A portion of Lake Claire may become gender-inclusive by fall 2017, according to UCF Housing and Residence Life.
For the last four years, UCF has been asking students whether or not their gender identity differs from their assigned sex during the housing application process, said Meredith Varner, associate director at UCF Housing and Residence Life. She said that this gender-inclusive initiative is in response to requests from students for more appropriate housing options.
“Typically, when people use the phrases [gender neutral and gender inclusive] they mean the same thing,” Varner said. “Gender-neutral housing, that term is falling out of favor from what I’ve understood from recent developments. People who identify as transgender, gender queer or gender fluid don’t want to be thought of as gender neutral — it’s a little insulting.”
Once students fill out the housing information and make note that their gender identity does not match their assigned gender, Housing and Residence Life works with students to find an appropriate placement for them, taking into account potential solutions such as single rooms and placement with other LGBTQ+ students.
“We don’t have, right now this year, what you would consider gender-inclusive housing as an open option, but there is a committee in place to pilot something starting fall 2017 that would be able to [offer that],” Varner said. “It would be a social justice living learning community that would have a gender-inclusive housing component to it.”
A living learning community, also known as an LLC, is a “group of students placed together on a floor or within a building based on a common major, common interest or common program affiliation,” according to the Housing and Residence Life website.
The committee is being headed by Jillian Sturdivant, assistant director at Housing and Residence Life, along with other staff from the department and the university’s Social Justice and Advocacy Office.
The committee dedicated to bringing gender-inclusive housing to UCF started on June 28.
“Currently, we are working on creating a three-year plan for the initiative,” Sturdivant said. “Our vision is to incorporate social justice components with this community and have it open to all upperclassmen students.”
The committee still needs to decide who can be involved, how they will advertise the housing, what students will be targeted and what’s required of residents, Varner said, and it’s possible students living in the community for the first time might be required to attend a class in order to be eligible to live there. Varner said the current plan is to target returning students, and once the plans for the community are more concrete, the committee will start a sign-up process for potential residents.
The committee is aiming to fill a single building, which typically fits 45 students, for the initial pilot this fall, Varner said. She added that the number of buildings will depend on the number of students interested in participating in the LLC as it is an opt-in option.
Varner said that there doesn’t seem to be any costs for the university associated with creating the housing option as of yet. She said that the marketing and applications will be rolled into the budget already used for special groups, such as LEAD Scholars, honors students and other different LLCs provided to first-time students. As of now, the efforts will be focused on the main campus and no satellite campuses.
“There’s definitely a movement to make sure with the downtown housing and campus itself that restrooms are inclusive and other spaces are inclusive to make sure that all students feel welcome, but that’s all still in the development stages,” Varner said. “Our department will work closely with the developer of the housing to make sure those are up to current standards in terms of [being] gender-inclusive.”
In a Student Government Association Senate meeting held in late May, newly elected SGA President Christopher Clemente announced that new restrooms nonrestrictive to one’s gender will soon be installed in the Student Union.
The restrooms are slated to begin construction within the next year and will be located directly across the hallway from the restrooms currently located in front of the Pegasus Ballroom.
Rick Falco, director of the Student Union, emphasized that they will be termed “all-gender” restrooms as opposed to gender-neutral restrooms. Currently, there are 17 gender-neutral restrooms on campus.
Students at UCF seem to have a positive opinion regarding the housing option.
Dior King, a junior physics major at UCF, said he loves the idea of a gender-inclusive housing option but there could be negatives if residents are partnered together based on just their gender identity and not their interests. He also said he would not support the housing option if it was mandatory.
Sturvidant said she doesn’t see a negative coming from this initiative at all.
“I do not believe there are any cons to this housing options,” Sturdivant said. “The pros is creating a safer, inclusive environment for all students. As human beings, we are apart of many communities due to the intersectionality of our identities. We cannot turn off our identities and we should not have to. Having a gender-inclusive space is recognizing the identities that our students are a part of.”
For more information on LGBTQ+ resources and initiatives, contact the Social Justice and Advocacy Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-823-0401.
Alissa Smith is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @thealissasmith or email her at AlissaS@centralfloridafuture.com.