Students rally for gender-neutral housing on campus

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NORMAN, Okla. — The issue of young men and women living together in campus housing is a complicated one. We’re not talking about in the same dorm building, rather the same dorm room.
Some OU students spent part of Wednesday afternoon rallying for just such changes in the rules.

The request comes from several student groups including Students for a Democratic Society, and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Friends.

Supporters say some gay students want to avoid the harassment that can come with a roommate who doesn’t share their same views.

In the South Oval on campus, one young man shouted with the help of a bull horn, “It’s a policy of simply creating a space where people can feel safe to be themselves.”

The rally was a chance for the group to be seen; showing OU administration the issue has student support.

The goal is to get a space in campus housing designated “gender neutral.”

OU student Grant Delozier says, “A gay guy would be able to live in the same room as a straight girl. This is currently prohibited by university policy. It would be an option for students. No one would be forced into it, just those who would be more comfortable with that option.”

The way it’s proposed now, students could opt in by asking for the gender neutral floor or suite on their housing application.

All other dorm floors would stay just as they are now.

It’s a way, some say, to avoid bullying that can lead to suicides.

Delozier says, “For over three years different groups at the university have been pushing for reform and basically that’s fallen on deaf ears from the administration.”

Wednesday was different.

OU President David Boren surprised the crowd by showing up at the rally and listening.

He told the students, “I’m going to do what I think is right. And I’m going to do what I think is fair. And I’m going to do what I think would also reflect my very strongly held personal view of respect for all people; that every single student here matters. I’m very glad you are in our family and I appreciate you and I don’t take this matter lightly.”

After that, the students skipped the sit-in they had planned.

After all, they got the audience they wanted.

Instead, the crowd walked President Boren back to his office chanting, “Safe housing for all, gender neutral this fall!”

As for their reaction to President Boren’s appearance at the rally and his statement about the issue, OU student Elizabeth Rucker told us, “I was very surprised. I think it was directly designed to head of the sit in we had planned. He’s a very astute politician and he knew the image of students occupying Evans Hall would probably look bad. But I do appreciate him coming out and speaking so thoughtfully.”

So far supporters of the change have collected about 400 signatures on a petition asking for more choices when it comes to student housing, especially for freshman who are required to live on campus.