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Residential Council Minutes :: October 26, 2004

Attendance:

Members present: Ted Brown, Adam Deitch, Justin Glavis-Bloom, Christopher Guhin, Brendan Hargreaves, Holly Jackson, Tal Itzkovich, Katherine Lamm, Rachel Lauter, Olanma Okoji, David Pacheco, Elie Rosen, Michael Rozensher, Vijaya Thomas

Members absent: Mirza Arefin

Additionally, Associate Director of Residential Life Thomas Forsberg was present.

Committee Reports:

Program House Chair Chris Guhin reported that Delta Tao will be present at the next meeting of ResCouncil. They have had insufficient members for some time. A reminder: Fall review is scheduled for Wednesday, November 3rd from 5-8:30 PM in South Wayland Lounge.

Lottery Chair Brendan Hargreaves had nothing to report.

Policy Committee member Rachel Lauter reported that she met with Brown’s Rental Properties Office and that a private proposal has already been accepted to renovate Brown-owned off-campus housing, but not to use it for dorm space. There are 17 Brown-owned properties. There is no proposal to build dorm space for the next five years, and additional dorm construction is unlikely anytime in the near future.

Following committee reports, ResCouncil received a guest presentation on the issue of gender neutral housing, co-ed housing and transgender housing from two Brown students, who discussed with the committee the following:
• Background
o Last year ResCouncil proposed the creation of a gender neutral housing option for first years, which was picked up by the New York Times Magazine.
o As a result of administrative pressure, the proposal was dropped and the result of ResCouncil’s efforts was the vague question that appeared in the first year survey.
• Discussion of the argument “anyone should be able to live with anyone else”
o There would be resistance to the policy by the administration, parents and alums.
o Support for the argument comes partially from the fact that sophomores are not allowed to live off-campus.
• Gender Neutral vs. Transgender Housing
o Last year efforts were made to have gender neutral housing for whatever reason for first years, be that reason transgender, sexuality, political or otherwise.
o Residential Life isn’t clear about whether a “transhousing” option even exits, pointing to a broader need for information to be clearly presented to the Brown Community.
o There is a lack of gender neutral bathrooms in dorms like Keeney and all across campus.
o If the “single use lockable bathroom” policy was revisited, it would be possible to open up suites, especially in Grad Center, to more possibilities.
o For first year housing, there needs to be an option and that option needs to be publicized.
• Wesleyan and Swarthmore have gender neutral housing.
• Ideology
o There is a growing awareness of gendered language in Residential Life, but current housing is homophobic and heteronormative.
• Q & A
o Sarah and Tom have a plan, which is included at the end of these notes, that focuses first on:
? The bathroom issue
? The first year questionnaire
? The lack of available information regarding options
And second on:
? “Transhousing” for upper classmen
? Possibility of having a form used to ensure students have thought about gender neutral housing before entering it
o Increased co-ed suites does not solve the ideological issue, but would probably be good
o Gender neutral bathrooms need to be installed on campus
o Residential Life treats a student’s voicing, “I’m don’t feel safe with my roommate.” the same as it treats the complaint, “My roommate listens to loud music.”
o Emery-Woolley, Morris-Champlin, Barbour Hall apartments and the New Pembrokes all have single use lockable bathrooms

A plan for addressing housing concerns at Brown:

I. Change the single locking unit bathroom policy
a) Make it possible to have gender-neutral buildings in more of the public buildings on campus.
b) Make more suites with singles available for gender blind groupings.


II. Trans inclusive first-year housing
a) Accessibility to Trans housing option:

We received the following write up outlining “Housing for Transgender Students,” with the understanding that this text was destined for the website:

These requests are from students who identify as transgender and prefer that their housing requests take into account their gender identity and gender expression. These rooms are assigned throughout a first year residence gall. Residential staff receives education and training around gender identity and gender expressions issues. Upper-class student also request this housing alternative when they believe it meets their needs.

While this is a good start, we suggest the following alterations to make such housing accessible:

1. The housing option must to be publicized. In addition to posting this information on the web, ResLife must explicitly write and/or refer to this option in the housing form sent home to incoming first years. Ideally, it will be an option to be checked off, and/or confirmed by telephone.
2. This option must be available to all students whether or not they currently have a trans self-identity.
3. An education/training program must be developed for the residential staff.


III. Gender Blind Double selection for returning students
a) Gender-Blind Housing Option:
1. By eradicating gendered language from the housing guidelines, the University would allow any two individuals to select each other as roommate. In order to facilitate appropriate decision-making, we call on the school to create a mechanism through which pairs of students can select this option on an individual basis.
This may work as follows: Before the lottery a pair of people who have different legally assigned genders may fill out a form that outlines their living proposal, touching on such matters as why this is an important choice for them to make, how it will ameliorate their living situation, how they see this working out during the upcoming year, as well as any other specification the University deems important to cover.

 

Submitted by Justin Glavis-Bloom, Residential Council Secretary 2004-2005