In the upcoming semester, Fall 2013, the College will instate a new policy: open housing. This new policy states that members of different sexes or identified genders can live in the same room. This differs from the current policy, which allows different-gendered individuals to live in the same suite, apartment, or townhouse, but not in the same room. The new policy will be open to all students.
SGA President, senior Andrew Reighart, said, “I think open housing will create a more accepting and flexible environment for current LGBTQ students and will improve our ability to attract LGBTQ students to apply and enroll in the College. But it is important to note this this policy is inclusive of everyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. The open housing policy allows all students greater choice in their living arrangements. Almost all St. Mary’s students are legally adults; thus, we should both comport ourselves as such and be afforded the greater decision-making responsibilities that come with adulthood.”
College President Joe Urgo said, “I can’t think of a reason why not [to support the policy]. We’re giving additional choices to people.” From an administrative standpoint, he adds, “It’s simpler, it gives more options, and therefore makes it easier to put people where they want to be. Exclusively gender-specific housing can be complicated when you have more of one gender than the other, and you might have more empty rooms.”
He agreed with Reighart’s statement that decision-making is an important part of adulthood, but added that it is also important to education, saying, “I like that students are thinking about these kinds of things, deliberately thinking about it. What you eat, where you’re going to live. Don’t just take that passively, take an active role it in. That’s an important part an education, to take initiative and to not be passive about any part of your life. Taking an active role and wanting to determine what your choices are going to be, I think that’s really healthy. You’re the ones that live here; this is your community.”
In terms of what started the debate, Reighart said, “There was a formal push for open housing legislation when an SGA resolution was passed in 2010 by the 2009-2010 SGA Senate. That legislation was sponsored by former SGA Vice President Ken Benjes. The following school year, SGA President Marlena Weiss worked to move the issue forward, developing the language of the policy with Kelly Smolinsky. Once Marlena graduated, Clint Neill continued to work with Kelly on the policy language. Their work was continued and completed this year by the Open Housing Task Force.”
Reighart, who served on the Open Housing Task Force, strongly advocated that the policy included incoming and underclassmen students. “I am proud to say that this was taken into consideration and incorporated in the final policy language,” Reighart said. He added, “Once the policy was constructed, I sponsored the SGA resolution to back the Open Housing Policy and was overjoyed to have all but one Senator vote in support of it.”
When students were surveyed for opinions on open housing, most were in favor of it, though some acknowledged potential problems. Junior Alexia Tanski said, “I think the open housing policy is a really good idea for students who will be using it in order to stay in their comfort zone and live with someone they are really comfortable with. But there’s a 100 percent guarantee that couples are going to use this policy to live together, and if they break up, it could create more problems than are necessary.”
Come fall of 2013, the open housing policy will be put into effect throughout North Campus (Waring Commons, Lewis Quad, and the townhouses), and in Prince George (PG) Hall, first left. While upperclassmen will more likely be living on North Campus, and choosing where they want to live, incoming first-years are more likely to live in PG and must therefore apply to live in its “open” hall.