Initiative for gender-inclusive housing takes off

An informational event advocating for Mercer University to adopt gender-inclusive residence halls was held on the evening of March 12 in the Connell Student Center. 

The “GIH Pajama Party,” hosted by Mercer’s official URGE, or Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, chapter was an event for supporters to get to know one another, craft and learn more about what gender-inclusive housing would look like for the community.

Gender-inclusive housing allows students to live with anyone they choose regardless of the gender they identify with. Some of the positive effects that the initiative has identified are promoting a welcoming and safe campus environment, retaining students who want to live on campus and improved academic performance. 

The idea to implement gender-inclusive housing was in response to former Mercer student James Stair’s Bear Day project. Adri Rosario, one of the students involved with the event and Mercer URGE, said she was surprised it was not implemented following his research.

“He had two years worth of just plain numbers, like a lot of data. And it was kind of wild to me that Mercer emphasizes doing research that reaches out, and yet he was stifled in his research that would actually get something implemented on campus,” she said.

Mercer student Jessica Smith identifies as nonbinary and said that gender-inclusive housing would make them feel more comfortable living on campus.

“It would be a lot easier to room with people if there was gender-inclusive housing because then you don’t have to base it around gender. You can room with trans people and not just AFAB (assigned female at birth) people,” they said. 

Other schools in Georgia, such as Georgia State University, Emory University and Georgia Tech, have adopted gender-inclusive housing. 

“I think it’s ridiculous that Mercer does not have a gender-inclusive housing program already,” said Mercer student Sarah Moore. “When I told my friends last year I was living in an all-girls dorm, they said their dorms don’t even separate floors by gender.”

Rosario emphasized during the presentation that other schools have implemented gender-inclusive housing with success and that “it’s not a revolutionary idea.”

“I can’t even imagine what it would be like if I don’t even feel comfortable with how my gender affects the way that I live,” Rosario said. “I think it would actually improve not only people’s home life but also their performance in school, which is the reason we’re all here.”