing option is intended for students who wish to share a room, suite or apartment with friends regardless of gender identity. As with any housing option, it is not recommended or encouraged that any couple, heterosexual or LGBTQQI live together. The majority of upper-class gender-neutral room assignments are friends with similar living habits, regardless of gender.
5. We encourage students to maintain an open dialogue with their families. Students 18 and older are legally able to make decisions about their housing placements.
6. The gender-neutral housing option is available in all residential facilities. This avoids segregation and offers students gender-neutral housing within all housing styles and at the various housing price points. The default designation for a room, apartment or suite will be single-sex unless the students selecting into the space choose to create a gender-neutral pair/group. Once a room, apartment or suite is gender-neutral, that space will continue to be gender-neutral as long as the residents can maintain the occupancy of the living space.
How will vacancies be managed?
When there is a vacancy in a stand-alone gender-neutral double, the student remaining in the room may elect to pull in any new roommate. Both students must agree to live together. If a roommate can not be identified, the room will default back to single-sex status. In this case, the Office of Residential Life and Housing may place a student of the same sex in the room.
When there is vacancy in a gender-neutral triple, apartment or suite, the residents may elect to pull in any roommate(s). If the residents in a triple, apartment or suite cannot fill the vacancies, the Office of Residential Life and Housing will first attempt to place students in the apartment or suite who are interested in living in a gender-neutral space. If the Office of Residential Life and Housing needs to maximize use of all available spaces on campus and if the above is not possible, then the Office of Residential Life and Housing staff will work closely with the student group to determine next steps.
Is this a change in policy?
Mixed-gender housing options have been available at Dickinson for many years. Gender-neutral housing is a more explicit and campus wide housing option, officially implemented during fall of 2013. As with all policies, gender-neutral housing will be continuously reviewed and improved to most effectively meet student needs.
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 are the differences between co-ed /mixed-gender and gender-neutral housing?
The terms co-ed /mixed-gender operate on the assumption that there are two genders: male and female. It leaves no room for those who do not identify as their biological sex or those who are transgender or gender non-conforming. This idea is based on the notion that there are more than two genders, in fact an infinite amount. Allowing for gender-neutral housing, as opposed to co-ed /mixed-gender, shows more inclusiveness and room for diverse identities.
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's established room change process 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 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.