The University of Nebraska-Lincoln implemented Gender-Inclusive Housing in 2015, and administrators in Housing and the LGBTQA+ Resource Center said they’ve seen the initiative’s benefits. However, a 2016 study from The Ohio State University found that this type of program has no large impact on students.
The study found that on-campus living for these students plays a smaller role in changes to students’ psychosocial and attitudinal values or gains in self-esteem, so a gender-inclusive option made little difference to students’ feeling of belonging.
In 2015, UNL Housing created a gender-inclusive initiative that allowed students to sign up for any roommate, regardless of the requested roommate’s gender or sex assigned at birth, according to Charlie Francis, the interim director of University Housing. He said students sign up by submitting an interest form, and the department connects them with other interested students.
“Although no studies have been taken at UNL, students in GIH have voiced that it has helped increase their sense of belonging,” Francis said. “They have also spoke on benefits of safety in the living environment.”
Pat Tetreault, the director of the LGBTQA+ Resource Center, said she agrees with Francis that UNL students benefit from the GIH program. Tetreault and the center helped advocate for inclusive housing by pushing the housing administration to implement the program.
“I think it’s very effective because a lot of LGBTQA+ students want to move off campus after their first year due to bad experiences,” she said. “Before GIH existed, students would hang out in the center instead of their rooms. Now, less students have been in the center and more enjoy their living arrangements.”
Francis said that even though they have no study of GIH students, housing is still a significant predictor of whether or not a student will be successful. Francis said they know that students who live in university facilities for at least one year are more likely to graduate than students who do not.
The likelihood of graduating grows as students continue to live on campus, as compared to students who never lived on campus, according to Francis. He said GIH helps students feel more comfortable about living on campus longer.
Tetreault said the center has continued advocating for the growth of the program. Until recently, GIH was only provided in the more expensive suite and apartment-style residences, but Housing accepted the center’s request to move GIH into traditional dorms. The option will be available in fall 2019 for those living in traditional residence halls.
“The center is very happy to help accommodate with this,” Tetreault said. “When students of any gender live in a space where they feel safe and comfortable, they are more likely to thrive.”