At last Thursday’s town hall event, President Julio Frenk announced the university’s first pilot program for gender-neutral housing on campus. Though the plan is still nebulous at this stage, it shows that the tides are turning for the LGBT community at the University of Miami.
Two years ago, UM’s poor performance in the national Campus Pride Index, a rating system that evaluates LGBT friendliness on college campuses, served as a wake-up call for the school’s student life administration. One of the biggest weaknesses in UM’s rating was in housing and residential life.
Now, after groundwork has been laid out by UM’s LGBT task force, UM is finally taking a step to catch up with the 197 other campuses around the country, including four other campuses in Florida. This progress has been a long time coming, especially considering the metropolitan locale of this university and the apparent value this school places on diversity. By taking concrete action to provide comfort for students with LGBT identities, the university is showing that it does, in fact, care about students who have different needs.
Other top universities, such as Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University and New York University, have made a point to make residences inclusive and safe. NYU’s Gender Inclusivity webpage explains it this way: “The term co-ed operates on the assumption that there are two genders: male and female. It leaves … no room for those who do not identify as their biological sex or those who are transgender. Allowing for gender-neutral housing, as opposed to co-ed, shows more inclusiveness and room for diverse identities.”
Simply put, the new gender-neutral housing options that will be offered in some areas of Eaton and the University Village offer more choices. As legal adults who pay tuition to attend and reside in this university, why shouldn’t students be able to make this decision for themselves?
Whether or not students are advocates for LGBT rights, this update in university policy can only benefit the students who need it without causing any real harm to students who elect for traditional housing.
That’s not to say that the implementation of this policy will be easy; there are still many details that have not yet been spelled out, such as whether the university will reserve gender-neutral housing options for students who identify as LGBT and whether freshmen will be eligible to apply for gender-neutral housing.
This pilot program will need to be developed and expanded quickly if UM wants to bring themselves to par with more welcoming campuses around the country.
Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.