During the UNC-system Board of Governors meeting on Friday, about 40 students rallied outside, calling for greater transparency within the board and an overturning of its ban on gender-neutral housing.
But inside, a few students were granted a meeting with the chief of staff to system President Tom Ross, Kevin FitzGerald, to discuss the ban and their next move.
Andrew Wood, co-chairman of the multicultural affairs and diversity outreach committee in UNC-CH Student Government who was included in the meeting, said FitzGerald was open to discussing alternatives to gender-neutral housing. The board had voted to ban gender-neutral housing across the UNC system in August.
Wood said among what was proposed, one possible option is to include a section on housing applications for students to put if they would want to live in a diverse housing situation. Next to that would be an asterisk with some inclusive language — that has yet to be determined — to clarify that this includes living with students who identify as gay or transgender.
Another of the proposed options is to open up diverse living learning communities across the system.
But living-learning communities require a component of work, which Wood said is exclusionary.
“We don’t think it’s fair to require someone to do extra work to avoid being bullied,” he said.
If any of the proposals are finalized, they would be wrapped up in the system’s safety and security policy.
“Whatever form that may end up taking, we just want to make sure the safety and security of all students — not just the majority — are being upheld,” Wood said.
And while the Board of Governors is not considering reinstating gender-neutral housing, Wood said the alternatives are still a step forward for most system schools.
UNC-CH, however, had planned a gender-neutral housing pilot program this fall before the ban.
Terri Phoenix, director of the UNC-CH LGBTQ center, said regardless of the outcome, students were happy to have their voices heard.
“I am very happy that they made a space to listen to the concerns of students — bottom line, that’s what they wanted,” Phoenix said. “I think that there are many more conversations to be had, and this is just the beginning.”
In a press conference on Friday, Ross said he and the board are eager to gather student input on the issue.
“I remember over the last couple of years when issues have come up that affect students — whether its tuition or housing or whatever — we have tried to have opportunities to talk to students,” he said.
Ross said the meeting yielded ideas on how to move forward.
“They’ve come up with some good ideas with ways we can continue to communicate,” he said.