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Senate Bill Introduced To Overturn UNC Board of Trustees Policy Allowing Opposite Sex Housing

Compiled by Jesse Wood

April 4, 2013. Last year, the UNC Board of Trustees introduced a bill that would allow students of the opposite sex to live together, sharing bathrooms and common living areas in campus housing suites and apartments. This policy is to be effective for the fall of 2013.

However, a recent bill has been introduced in the N.C. General Assembly that would override that policy. Below are two statements – one is a release from the office of State Sen. David Curtis who introduced the bill with two other colleagues and another is from Equality NC, whose director Stuart Campbell said this sets a “dangerous precedent” in the release below.

To a publication in Charlotte, he added: “I find it ironic that party of smaller government and less intrusive government is in this and so many other issues trying to micromanage how people live and in this respect, how the university conducts its business.” 

This bill could have ramifications on the gender-neutral bathrooms at ASU that were put in place last fall. See a prior HCPress.com article on that developement.

Release from Bill Introducer Sen. David Curtis’ Office

Sen. David Curtis
Sen. David Curtis

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees adopted a policy in 2012 that would allow students of the opposite sex to live together in dorm suites and campus apartments at their own discretion.  Under the new policy, male and female students will be allowed to share bathrooms and common living areas in campus housing suites and apartments, starting in the fall of 2013.

Senate Bill 658, “UNC Dormitory Rules” introduced by Sen. David Curtis (R-Lincoln), Sen. Ben Clarke (D-Cumberland) and Sen. Chad Barefoot (R-Wake) will put an end to that policy. The bill states that the University of North Carolina shall prohibit the assignment of members of the opposite sex to the same room, suite or apartment, unless they are siblings or legally married.

“The purpose of this bill is to help the UNC system regain its focus on the core mission of educating young people and helping them find meaningful employment in our state,” said Curtis, the bill’s primary sponsor.  “UNC did not become a national leader in academics by wasting time and tax dollars on frivolous social experiments.”

Correspondence with University officials confirms the program is open to all students ages 18 and older, and students under 18 with parental permission.  The new policy also breaks the longstanding tradition of ensuring first-year students are assigned to the same housing as their peers, stating it may be necessary to assign first-year students with juniors or seniors instead.

“North Carolina has great universities because we remain committed to pursuing cutting-edge research, upholding high academic standards, and achieving excellence in the classroom,” said Barefoot.  “I don’t understand how a policy that allows a first-year female student, three months out of high school, to share a private bathroom with an upper-class male will help us achieve that goal.”

When approached with the idea in late 2011, Chancellor Thorpe admitted the issue would be controversial to external stakeholders including parents and alumni who send their children to UNC and the taxpayers who help subsidize their tuition, and directed Winston Crisp, vice-chancellor for student affairs, to review and strengthen the education that UNC provided its students about sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, as it relates to student housing.

“We understand that times change,” said Clark. “But the fundamental, core values that are woven into the social fabric of our community are eternal and unwavering.  UNC must respect these values in the establishment and application of its policies as it continues its quest to remain in the top tier of the nation’s public institutions of higher learning.”

Statement from Equality NC

Equality NC, North Carolina’s statewide Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization, condemned a Senate bill (SB658) filed on Tuesday that would overturn the University of North Carolina’s recently-adopted gender non-specific housing policy.

Equality NCThe pilot program would allow students of different genders to share apartments or suites but would not allow students of different genders to share bedrooms. Students are required to opt into the program in order to participate. The Department of Housing and Residential Education set aside 32 spaces for the pilot program (.4% of total available housing).

UNC’s Board of Trustees adopted the optional “gender-neutral” housing policy last year in part to alleviate harassment or bullying faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender students.

Stuart Campbell, executive director of Equality NC said in a statement:

“Senate Bill 658 sets a dangerous legislative precedent of revoking basic protections for at-risk LGBT young people. While bill sponsors toss around groundless arguments that gender neutral housing somehow detracts from academics, these types of policies actually ameliorate systemic bullying and harassment of LGBT students—harassment that could otherwise lead to the very real dangers of depression, drop-outs and suicide.”

Campbell added, “This is yet another attack on vulnerable LGBT youth coming from North Carolina leaders in recent weeks, including the approval on Wednesday of A.L. “Buddy’ Collins for North Carolina’s Board of Education–a man with a proven record of opposition to policies protecting LGBT students from bullying and harassment.”

Campbell said, “Equality NC will work tirelessly to defend LGBTQ youth in North Carolina from bullying and violence, including opposing any legislative efforts to interfere with UNC’s thoughtful gender-neutral housing policy, which was designed with the safety and well-being of all its students in mind.”

What do you think?