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UCLA Housing, ORL looking into possible gender-inclusive housing option

Second-year student Patrick Malkoun requested to room on the Hill with his female friend. His request was denied.

By Kate Parkinson-Morgan

Oct. 10, 2011 1:32 a.m.

Patrick Malkoun wanted to share a dorm room with a girl.

His roommate was evicted just one week into fall quarter and most of his friends already lived off campus. He had to find someone else to live with him. Fast.

So Malkoun, a second-year economics student, asked his good friend, a first-year Design | Media Arts student, to room with him. She also happened to be a female, and both identify as gay.

She accepted, and they submitted their request to Housing Services on Monday of second week.

But Housing Services rejected their request a few days later, citing its current gender-specific policy that allows only people of the same gender to live together.

That policy may soon change, however. Housing Services and the Office of Residential Life are working to establish a gender-inclusive housing option, said Suzanne Seplow, director of the Office of Residential Life.

Seplow said they expect to implement the changes by the next academic year.

Last year, the Undergraduate Students Association Council presented a proposal to the On Campus Housing Council asking them to change the current policy to allow gender-inclusive housing. OCHC expressed their support and advised Housing Services to look into the possibility.

This year, Housing Services approved one room as a pilot for gender-inclusive living spaces. There are no concerns with the situation so far, Seplow said.

Seplow said Housing Services and the Office of Residential Life were happy to respond to calls for gender-inclusive housing. The only reason it was not already an option was because past requests for alternative housing arrangements had been successfully solved on a case-by-case basis, she added.

Out of the handful of requests ORL receives, most are from transgender students asking to live with a student of the gender to which they are transitioning, Seplow said.

Cases like Malkoun’s, however, are far less common. Unlike students at UC Berkeley and other universities, UCLA students have not expressed a long-standing demand for institutionalized gender inclusivity, she said.

But Malkoun and his friend said they believe the decision of whether or not to offer gender-inclusive housing options should not depend of the level of demand. Demand itself is affected by the lack of a gender-inclusive option, said Malkoun’s friend, who asked to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

“It’s the fact that we have to ask for it that turns off many students,” she said.

Housing Services is now looking at other universities offering gender-inclusive housing, such as UC Berkeley and Stanford University, as models.

Possible set-ups include a system similar to the current “theme” housing communities, where students with particular interests live on the same floor. Seplow said there is some concern as to whether demand is high enough to fill an entire floor, however.

“Living situations are a very personal matter, but the way the housing system is set up right now is very impersonal,” Malkoun’s friend said.

Also on the table is the option of allowing gender-inclusive rooms in all living spaces. But the logistics of sharing suite bathrooms presents problems, Seplow said.

In the meantime, Malkoun has found a new roommate to live with him. He said he has no problem living with another male, but he said he still hopes to see a new system in place.

Seplow said Housing encourages student input to further their efforts toward this end.

“It’s just a matter of making sure the transition is successful for the entire community,” she said.

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Kate Parkinson-Morgan
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