Kirk to have new all-gender housing

By Peter Wright

–Applications are due at noon today for Macalester students hoping to take advantage of the newest housing option on campus. Next year section four of Kirk will be designated an all-gender area, geared towards people who want a unique space centered on gender issues.The area will be co-ed by room. There is only one bathroom in the section, which will be gender-blind.

Bobbi Gass ’10, one of the students who organized the effort to create the living space, said that anyone living in the section will be expected to lead three campus events, such as movie showings or discussions, throughout the year. They will also be encouraged to participate in volunteer opportunities related to gender issues off campus.

“I feel like as a gay friendly school. We’re not necessarily as queer friendly as other campuses or as we could be,” Gass said.

Mixed-gender housing is nothing new at Macalester. Residential Life Director Peg Olson said that co-ed suites have been available for two years in George Draper Dayton and Kirk halls, but that the new option is the first time a place has been specifically designed to center on gender issues.

Gass said that this all-gender housing project was led by himself, Suma Setty, Ola ?witala and Julia Quanrud, who were on the organizing committee, along with several students who dedicated their time to the development of the new option.

Olson said that the enthusiasm for the project demonstrated that a significant number of students had interest and led Residential Life to accept the proposal for a new living space.

“If students are interested in it and really think this is a worthwhile endeavor, let’s support it,” Olson said.

Gass said he thinks there has been a solid amount of interest generated toward the living option. He said he expects the section to fill-up.

“I think we’re going to have enough people to live there for the next school year,” Gass said.

Olson said that if the amount of interest is demonstrated to be particularly high next year, the college could consider expanding it to a larger area in the future.

All-gender housing is not particularly common in the US. Gass said that currently the options tend to only be available at very liberal or very large colleges, citing Oberlin College and the University of Minnesota as examples. He describes the new housing option at Macalester as a culmination of years of effort from Macalester students.

“More and more campuses nationwide are embracing gender-neutral opportunities,” Gass said.

The program was started to address two main goals, Gass said. The first is to create an open forum on gender issues, and the second is to provide a more comfortable living space for transgender students at Macalester.