This is an opinion article. Any views expressed belong solely to the author and are not representative of The Cluster.
Last spring, one of Mercer’s finest went on to graduate and begin the next chapter in his educational career in Rochester, New York, to pursue a PhD in chemistry. James Stair has left Mercer, but his legacy is not yet finished.
Stair conducted extensive research on why and how to implement gender inclusive housing on Mercer’s campus. He did this by surveying Mercer students and investigating peer institutions. Gender inclusive housing is a policy that should be brought to Mercer’s campus for a number of reasons.
“Gender (inclusive) housing is an inclusive environment where students can live in the same suite or apartment with any other student regardless of sex, gender identity/expression or sexual orientation. Gender (inclusive) housing serves students who would feel more comfortable living with someone based on lifestyle compatibility rather than gender,” Stair wrote.
This program on Mercer’s campus would operate on a voluntary basis only; students would choose to opt in and agree to live with any other individual in the space. It would mean that if your best friends were of another gender, you would have the opportunity to live with them if you wanted to.
When Stair conducted his research, he found that 62.4% of 378 Mercer student participants surveyed would support gender inclusive housing if it applied to one or a few residence halls. Gender inclusive housing is already available to students beginning their sophomore year at schools like Georgia State University, Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology and many others.
This type of housing program would provide non-cisgender Mercer students with the opportunity to live in a more welcoming space of their own choosing while also providing opportunities for cisgender students to choose whom they reside with based on lifestyle compatibility rather than gender.
If there were to be an issue among residents, the Resident Assistant and Residence Life office would address those individual issues like it would any other conflict among residents. The security of residents would be protected like it has been in the past since these spaces already require Bear card access and the correct key to enter.
To better achieve the goal of affirming and respecting the dignity and sacred worth of every person, in the tradition of Mercer’s Baptist roots, the institution should begin a gender inclusive housing program in at least one of its residence halls. I want to thank James Stair for doing this research, and I hope that his endeavor to bring gender inclusive housing will become a reality for our campus in the very near future.