Gender Inclusive Housing (GIH) is an experience that all students at Case Western Reserve University have access to. It provides transgender students, gender-nonconforming students and students who are still exploring their gender identity to live together in a supportive environment.
For first-year students, GIH is in a designated area (Cutler House) within the First-Year housing program in the North Residential Village. For those in their second-year and upper-classes, students may form groups and designate themselves as GIH within the Staley and Tippit Houses. GIH also offers a community aspect in which the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center and Residence Life staff work together to develop programs, social events and activities for students.
The works for GIH began in the spring of 2015, when the Office of Student Affairs formed a committee to help develop GIH. This committee consisted of staff from Residence Life, University Housing, the LGBT center, students from RHA and interested students. The committee made a point that while CWRU already had a co-ed housing process (by special request) that suited the housing options for non-binary, gender nonconforming and gender-exploring students, the old process was simply a “work-around.” In an interview, Janice Gerda, the interim associate vice president for Student Engagement and Learning, explained that the committee concluded that a “pro-active option designed for gender inclusivity” would be necessary, and so GIH was organized through the use of contact with other universities and surveys.
The GIH pilot program was put in place in the fall of 2015. While GIH has been successful thus far, there are struggles that the program and staff currently deals with. “One element we want to strengthen is outreach—specifically making sure more students know about this option and how to get involved.” Although the LGBT Center has been integral in spreading awareness about the program, Gerda says “we continue to work on having many pathways that students can learn about and choose GIH housing options.” In general, it seems as if those involved in the program want to spread sensitivity towards not only GIH, but also gender-inclusive communities as a whole.
Furthermore, some students have claimed that GIH has been difficult to obtain in the past, and that they have had to wait long periods of time for it. When asked about the struggles with housing, a university spokesman responded with the following statement:
“We regret that some students feel they have experienced delays or other difficulties securing gender-inclusive housing. Implementing any new policy can prove complex, and we have worked as quickly as possible to address any issues that have arisen. We all have learned much from the initial launch of GIH housing, and hope that each successive iteration operates ever-more smoothly.”
Despite some student concerns in the housing application process, University Housing continues to encourage students explore GIH as one of their housing options. “We are glad to have the GIH groups we have now, and use feedback from those students who have lived in GIH,” said Gerda.