A year later, gender-inclusive housing is a success


by Ashley Smith, Layout Editor

Gender-inclusive housing was implemented a year ago on the Simpson College campus and has seen success thus far. 

Junior Chase Shoemaker, a student who opts to live in gender-inclusive housing, helped get the idea off its feet his freshman year. 

“My freshman year when I was coming to Simpson, one of the biggest questions I asked was if I could live with a girl or if they had gender-inclusive housing,” Shoemaker said. “And they said yes, the tour guide I was with said I could and that was a big thing for me.”

Unfortunately, when Shoemaker applied to live in gender-inclusive housing his sophomore year, his application was rejected. He brought it up to Luke Behaunek, the director of residence life at the time.

“I was confused, and they said that it’s not gender-inclusive housing,” Shoemaker said. “We have co-gender apartments, so what they meant was that, for the apartments, there can be boys and girls on the same floor but not in the same room.” 

Behaunek said they were working on getting gender-inclusive housing approved at that time. Shoemaker then brought the issue up to Simpson’s Pride organization, who worked hard on getting the housing initiative implemented.

“[Pride] kind of took it for me, which is great, and they kind of did everything, did all of the work so that’s kind of how it got started,” Shoemaker said. 

Two years later, Shoemaker now gets to live with the people he feels most comfortable with, regardless of gender. 

“In the same way that it’s kind of typically seen as a bad thing for women and men to stay together, to me, that same rule applied except that I’m attracted to men. I don’t think it’s appropriate to live with them,” Shoemaker said.

Junior Laura Swartz, one of Shoemaker’s roommates, thinks everyone should get to live with whoever they feel comfortable with. 

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Swartz didn’t have a roommate sophomore year, so she ended up hanging out with her friends, now roommates, Shoemaker and junior John Bitsas.

“I hung out there a lot and then when it came time for summer housing, we didn’t know what to do,” Swartz said. “They were my friends and they were who I was comfortable living with.” 

For Swartz, it made sense to live with Shoemaker and Bitsas because they were all friends.

“I think [there are] instances where you’re mainly friends with different people and it might happen to be with dudes, so I thought it was better to live with [men] than people that I wasn’t comfortable with,” Swartz said.  

Bitsas agrees and thinks it’s another way college students can be treated as adults. 

“For me, mostly it’s about the freedom to choose who to live with,” Bitsas said. “My being gay doesn’t have anything to do with it. I just really like the people who I’m living with, so I thought I should be able to live with them. That’s pretty much it.”

Behaunek, dean of students, said there are three or four more gender-inclusive housing applications this year than last for fall housing and supporting this small group of students is exactly the intention of the housing policy. 

Behaunek said, “I think our primary goal was to establish housing options for every student to feel safe and comfortable in their living environments. And based on how this year has gone, I would say that this goal has been achieved through this process.”