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Soon to review a controversial Undergraduate Assembly proposal on coeducational housing, University officials remain tight-lipped on whether current housing policies are discriminatory or likely to change.

The UA proposal -- passed 23-2 with one abstention on Sunday night -- supports the option of on-campus, coeducational housing for groups of three or more students. The proposal was drafted with an eye toward gay or transgender students who may not feel comfortable in single-sex housing.

A similar policy is already in place at a handful of other schools, including Brown University, Wesleyan University and Swarthmore College.

Faculty director of Penn's College House System Phil Nichols and Business Services spokeswoman Marie Witt declined to comment on the UA proposal. Wendy White, the University's general counsel, could not be reached for comment.

Calling the housing proposal an "institutional" concern, Director of Housing and Conference Services Doug Berger said that the UA initiative would have to undergo University-wide review.

"We're going to have to wait and see what happens with the review of the proposal," he said.

The University Council's pluralism committee -- which was already discussing the issue of coeducational housing prior to the UA action -- will consider the UA proposal in upcoming weeks, according to Dennis Culhane, the committee chairman.

Part of this review process will address whether current housing policies are discriminatory.

"Whether or not there are discrimination issues here needs to be evaluated," Executive Director for the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs Jeanne Arnold said, adding that concerns about discrimination in the current housing policy had previously come to the attention of her office earlier this year.

Calling the possibility of discrimination within current policy "more of a personal opinion" than a discernable fact, Berger said that the status quo housing arrangements have not been problematic.

While Berger says he understands the arguments for coeducational housing, he maintains that at Penn, the current system has worked well.

Yet, community opinion may be open to interpretation and will be further analyzed in upcoming reviews.

"I really support the dialogue that has just started now," Arnold said. "I also think parent views and trustee views will need to be part of this review."

Although the process of review is only beginning, some have already embraced the need for coeducational housing.

"A housing policy that allows students to live with others whom they choose, regardless of gender, gender identity or sexual orientation seems to benefit all and, at the same time, being optional, does not force anyone to live with others with whom they are uncomfortable," Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center Director Bob Schoenberg wrote in an e-mail statement. "As such, it seems to me to be a win-win situation."

Officials at schools with a coeducational housing option already in place said that the policy has been favorably received.

"In general, people have been pretty happy; students like it," Brown University Housing Officer Chad Mank said, noting that the Brown policy was originally put into place several years ago because of general requests and as part of "a push for comfort with transgender issues."

Currently around 315 spots are available on campus for coeducational housing at Brown and can be requested in the University's general housing lottery, according to Mank.

Swarthmore College has had a coeducational housing option -- which has been operating "smoothly," according to a press release -- in place since 2001.

According to the press release, Swarthmore continues "to receive requests for information about [its] policies and procedures from many colleges and universities around the country, so interest remains strong about this option."

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