Goshen College Student Senate hosted an Open Space on gender inclusive housing (GIH) on Wednesday, Oct. 24.

Open Space, a time and space where students can have discussions around a variety of subjects relevant to campus life, is relatively new to campus and has covered a myriad of topics since its conception such as President Stoltzfus’ strategic two-year plan, safety issues and immigration.

All students were invited to attend with the intent of having Student Senate and Student Life listen to students’ ideas on what GIH should look like. The event took place from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., a time that student senate hopes will be the typical time for Open Space events.

The meeting began with Corie Steinke, associate director of community life, giving a simple overview of what the conversation on GIH has looked like in the Student Life department. Student Life is considering opening up one floor in the Kratz, Miller, or Yoder Residence Halls for an opt-in on-campus living option.

Based on a simple definition given by the Harvard Office of BGLTQ Student Life, GIH “gives students the option of living together in a room or suite irrespective of their gender identity.”

Steinke explained that this would especially be beneficial for first and second-year students who do not have options for gender inclusive or co-ed housing options like junior and seniors who can live in the Octavio Romero Apartments, intentional living communities or off-campus. Steinke expressed that the ideal scenario would be to offer a GIH option for first and second years as soon as the fall of 2019.

The conversation began with a discussion on visitation hours after a question was asked about these still being relevant since it is a concept largely applied to gendered male/female housing. Ultimately, it seemed that the safest and most reasonable alternatives would be to keep visitation hours or eliminate them only in the opt-in gender inclusive floor.  Visitation hours are likely to not be eliminated across campus anytime soon, but is something to be considered.

This Open Space also centered a discussion on the possibility of Safe Zone training for all of those who do opt-in to the GIH option. Students also proposed that the housing cost for GIH also be accessible as well as making off-campus living be more accessible for students in the LGBTQ community if on-campus housing does not meet their needs. Finally, an idea was brought forth by a student to begin a capital or scholarship fundraiser to go to students who would like to take advantage of a GIH option on campus.

The Open Space event provided students the time and space to speak their opinions on GIH as the proposal begins to move forward. The administration hopes to continue to receive support, critique and involvement of students.

There will be challenges in creating safe and inclusive spaces for all. The Student Life staff, alongside members of Advocates, PRISM and the Resident Assistants team, are committed to advancing the issue that is of particular importance to transgender and nonbinary students. Work on this issue will continue throughout the school year. Feedback on this issue or on Open Spaces can be directed to the Student Life office or to Student Senate.