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Cal Poly expands gender-inclusive housing to all students

Students in Cal Poly’s SLO Solidarity group demanded changes that included an expanded gender-inclusion housing program, which was extended to Cal Poly freshmen this year. The student activists are shown protesting in this photo taken last school year.
Students in Cal Poly’s SLO Solidarity group demanded changes that included an expanded gender-inclusion housing program, which was extended to Cal Poly freshmen this year. The student activists are shown protesting in this photo taken last school year. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

This fall, Cal Poly freshmen can for the first time take part in a university housing program that allows students of any gender identity to share living quarters in preferred roommate arrangements.

The university’s gender-inclusive housing allows students to sign up to live in Cal Poly apartment or dormitory housing with a roommate or roommates who are accepting of their identity.

Housemates who participate might include fellow students of the same gender or gender identity, such as members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) and ally communities.

241 Number of Cal Poly students enrolled in gender-inclusive housing

The program has existed officially since the 2012-13 school year, first becoming available to returning students in the Poly Canyon Village campus apartments. This fall, it will be newly available to all first-year students.

The program will be housed in the Cerro Vista and Yosemite Hall dorms.

Students who wish to apply for the housing designate their preference in campus housing applications.

“The basis of selection is students who consider themselves supportive of or a member of the transgender, gender-queer or gender-questioning community, and are comfortable having a roommate of any gender identity or expression,” said Jo Campbell, Cal Poly’s executive director of student housing.

This is a big step forward for Cal Poly in moving towards standard practices that exist at most other universities in the United States.

Matt Klepfer, SLO Solidarity leader

Of the 2,376 returning Cal Poly students living on campus this year, 128 are assigned to gender-inclusive housing; of 4,305 first-year students, 105 are assigned; and of 273 transfers, eight are assigned.

Scenarios might include a transgender student who lives with an accepting roommate who may or may not be transgender. Or a gender-queer student — someone who identifies with neither, both or a combination of male and female genders — might live with an accepting cisgender roommate — someone who identifies with the gender corresponding to their biological sex.

Similar housing programs exist nationwide, including at Cal State Long Beach, San Diego State, Humboldt State and UC Berkeley.

Last year, the student-led activist group SLO Solidarity demanded that the university provide “gender-neutral or co-gender housing options” for any student living on campus. It was one of 41 stipulations the group demanded to make the campus more welcoming and tolerant.

Matt Klepfer, a SLO Solidarity leader, said the expansion of gender-inclusive housing, a yearlong coordination between the Queer Student Union, University Housing and the Pride Center, is “a big step forward for Cal Poly in moving toward standard practices that exist at most other universities in the United States.”

Matt Lazier, Cal Poly’s director of media relations, said the change was prompted by feedback from the student body.

“This change stems from the university’s overall effort to create as open and welcoming an environment as possible for all of its campus community members,” Lazier said.

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