There are 265 colleges and universities in the United States that offer gender-inclusive housing, according to Campus Pride.
Four are in Indiana.
Franklin College is not one of those four.
“Franklin, as an institution, really leaves transgendered students in the dust, and it’s mostly with housing,” said Rebecca Bridges, president of the Franklin College Pride Alliance.
All the dorms on campus are co-ed. Men and women each have their own floors. None of the dorms offer a gender-inclusive housing option.
Earlier this year a group of students, two females and two males, tried to get a section together. They were approved the accommodation until shortly before school began.
As reported in the Sept. 15 issue of The Franklin, the group was denied the housing because gender-inclusive housing has yet to be approved as a campus offer. Residence Life Director Jacob Knight pointed to that their special accommodation could prevent it from being approved.
This begs the question: If students are showing a strong interest in having gender-inclusive housing, why hasn’t it been approved already?
Some universities set aside residence halls for gender-inclusive housing.
“Eastern Illinois University has moved to offering gender neutral housing on their campus. What they did was they set aside an entire residence hall, and it was themed as gender-inclusive housing,” Director of Residence Life Jacob Knight said. “The whole concept is anyone can be a roommate for you if you live in that space.”
This dorm doesn’t factor in biological sex or gender identity, and students have the chance to fill out a form saying they want to live in this community.
Other colleges have chosen to remodel their bathrooms. Instead of having a bathroom with showers and toilets stalled off, they would have bathrooms called “pods.”
“You would go through a door that you could lock behind you, and there would be a sink. There would be a toilet. There would be a shower or bath tub or something like that you could use,” Knight said. “So that is a much more secured space when you are in there.”
The biggest challenge in implementing something like this is finding the money to do it. But it is, and should be, something under heavy consideration by the administration.
Gender-inclusive housing should be offered. All students should be able to live comfortably without having to go the extra mile to get that comfort.
“I think it’s kind of crappy,” Bridges said. “I really don’t think it’s fair that they have to jump through all these hoops to get a living place that is comfortable for them, that they feel safe.”
Bridges lives in a section with a transgender woman and a genderqueer individual. Bridges decided to live with them to improve their chances at getting a section in Johnson-Dietz.
Franklin College was the first college in Indiana and seventh in the nation to start accepting women in 1842. Franklin showed progression then. If the college wants to continue this progression in the 21st century, it needs to offer gender-inclusive dorms.
If money is an issue for remodeling the bathrooms, then set aside a floor of a residence hall to be gender-inclusive.
A survey should be sent out to current and incoming students asking if this type of residence hall would be of interest to them. The college will likely see a large number of students requesting these accommodations.
It’s time that the college caught up with the times once again.
THE OPINION BOARD
The Franklin staff believes the college could better accommodate transgender students.