College sophomore Rachel Glade finds living with boys fun and practical, especially when it comes to taking out the trash and catching pests.
Glade, who lives in a gender-neutral suite in DuBois College House, is glad she made the decision to do so, adding that the dynamic between the boys and girls “makes it more fun.”
Glade is not alone. Increasing numbers of students each year are opting to live in gender-neutral suites in the college houses.
The idea began in 2003, and the University officially began to offer the option to upperclassmen in the 2005-2006 academic year. It was the first of any Ivy League school to do so.
Last summer, the University also established itself as the first Ivy League school to offer gender-neutral housing to incoming freshman. The Class of 2016 is the first class to be able to apply for this type of living arrangement.
The number of Penn students adopting this option has been steadily increasing since its inception. Housing Services projects around 281 students will live gender neutral in the coming academic year. This number excludes incoming freshmen and transfers, who have not yet applied for housing.
The first year it was implemented in 2005, 84 students were assigned to co-ed rooms. This academic year, there are 195 students, up from 125 the year before.
Gender-neutral housing has no preset number of available rooms. All buildings and rooms offer the option.
Wharton sophomore Matt Gould, who lives with Glade, agrees that the living arrangement has worked out well.
“It’s a pretty good balance,” he said. “When it’s just guys it gets kind of bro-y.”
Other students have just applied for gender-neutral housing during this month’s housing application process.
College freshman Hector Kilgoe is happy he has the opportunity to do so.
“I’m just glad that it’s an option that if you have female friends and you’re a male and you want to live with them, you aren’t restricted,” he said.
Similarly, College freshman Melanie White is planning to live with a male friend next year.
She added, “Living off campus is complicated, on campus was more convenient.”
College sophomore Mauricio Novelo said he considers the gender-neutral option “fantastic.”
“It’s great that Penn can offer [gender-neutral] housing. When you apply, you say you don’t want your gender to be a component of the application, so then you don’t have to worry about gender ideas when applying for housing,” Novelo said.
Penn has received national attention for being a pioneer in gender-neutral housing.
“We got calls from so many student newspapers,” Director of Media Relations Ronald Ozio said. “[Other] schools call us when they’re debating the issue.”
College junior and Lambda Alliance Vice Chair of Political Affairs Jacob Tolan applauded Penn’s efforts in working on progressive issues such as this.
“Gender-neutral housing is very beneficial toward LGBT students,” he said.
“I think it’s really positive in terms of thinking about gender critically in the United States. We aren’t dividing ourselves along these arbitrary lines anymore,” he added.
Establishing gender-neutral housing was “never a big controversial issue here,” Ozio said.
However, the same cannot be said for peer schools. Other Ivies are still developing their gender-neutral options.
Yale University’s College Council — the student council body — is currently pushing to further develop the University’s gender-neutral housing.
The option has been available for seniors since 2010-2011, and the YCC also recently led an imitative which expanded the option to juniors. Sophomores and freshmen are not currently offered the option.
A survey undertaken by the YCC showed that 92.7 percent of students were supportive or indifferent of gender-neutral housing and that 67.1 percent would consider living in a gender-neutral suite, according to The Yale Daily News.
Cornell University abolished their gender-neutral housing option on March 8 due to low demand, after a three-year pilot program involving 100 gender neutral suites, The Cornell Daily Sun reported.
Cornell freshman Carolyn Krupski, who reported on the topic for The Sun, said she was told that more conflicts occurred in gender-neutral residences than same-sex groups.
She went on to explain that the pilot program wasn’t well publicized, which may have contributed to the lack of demand. The Transgender Advocacy Committee will continue to reevaluate the option for a possible return in the future.
Princeton University, after a two-year pilot program that included nine gender-neutral units available to upperclassmen, is making the option permanent this year.
Similarly, Columbia University recently expanded its 2010 pilot program to include all upperclassmen. Brown University is also working to extend its gender-neutral housing option to freshmen for next year.
This article has been updated from a prior version to reflect that gender neutral housing is available for Yale seniors and juniors, not just seniors.
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