Living in sinFollowing Columbia administration’s decision to postpone the implementation of a gender neutral housing policy that was expected to be in place for the 2010-2011 academic year, the students who introduced the plan – EAAH President Avi Edelman (CC ’11) GendeRevolution President Miranda Elliot (CC ’10), 2011 VP Sean Udell (CC ’11) and 2010 VP for Policy Sarah Weiss (CC ’10) – have been circulating a petition to address the administration’s concern that there may not be enough student support for the new housing policy.

Avi Edelman answers a few of Bwog’s questions.

Why do you think the administration decided against implementing the policy, or even a pilot program for this year’s selection process? What reasons did they give for the decision (other than their worries that not enough students were in favor of it)?

A lot of the reasons given for the delay were logistical–updating the housing application, educating the student body about the changes, and getting feedback from students about the policy were all mentioned. That’s extremely frustrating and disappointing, because the proposal was submitted according to a timeline established in consultation with administrators. Those of us who worked on the proposal (a broad coalition that included CCSC, ESC, Everyone Allied Against Homophobia, GendeRevolution, and the Columbia Queer Alliance) also made it very clear that we were eager to assist the administration in the logical work necessary to make this happen in time for this year’s room selection. Many administrators that we have worked with have been fantastic, and I am confident that the policy will eventually become reality; this is just a classic case of bureaucratic foot-dragging.

More answers after the jump!

Why did you go with an online petition? Why not a good old-fashioned protest?

The idea of the petition is not necessarily to protest the decision, though we did include a comments section so people can express their disappointment. We are still very confident that this proposal will eventually go through. We are hoping this petition will demonstrate to Columbia administrators that this is an issue that many students on our campus care about; we want to make sure that administrators feel the pressure to make this happen quickly so they cannot drag their feet any longer.

Do you think if you gather enough signatures the administration will fold? What is your best case scenario? Would you ideally like the full gender-neutral housing policy implemented for this coming year, or are you in favor of trying out a pilot program?

Sadly, I think it may be too late for a full-scale implementation of a gender-neutral housing policy in time for the upcoming housing selection process. My best case scenario is that the administration recognizes the urgency of this proposal and uses its prerogative to grant gender-neutral housing on a case-by-case basis to students who really need it. It’s sometimes easy to view policy change as something that happens on a macro level, but we have to remember the students who are affected by these decisions. Because of this decision, there will be students here who will struggle to find safe and comfortable living spaces next year. That’s a shame, one that could have been prevented. I hope this petition will encourage Columbia administrators to make this proposal a reality as soon as possible.

Sean Udell adds:

The administration’s timing of the announcement to not move forward with gender neutral housing was unfortunately — but perhaps not coincidentally — on the brink of registration for the housing lottery. Thus, it is probably unrealistic to hope for gender neutral housing next year. However, we will do everything that we can to make sure that all rooms are gender neutral by the 2011-2012 school year.