While gender-inclusive housing options are popping up on campuses across the country, some students question if single-sex housing should be eliminated at universities. Elon University has both gender-inclusive and single-sex housing, and students see the value in each.
Under a gender-inclusive housing policy, students of any gender identity can elect to live together. Supporters say students who don’t comply with socially-constructed gender norms should have a comfortable space to live.
Elon offers two gender-inclusive options on campus. Students can apply to live in the Gender and Sexuality Living Learning Community (LLC), located on the second floor of Colonnades A, and upperclassmen in the Station at Mill Point can also opt to live with students of different genders.
Junior Becca Nipper, a student worker in the university’s Gender and LGBTQIA Center (GLC) and former resident of the LLC, said the university should push to add more gender-inclusive housing options. She said the current options are limited and force underclassmen to go through an application process.
“Off-campus apartments don’t work that way,” Nipper said. “That’s not how the adult world works. In college, we take on responsibilities of an adult, but we are still limited in our housing.”
In the current gender-inclusive options, students live in stand-alone single rooms or single rooms within a suite. But students cannot share a room with people of different gender identities. According to Nipper, there should be more options.
“I think that putting it in single-person rooms is a cop-out,” Nipper said. “When I was living in the LLC, I was always in my room. We didn’t interact with each other, which can be beneficial.”
But introducing the LLC — Elon’s first gender-inclusive option open to freshmen and sophomores — was an important start, according to MarQuita Barker, associate director of residence life operations and information management.
“Every year, we evaluate our LLCs, and we heard from students that this would be an important addition,” Barker said in an email. “We also value inclusivity, and this was a great first step.”
According to Campus Pride, nearly 200 colleges and universities in the country offer gender-inclusive housing. And, like some other schools that have this option, Elon offers both co-ed and single-sex dorms.
Elon’s single-sex dorms — Carolina, Smith and West — are here to stay, Barker said.
“There is a segment of our student population that wants a same-sex environment, and whenever there are rumors about us eliminating those options — which has never been a serious conversation by the university — we hear from students who still like the option and do not want to see it go away,” Barker said.
One student who likes the option is freshman Sam Cook, a second-floor resident in all-male Smith Hall. He said he chose to live in single-sex housing because he wanted a sense of community.
“I like single-sex for the first year because of the bond of brotherhood,” Cook said. “But I’m totally open to other types of housing for a different year.”
For other students, single-sex housing wasn’t their first choice. Freshman Shannon Robertson, a second-floor resident in all-female West Hall, said she initially wanted a newer dorm room with a bigger floor plan. Now, she said she is comfortable in the environment.
“In a co-ed dorm, I might be uncomfortable to do certain things — like wear certain things — because there could be others around,” Robertson said. “It’s a big slumber party here.”
In recent years, some colleges and universities have kept or expanded single-sex housing, citing reducing binge drinking and hookup culture as reasons for their decisions.
But others think same-sex housing should be eliminated.
“I never liked the idea of single-sex housing,” said sophomore Katie Shannon, a student worker in the GLC. “It always seemed odd to me. I wanted to be surrounded by people with different experiences. One of the reasons I chose Elon was that there were very few [single-sex housing] options.”
Robertson said she doesn’t plan to apply to live in gender-inclusive housing, but she appreciates that Elon students can choose to live there.
“It’s good that they’re trying to be inclusive of all people,” Robertson said. “It gives opportunities that other colleges don’t. In some colleges, male and female students are separated. I like that Elon gives students autonomy.”
According to Barker, no changes are coming soon to gender-inclusive and same-sex housing on campus.
In the meantime, junior Sarah Wright, who wants more gender-inclusive housing at Elon, said she and other students will work to increase awareness about this type of housing and advocate for its expansion.
“It’s good that it’s becoming a trend,” she said. “But it should be the norm, something that colleges all should have.”