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UNC system bans gender-inclusive housing on all 17 campuses

UNC system bans gender-inclusive housing on all 17 campuses

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The University of North Carolina system Board of Governors voted on Friday morning to approve a ban on gender-inclusive housing on all 17 campuses of the university system.

The policy was considered at today’s UNC Board of Governors’ meeting in Chapel Hill. It is nearly identical to a bill proposed in the North Carolina Senate in April. It prohibits all UNC campuses from offering “gender-neutral” housing.

Campus Pride fellows Romeo Jackson and Gonzalo Agudelo held protest signs in the lobby of the UNC system headquarters on Friday following the board’s vote to ban gender-inclusive housing.

“The constituent institutions shall not assign members of the opposite sex to any institutionally owned and operated dormitory room, dormitory suite, or campus apartment unless the students are siblings, parent and child, or they are legally married,” the new system policy reads. “This policy applies to housing assignments beginning with the fall 2013 semester.”

Advocates for LGBT students immediately condemned the vote.

“The policy doesn’t serve to protect any student,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of the Charlotte-based Campus Pride. “It makes the campus more divisive. It makes housing and harassment a greater problem for all students.”

Windmeyer’s group works with LGBT college students across the country. In Charlotte, he said a transgender student’s death by suicide earlier this year was influenced by housing problems.

“One of her friends said she was harassed out of housing and she couldn’t find the housing she needed,” Windmeyer said, calling the UNC board’s vote “insensitive.” “This isn’t just about policy decisions and politics; it’s about real lives.”

Windmeyer said the UNC board completely ignored him and several students who attended today’s meeting with him.

“The whole theme for the day was avoidance,” he said. “After the vote, we stood in the lobby with our signs and when they came out of closed session they basically ignored us. The leadership went upstairs to talk to the press and we thought they would come back down to talk to us, but instead they went around the building and out the other door to avoid us. They avoided discussing the issue, avoided student input and avoided direct conversation. It is really a sad state of affairs for North Carolina.”

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UNC-Chapel Hill had planned to offer gender-neutral housing to some students this fall. They will be forced to eliminate such plans. Discussions on similar plans at UNC-Charlotte will likely be halted.

Equality North Carolina, a statewide advocacy organization, also weighed in on the decision.

“We are extremely disappointed with the Board of Governors decision to bow to outside and uninformed pressure and strip gender-inclusive housing options that have been shown to not only promote LGBT student safety but also improve the overall campus climate as well,” Equality North Carolina Executive Director Stuart Campbell said in a release.

“There is no sound reason to reverse this policy, Campbell added. “This could literally make a life or death difference for kids who are struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity and want to have a safe space they can call home while they are on campus. This move has stripped away an important tool university administrators had to protect their LGBT students.”

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