Gender-neutral housing options are an important step forward in making Furman a more LGBTQ inclusive university – and thanks to pressure from the Furman Pride Alliance (FPA) and Student Government Association (SGA) – the idea is finally gaining traction within Furman administration.
Emily Balogh ‘22, President of Furman Pride Alliance, is one of the students currently advocating for gender-neutral housing. Balogh is passionate about this change as “it is important to make sure that people are able to room with who they feel safest with, and by normalizing this across campus, students would not have to be outed as gender non-conforming.”
The ability for students to feel safe and comfortable with their housing situations is crucial, and this is especially true for LGBTQ students. In their day-to-day lives, LGBTQ individuals are never sure who is going to accept or reject them, or even who may be outwardly hateful towards them. Every student deserves to feel like they have a safe space to come back to at the end of every day, and Furman can help this by allowing students to choose their roommates, regardless of sex.
Right now, Furman Pride Alliance’s ideas for gender-neutral housing are mostly for Lakeside suite-style and North Village options. In North Village specifically, FPA is hoping for complete gender-neutral options available to any student who requests it. Balogh stated that “Being a four-year residential university is a unique experience, and if Furman truly wants to prepare its students for life outside of the university, the residence arrangements on campus should more closely mimic what students could choose if they were given the option to live off campus.” Offering gender-neutral housing is a more difficult process for South Housing and non-suite style Lakeside halls due to the communal bathrooms. Thus, FPA is advocating for an option to allow freshmen to opt into gender-neutral suite style living in Lakeside if desired. It is important to note that if incorporated as a Furman housing option, randomly placed students in all housing arrangements would never be placed with someone of a different gender unless both parties had explicitly stated that this was an arrangement they wanted.
Furman administration has recently made the decision to begin forming a student-led committee to research what gender-neutral housing could look like on our campus, in order to talk through the drawbacks and benefits to implementing this change.
In a conversation with The Paladin’s editorial board on Apr. 21, President Davis shared that Furman administration wants to learn more about how other fully residential universities are handling gender-neutral housing options. In reference to the student-led committee President Davis stated the importance of “having those groups that will talk and stick with the conversation, it can’t be a one-time thing, but having those ongoing conversations to be sure we’re clear about what people want is going to be the best way to affect change.”
While the plan for the committee is still being organized, they will spend at least the upcoming semester researching the best options for gender neutral housing before making proposals. While implementing gender-neutral housing is not a change that can be made overnight, these initial conversations can give us a hopeful look towards the future, knowing that future LGBTQ Furman students will benefit greatly from the changes that will be made.