Fairfield University has officially offered gender-inclusive housing since 2017. However, while information about this option can be found on the Office of Residence Life website or in the Housing Lottery booklet, it has not been the easiest for students to navigate.
Meredith Smith, the associate dean and director of living and learning in the Office of Residence Life, is one of the faculty members looking to make gender inclusive housing easier to access and more visible on campus.
Smith described how Fairfield University was the second Jesuit institution to offer gender inclusive housing, but feels that the university could do a better job of implementing it.
According to Title IX Coordinator Megan Monahan, Fairfield University’s gender-inclusive housing is currently in compliance with the set guidelines, but that is not meant to be a stopping point for the University.
“Monahan has given us some great advice on what a gold standard institution should look like in terms of gender inclusive housing,” Smith said, referring to past conversations between the Office of Residence Life and Monahan.
One of the ways in which the office has worked to make the option more visible is to include the question “Are you interested in gender inclusive housing?” on all housing applications moving forward.
The Office of Residence Life is also looking to designate an entire floor in a residential hall for students who would like to take part in gender inclusive housing.
“We are looking to set aside a floor in McCormick next year for the first-year and sophomore community,” Smith said.
She outlined how this community would include all who have chosen to opt-in to a gender inclusive living environment, as well as students who would feel the safest in this type of community.
As the University continues to renovate residential halls, Smith describes the importance of ensuring that each building has spaces that all students feel comfortable utilizing.
The recent renovation of Campion Hall included a gender inclusive bathroom on every floor.
While a floor will be set aside for a first-year and sophomore gender inclusive community, Smith noted how these communities are easier to set up in apartment-style housing options and townhouses.
“In these buildings, you pick who you’re living with,” Smith said. “And you’re in a stand-alone unit with its own facilities.”
To ensure that gender inclusive housing is accessible at all levels, mild changes also have to be made to the backend of the Housing Lottery. Smith described how the lottery is currently set up in a gendered way, and wants to make it easier for students to find all the options.
“In the past, students have been able to enter the lottery as a gender-inclusive group, which is a good first step,” Smith said.
Smith also emphasized that increasing gender-inclusive housing across the campus is a work in progress.
She encouraged students to reach out to the Office of Residence Life with any feedback they have. Students can reach out to the Office of Residence Life by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting their office located in the Lower Level of the Barone Campus Center.
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