Low enrollment for UNC pilot housing program

Feb. 22, 2013 @ 04:47 PM

Only five students at UNC have signed up for a pilot program to live in 32 spaces set aside for gender non-specific housing next fall.

The deadline for returning students to turn in housing applications was Feb. 15.

The university will use the pilot program to gauge demand for gender non-specific housing, which allows same-sex students at UNC to share suites and apartments.

The gender non-specific housing option at the university does not allow same-sex students to share a room as is the case at some universities that offer the residential option.

Rick Bradley, assistant director of Housing and Residential Education, said university research found that enrollment in gender non-specific housing programs on campuses across the country is generally low initially.

“Over the years, it can build and grow in number,” Bradley said. “Most places start out in numbers small like we are.”

Bradley also said UNC’s incoming freshman class is likely to produce some students interested in living in gender non-specific housing.

Their housing applications are due May 1.

 “We haven’t received requests from our first-year students because they’re just now being admitted,” Bradley said.

He said the program will be assessed in spring 2014 by administrators and students to determine whether it has worked as intended.

“If it has, it’ll at least go into a second year,” Bradley said.

The UNC Board of Trustees endorsed a gender non-specific option for students at its November meeting.

“Gender-neutral housing is an important project that is vital to protecting the safety of our students,” Chancellor Holden Thorp told the board during that meeting. “Last year, I told students I supported the idea, but wanted to make sure external stakeholders understood what it means.”

Supporters told the board that gender non-specific housing creates a more welcoming environment for lesbian, gay, transgender, intersex and/or gender non-conforming individuals.

In addition, they say such housing promotes safety, noting that LGBTQ students are more likely to experience harassment and fear for their well-being than heterosexual students.

Under the pilot program, the university will make a maximum of 32 living spaces available for gender non-specific housing.

Four apartments with 16 spaces are at Ram Village, eight spaces or one suite at Carmichael Residence Hall and eight spaces, the equivalent of two suites, at Craige North Residence Hall. 

Currently, there are about 66 private universities and 32 public schools, including eight of UNC’s peers, that allow some form of gender non-specific housing.
In North Carolina, Duke University and Guilford and Warren Wilson colleges offer gender non-specific housing.