Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Students Propose Gender Inclusive Housing Policy

“There is this whole extra obstacle that comes with being trans when you come to Seattle University. Trans students don’t get to have that Seattle University experience because they don’t have a safe and supportive place to live,” third year Ann Marie Zocchi said about the absence of Gender Inclusive Housing.

Zocchi serves as one of the representatives from Triangle Club on the Gender Inclusive Housing committee. The committee has been working together since Feb. to create a formal proposal to the Cabinet about Gender Inclusive Housing. They made their proposal on May 22.

Associate Director of Housing Tim Albert explained that the current process for trans and non-binary students to go through for a room request abides by a “gatekeeper” model.

“It was put in place a number of years ago where a student has to come and divulge their status,” Albert said. “Even though it was designed with the idea we are going to help individual students, it’s become a barrier. It not serving our students and may be causing unintentional harm.”

Chris McCarty, assistant director of housing, said that the system is not scalable and they do not have enough staff to continue that model.

“We need to create a better system that’s not focused on these individual conversations,” McCarty said. “[We should] still offer that as a part of care because it speaks to our Jesuit identity of making sure we’re listening to the person and that we really care for what their needs are.”

Seeing the issues with the “gatekeeper” model as well as the need for greater inclusion in housing, Residence Hall Association (RHA) created an advocacy group two years ago that focused on Gender Inclusive Housing. This year, the group expanded to include members from Triangle Club, Gender Justice Center and Queer Trans People of Color (QTPOC).

One of the RHA representatives on the committee, Karina Cole, said they began their efforts this school year by first getting opinions from students about what they want within Gender Inclusive Housing.

“We had a forum discussing what other schools are doing and held a discussion about the difficulties students are having and why there needs to be a change,” she said. “Then we made a survey [to see] if people think housing affirms their identities and if they feel safe.”

Maya Jamaleddine, a representative on the committee from Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC), said 101 students responded to the survey they published in Winter quarter.

“On a scale of 1-5, with five being completely affirmed and one not affirmed at all, students who identified as transgender and gender fluid had a median affirmation of 2.29,” Jamaleddine said. “So they don’t feel like the university affirms their gender at all which is heartbreaking.”

The survey also asked students if they felt safe in their residence halls. For those who identified as transgender and gender fluid, they said on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being safe and 1 not safe at all, their safety on average was 2.43.

Jamaleddine said implementing Gender Inclusive Housing would help combat this lack of safety trans and non-binary students currently experience.

“Gender inclusive housing is one of the safest options for people who identify as cisgender and not cisgender,” Jamaleddine said. “Students can ensure they’re with someone who is open-minded and accepting of them so they don’t have to be in fear of going to their dorm or apartment.”

Beyond the students who identified as transgender and gender fluid, 72.5 percent of the survey participants agreed with the efforts of the committee in saying they do not want housing to stay the same and would like to see change.

Zocchi said the committee has comprised a three-part proposal, the first piece beginning with Summer in Seattle.

“I’ve worked with the [orientation staff] about their housing portal so students can insert their gender identity and who they’re comfortable living with,” Zocchi said. “We also made sure trans resources are included and deeper questions about gender [are asked] without outing people.”

The second piece is to create training for faculty, resident assistants, desk assistants, housing staff and students who are directly interacting with residents. The third is what needs to be passed by the Cabinet.

“It is changing the housing portal to parallel the housing portal for Summer in Seattle and having guidelines created for students that need assistance in a different housing so there is a consistent action,” Zocchi said.

The committee has been compiling evidence to create a presentation to pass the third part of their proposal. Cole said within their presentation, they address the needed policy changes, mission statements of both housing and residence life and Seattle U and the safety of LGBTQ+ students globally and specifically on Seattle U’s campus.

The Gender Inclusive Housing committee also acknowledged the demands for trans inclusion petition, Washington laws against discrimination and made a case for how the current housing system is a form of discrimination against trans people.

“We talked about living preferences and the number of people who would be interested in living in Gender Inclusive Housing,” Cole said. “We also talked about what accessibility would look like and how other Jesuit schools and schools in competition with [Seattle U] are responding to Gender Inclusive Housing.”

Zocchi noted how meeting with the Cabinet is a defining moment. If their proposed policy does not get approved, the committee will have to restart the process again.

“This meeting with the cabinet is our make or break moment because the cabinet needs to say yes for anything to happen. The overlapping issue is administration not listening to students,” they said. “They can implement as much as they want, but if they don’t implement it correctly then what’s the point?”

Another representative from Triangle Club who is on the committee, Andie Carroll, said that this goes beyond the inclusion of housing, and instead also brings to light the lack of rights for all people and students.

“People see the drag show controversy and see we’re creating a new LGTBQ studies minor, but they don’t see the basic rights of people that are not here yet,” they said. “Trans people needing a place here isn’t new. It’s just [been] brought up to the surface just as our media has brought transgender people to the surface.”

Carroll said the drag show controversy and the creation of the new LGBTQ studies minor has given their community and committee an opportunity to gain support from faculty, staff and students, which has helped the momentum of their policy.

Although it has helped bring attention to the transphobia and homophobia present on campus, Zocchi wants to recognize that the actions of the committee did not just begin in response to the words and actions of Seattle U President Fr. Stephen Sundborg, S.J and Fr. David Leigh, S.J.

“This didn’t all start because Father Steve said something inappropriate.This has been something happening for years,” Zocchi said. “This is something that has been important for a long time but people haven’t been paying attention.”

President of RHA’s executive council Cole Dedmon acknowledged the lack of attention Gender Inclusive Housing has received in previous years. The advocacy group has faced resistance and redirection which has slowed the movement for change; but regardless, the proposal has gained more power through the support of faculty, staff and students so there is no reason for the lack of Gender Inclusive Housing.

“It’s something that exists in colleges all around university world and there is no reason it shouldn’t be on our campus too,” he said. “I’m hopeful it will happen soon.”

Cole believes that furthermore, students should not have to focus on their safety. Although the process has been long, she is hopeful because of the timing of the policy proposal.

“This is a good time for this to happen. We’re submitting this policy at a very unique time and space,” she said. “Father Steve put out an email that wants us to move forward in support of our LGBTQ students and broader LGTBQ community.”

For Carroll, the approval of this policy would not only affect the LGBTQ community, but it would affect all residents who live on campus.

“As someone who is a part of the trans community, I do care about the future of trans students who are going to be at this school,” Carroll said. “I don’t want them to go through any of the stories we’ve heard from people. It’s terrible and [no one] should have to go through that ever again.”

Carroll’s hope for the Gender Inclusive Housing policy is that it first gets approved and second eases the process for trans and non-binary people to live together.

“It is also about having people understand you with the training so that you don’t have to educate people when you’re trying to be helped,” they said. “There are already so many adversities you have to face as a trans person so having to come to your university and advocate for yourself at 18 years old is very difficult.”

Hunter can be reached at
[email protected]

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