The administration will consider a final draft of a proposal to expand gender-neutral housing starting Fall 2013.
Duke Students for Gender Neutrality presented a proposal to the House Model Working Group Feb. 16 that suggests all coed houses on West and Central campuses operate as gender-neutral in the 2013-2014 academic year. DSGN had their most recent meeting with the working group March 15, but there has not yet been a resolution from the working group or administrators.
The proposal alters the gender-neutral definition to allow men and women to be roommates under any living arrangement. Currently, a gender-neutral option is available on Central Campus, but it mandates that such apartments have separate bedrooms for the roommates.
“I cannot tell you if the next phase of implementation is to adopt this proposal or adopt something completely different,” Vice President of Student Affairs Larry Moneta said. “I do not know what the next step will be until we see that report, review it with others and determine what is the next level of gender-neutral housing that we can support.”
A DSGN proposal to expand gender-neutral policies by Fall 2012 was found not to be feasible in late February because of the timeline for housing registration.
DSGN has yet to receive a response from the House Model Working Group about the status of their proposal, though the working group submitted a list of its concerns about the proposal to the administration Monday, said DSGN co-President Jacob Tobia, a sophomore.
Moneta and Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost of undergraduate education, will have the ultimate authority in approving or rejecting the proposal after receiving an evaluation from the House Model Working Group, Moneta said.
Without administrative commitment by the end of the Spring, current students may never have the opportunity for expanded gender-neutral options during their time at Duke, Tobia said.
“We’re really not willing to wait much longer,” Tobia said. “We need to start working on the implementation of it now, not later.”
Tobia also noted that DSGN felt disconnected from the administration throughout this process. Tobia said the group feels it had been misled by administrators in regard to whether the working group or the administration were deciding on the policy, further drawing out the process.
Joe Gonzalez, associate dean of residence life, noted that such a significant change takes time.
“We’re taking due diligence in considering the matter,” Gonzalez said. “It’s incumbent upon us to really review [the proposal] and ask questions in a sort of ongoing manner, and that may mean that it takes longer than other people prefer.”
Moneta added that this change requires careful consideration and involves many concerned parties, so it will probably take a significant amount of time to move the proposal forward.
But DSGN wants more immediate action on the part of the administration, Tobia said. DSGN sent an email March 21 to Gonzalez, Donna Lisker, associate vice provost for undergraduate education and Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek requesting a public commitment to the proposal. DSGN representatives will meet with Moneta and Nowicki Thursday to discuss the proposal.
In a survey sent out by Duke Student Government about the new housing model in December, 79 percent of students polled reported that they would be open to an inclusive gender-neutral housing program.
In the proposal, DSGN notes that several of Duke’s peer institutions have already implemented gender-neutral programs. The University of Pennsylvania offered gender-neutral housing in 2005. Dartmouth College followed in 2007, Stanford University and Brown University in 2008, as well as Columbia University in 2011.
“We are lagging behind our peer institutions, and our student body deserves better,” said senior Esosa Osa, DSG vice president for residential life and dining.
Moneta noted that when compared to most colleges an universities, not just its peers, Duke is not behind the curve.
“We need to do what’s right for Duke,” he said. “This is not an issue of philosophy or principle, it’s just the appropriate way that we make that transition and make sure it fits what’s distinctive about Duke.”
Tobia noted that the proposal, however, may not be the most effective way of sparking administrative response.
“[It is] not as effective for the administration as 20 students marching into the Allen Building with a one-page document saying what they want,” he said. “If that’s what the administration wants, that’s what the administration will get.”