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Leaders at George Mason University are about to create new gender-neutral student housing, a policy that would allow all kinds of students to live together — male, female and students who don't identify with either gender.
At Whitetop Residence Hall on the campus of George Mason University, some of the floors are assigned to male, and others to female residents — for now. But starting this fall, students will be able to apply for gender-neutral housing. If the university grants the applications, males will be able to live with females as well as people like graduate student LuLu Geza, who identifies as gender queer.
"If we're able to be as comfortable as we want to be on campus in our living spaces, we are going to do better academically," she says.
University officials say they are making the change for a number of reasons. Aside from students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, another group who could benefit are students with disabilities. Senior Gopi Raghu says many students might have difficulty living with restrictive rules assigning which genders are acceptable for roommates and which ones aren't.
"If their assistants were opposite gender then they would be able to live with them and assist them, because everyday tasks are hard," he says.
Many colleges and universities across the country are easing restrictions on the gender identity at residence halls, although George Mason is the first university in Virginia.
"We don't recommend that anybody in our housing live together based on a romantic relationship. That can be a recipe for trouble," says Jana Hurley, George Mason's assistant vice president of university life.
But she's quick to add that university officials will not be asking about the motives of why the students want to live together when they conduct interviews.
"We're not trying to create exceptions or evaluate people's reasons, we are just simply encouraging them to make sure that their reasons are in alignment with their academic success. So we are not asking them those questions," she says.
The new policy will not apply to freshman dorms, which have communal restrooms. So far about 150 of the 4,000 upper-class students who live on campus have applied for gender-neutral housing.
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