Editor’s Note: The original story was redacted and updated. The article below contains further information on Housing and Residence Life’s expanded gender inclusive housing room selection process.
A petition created by an Ohio University student that has over 160 signatures is requesting the expansion of gender inclusive housing across campus.
The petition, which was created about two weeks ago, claims nonbinary students have been neglected by OU due to their lack of housing options on campus and requests every residence hall and dorm room be gender inclusive. The petition also denies OU’s claim in supporting LGBTQ+ students due to the issue.
The creation of gender-neutral housing on campus was introduced in 2011, according to a previous Post report. During the 2018-2019 academic year, OU housing expanded its gender-neutral room selection options with 27 new living spaces.
Hoover House has the LGBT and Gender Inclusive Housing Residential Living Experience, according to OU’s website. There are also “expanded” gender inclusive housing options across campus, university spokesperson Carly Leatherwood said.
“We evaluate student feedback and selection trends on an annual basis which is what drives changes for the following academic year,” Leatherwood said in an email. “If demand and interest is there for additional expansion in gender neutral housing, we will look at making more options available.”
Students can indicate a preference for expanded gender inclusive housing in the Housing Self-Service portal, Leatherwood said. Those who wish to live in a specialized living experience, like the one in Hoover, must fill out a supplemental application.
Some LGBTQ+ students at OU do not believe those housing options are sufficient. Esme Scarberry, a freshman studying electrical engineering, signed the petition because she wants to change the restrictive nature of gender inclusive housing at OU.
“I was put in a dorm in Lincoln because my choices were either Lincoln or Hoover,” Scarberry said. “All of my classes are in Stocker (Center), which is on West Green, so it’s quite a bit of a walk.”
Scarberry then met with Housing and Residence Life Interim Executive Director Jneanne Hacker about her housing situation.
“The only gender inclusive housing on west green at the moment are in Bromley which is suite style housing which costs more than a standard double,” Scarberry said in an email. “And in the Convocation Center which not only is quite isolated from the rest of the dorms of west green but also houses ROTC which makes it so that I don’t feel as safe in that environment.”
In speaking to Hacker about her living situation for next year, Scarberry was upset to find out that Hecker hadn’t directly placed individual students for 10 years. Scarberry was eventually placed in a female dorm room on West Green.
“This situation, while tolerable, is less than optimal as it has proven quite dangerous, historically for a transgender woman to use the same bathroom as her cisgender counterparts,” Scarberry said in an email.
When students are placed through the expanded gender inclusive room selection experience, the rooms are often located in buildings that offer single-user restrooms or self-contained bathrooms, Hacker said in an email. About 62% of students wishing to reside in gender inclusive housing were placed through personalized meetings.
“Housing and Residence Life has a dedicated team who values student feedback and uses the information to evaluate our programs and experience for continuous improvement strategies,” Hacker said in an email.
Aimee Chambers, a sophomore studying communication studies, signed the petition after being encouraged by Scarberry.
“I thought that it was important to her, so it should be important to me as well,” Chambers said. “If we want to be inclusive as an entire campus, then we should be, and everything should be open to everybody, regardless of what they look like, what their sexual orientation is, what their color is.”
Housing and Residence Life holds “Cookies and Conversations” after room selection ends so students can share their housing experiences, Hacker said. While some claim the university’s efforts to have gender inclusive housing are progressive, Scarberry believes it is the bare minimum.
“Jneanne was claiming that OU housing is very progressive,” Scarberry said. “And that's just not my experience with it.”