Saginaw Valley State University received national recognition recently for its efforts to provide gender-inclusive student housing options on campus.
The National Association of College and University Residence Halls announced SVSU earned the group’s Outstanding Advocacy Award for Gender Inclusive Housing during the organization’s annual conference hosted at Purdue University May 26-29.
SVSU student leaders sought more inclusive housing options and worked with SVSU officials to implement them in advance of the 2016-17 academic year. The new policy allows students of different genders to room together if they choose.
Historically, colleges and universities have designated housing assignments where male and female students are in separate rooms, but a growing number of schools have implemented gender-inclusive housing in recent years.
“A brother and sister might choose to room together, or a couple in a romantic relationship,” explained Michele Gunkelman, SVSU’s director of residential life.
Gunkelman, said she was honored that the university received a national honor for meeting student needs.
“This recognition of a student initiative and SVSU's response supports our core values to create a safe and respectful campus climate as well as our focus on inclusivity,” she said. “Gender-inclusive housing creates an inviting and supportive home for all students, including those whose sexual orientation or gender identity can make roommate choices a sensitive topic.”
SVSU introduced the gender-inclusive housing option for returning students during the past academic year, and SVSU staff and students found it served students well. For 2017-18, entering freshmen also can sign up for gender-inclusive rooms at SVSU.
Nine students and Gunkelman attended the national conference to receive SVSU’s award. Along with attending the conference’s ceremonies, the group participated in a philanthropy project, raising $150 to purchase non-perishable food items. In addition, they also donated nearly 12 lbs. of pop can tabs to benefit the Ronald McDonald House, a nonprofit that provides support for child health care needs. The organization recycles the pop can tabs to pay for expenses.