Small change, big impact — University of Idaho to add gender-inclusive housing


Choosing where to live and who to live with can be a new and exciting time for students on their way to college.

A variety of housing options are available for new and returning students at the university, but all are divided by gender within rooms, if not also by floors. This spring, the University of Idaho now offers gender-inclusive housing options for students who do not prescribe to a gender binary.

Gender inclusive housing gives students the ability to live with who they want regardless of gender identity, said Renee Skau, assistant director of leadership development and community standards.

The application for gender-inclusive living arrangements is part of the housing application, but it is not necessary for students to sign up, Skau said. Information about it will be uploaded to the university website around Dec. 10.

“We’re not saying, ‘Hey everybody should just live together if they’re boyfriend/girlfriend, girlfriend/girlfriend or boyfriend/boyfriend,’ but it takes away the monitoring all together. It is a choice that a student is making with another student,” Customer Relations Manager Jennifer Skinner said.

Both Skinner and Skau said they do not recommend living together if students are dating or best friends because it can hurt the relationship. If students decide to live with a friend or significant other and have problems, they said there are ways to try to solve the problems.

By opting in, students are provided with another set of community guidelines which come with the gender-inclusive room, Skau said. She said these guidelines are to ensure students who decide to opt in to gender-inclusive dorms understand what it means.

To be placed in gender-inclusive housing, both students must click yes to opt in, so all students feel comfortable, Skinner said. She said students who chose this option must be ready to be supportive and respectful to all students in their suite.

“We truly don’t want this to be something that another student feels was pushed on them,” Skinner said.

Skinner said the university will start with four rooms — two for first-year students and two for returning or upper-class students. Skau said rooms will not be publicly advertised, so other residents on the floor do not know unless the students in the suite make it known.

Skinner said they are starting small because the most important component of gender-inclusive housing is students deciding to be a part of it. Starting small allows housing to grow the options as they see necessary while keeping the students ability to choose where they live, Skau said.

Both Skinner and Skau said there has been a lot of interest in the program and that it might grow in the future.

Skau said they have yet to face opposition to gender-inclusive dorms and have seen only support and questions about logistics.

The suites chosen are not set and come from a variety of price points and styles, so students have options in where they live, Skinner said. At this point, gender-inclusive rooms will be offered in both Wallace Residence Center and the LLCs, Skinner said.

This will not be an option in either the Theophilus Tower or McConnell Hall because the bathroom style is communal, which could make students who did not opt in and live on a floor with gender inclusive rooms uncomfortable and feel it was pushed on them, Skinner said.

Kali Nelson can be reached at or on Twitter @kalinelson6

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