Pictured: Pro-gender neutral housing protester; Photo by Rachel Nash
CHAPEL HILL – The UNC System Board of Governors voted Friday to ban a policy, which UNC Chapel Hill O.K’d last year, allowing students of the opposite gender to live together in housing facilities on the system’s 16 campuses.
The measure passed unanimously without discussion. Recent UNC Charlotte graduate, Gonzalo Agudelo, was one of a few who silently protested at Friday’s Board meeting.
“It is pretty disappointing, and it sends a message, not only to the UNC School System, and the LGBTQ students who are a part of the UNC System, but it also sends a message nationally to LGBTQ Students,” Agudelo said. “Their voice wasn’t heard and it seemed that their voice wasn’t important.”
He also says he questioned the timing of the decision.
“It was during the summer and there really weren’t involved or on campus so a lot of people didn’t really know about this. It kind of passed under the radar for a lot of students,” Agudelo said.
Chair of the Board of Governors, Peter Hans, said their meetings are open to the public, but aren’t public hearings, and that’s why they didn’t take comments. To enact a policy change, it is a two-step process Hans explained. The measure is taken up by the Governance Board, which was done in June, and then it goes to the full Board. Hans said there was no opposition to the policy change “whatsoever.”
“Our board wants every student to be safe and comfortable and included. The Board believes there are more practical ways to achieve those goals than assigning young men and young women to the same dorm rooms and campus suites,” Hans said.
The UNC Board of Trustees voted last November to allow gender-neutral housing. Former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp backed the Trustees’ decision saying it would help keep students safe.
In April, the General Assembly took up the issue, and a bill emerged that sought to block the gender-neutral housing policy. The bill did not pass, but the policy approved by the Board of Governors mirrored the legislators’ bill.
Hans said the Board’s decision was also prompted in order to retain its own autonomy in student housing decisions, rather than the legislature dictating it.
Carolina students begin moving back to campus on Aug. 17, and students who had been placed in 32 gender-neutral spaces, which were designated in two dorms and Ram Village Apartments, will have to be reassigned.
UNC System President Tom Ross declined to comment on the issue, but he did speak on another important issue—the budget. The Board of Governors approved the spending plan which allocated funds to each institution Friday. He said he hopes to continue producing more degrees for less money.
“I believe that we can do that at the same time that we absorb these cuts. It will not be easy,” Ross said. “There will be consequences, but our campuses will continue to do this in the right way.”
Ross said in Thursday’s budget meeting that he hopes to freeze tuition costs for in-state students in the 2014-2015 school year, despite facing looming cuts in state funding.