By Madelin Shelton —
A petition to make the New Residence Hall (NRH2021) gender-inclusive has begun circulating among the student body in response to U of L’s decision to postpone the gender-inclusive setup of the new student living space.
The petition, signed by 911 members of the U of L community and authored by Orvelle Thomas, criticizes the university’s decision.
“Allowing gender-inclusive floors would be a step in the direction of the University fulfilling its promise of maintaining a diverse and inclusive campus,” Thomas wrote in the petition.
Sabrina Collins, Student Government Association (SGA) president, provided a letter from June 2020 that the Top 4 of SGA sent to Campus Housing in support of gender-inclusive housing.
It included a description of what it means to have gender-inclusive housing. “An open housing policy, also known as all-gender housing at other institutions, would allow students to live together regardless of sex assigned at birth, gender identity, or gender expression,” it said.
“This school has consistently been named one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly universities in the South,” Thomas wrote. “But giving in to societal pressures, and maintaining a deliberate anti-LGBTQ+ agenda, does not make the University of Louisville deserving of that award.”
Collins has signed and advocated for the petition. When asked how the petition began, Collins said that there was no official announcement from the university that gender-inclusive housing would be featured in the new dorm.
“However, it was very clear to SGA and other campus-wide partners that this would be the case, as we have been involved in the design process from the very beginning,” she said. According to the petition, the university had decided to postpone this decision, saying that this policy needed a “trial year.” This decision by the university prompted student pushback.
SGA’s June letter also contains the Top 4’s belief in the importance of gender inclusivity in campus housing.
“SGA believes that every student has a right to equitable and accessible living opportunities on our campus,” they said. “Our current residential living system of sex-based assignment (male, female) does not support the members of our growing LGBTQIA community and non-binary community. U of L’s existing, sex-based assignment system has placed an undue labor on this resident population to request housing accommodations and repeatedly justify their gender/sex identity to unfamiliar staff members.”
Thomas Hardy, director of Campus Housing, reiterated the university’s efforts to diversity and inclusion.
“The University of Louisville is recognized as a national leader in its commitment to diversity and inclusion. U of L Campus Housing is determined to support and build on that commitment,” he said.
Hardy also detailed U of L’s recent announcement that the new residence hall is slated to include one gender-inclusive floor. Further, the university plans to include gender-neutral restrooms throughout the residence hall.
“We want to thank the students who have argued passionately about the needs for this accommodation, and we want to assure all our students that their well-being is at the forefront of all we do,” he said.
Photo Courtesy of the University of Louisville