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Safe room


The conversation about gender-neutral housing at OU continues along a hopeful path for LGBT advocates.

Carol Cole-Frowe April 4th, 2012

Devin Luxner is feeling optimistic.

Devin Luxner

A closed-door meeting about gender-neutral housing with University of Oklahoma President David Boren went well, said Luxner, president of OU’s LGBT and Friends group. The March 26 discussion also included group leaders and OU’s Students for a Democratic Society, along with other university personnel.

“[Boren] has indicated his willingness to continue to discuss the matter with us,” said Luxner, a senior. “I’m hopeful for the future.”

The issue of gender-neutral housing on college campuses made national headlines in September 2010 when a gay Rutgers University student, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide after his male roommate used a webcam to spy on Clementi kissing another male student. Since then, the New Jersey university has changed its housing policy, allowing some genderneutral housing.

The proposal from the two OU groups defines “gender-neutral housing” as a campus housing option that matches roommates without mandatory regard to the gender or sex of the individuals involved, as opposed to sex-segregated housing.

After the meeting, Boren issued a statement explaining the nature of the discussion.

“I wanted to encourage totally candid expression at this meeting so that I could better understand the goals of those who want changes made,” he said.

Luxner said the advocacy groups have worked on the gender-neutral housing issue for about three years. The organizations have hosted panels of experts on the subject, opened a dialogue with university leadership an wrote the proposal detailing the rationale behind gender-neutral housing.

Boren indicated about two years ago that he believed Oklahoma was too conservative to accept gender-neutral housing. OU requires freshmen to live in university housing.

Several national studies have found harassment and assaults on the LGBT middle, high school and college student populations to be common.

The 2009 National School Climate Survey indicated almost nine out of 10 of the more than 7,000 LGBT middle or high school students surveyed experienced verbal or physical harassment or assaults at school.

About two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation.

Luxner said the groups would be meeting with Boren again before the end of the spring semester.

Boren said he did not have a timeline for any changes.

“I fully expect to make administrative decisions in plenty of time for them to be implemented for the fall semester,” he wrote. Any administrative action does not require a formal action by the Board of Regents.

 
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