Last updated on November 15, 2019
In the beginning of the school year, the NWS dorm allowed students to vote if they want students with different gender identities to hang out on their floors. The results were that boys floors will allow all gender identities students, while girls’ floors will remain as “girls only.”
In the past few years, the NWS dormitory had students’ rooms and floors by genders as “girls only” or “boys only”, leaving blanks for other gender identities. In the past, some students got dorm restrictions (a punishment for dorm students who cannot step out the dormitory) or room restrictions (dorm students cannot step out their rooms), when they hang out at the wrong rooms. Last year, SRAs (Student Residential Assistants) started to question if such binary genders separation floor policy meet with the Northwest School’s values as be inclusive for all gender identities and should genders be an aspect to prohibit students hang out together in a space. “These issues have also been discussed among faculty’s conversations and meetings.” said Justin Peters, the Dean of Residential Life. As the event flew, seven out of ten SRAs quit their leadership roles, while the policy was one of the reasons. The change on voting still does not allow students going inside the rooms on other gender identity students’ floors, but it is a middle point that has made between students and dorm in which the dorm wants to fulfill students needs and respects various groups of students.
This year, the dormitory decided to take preferences from students at each floor through a voting process. During the floor meetings, students wrote “Yes” or “No” based on if they would like other identities to hang out on their floors. The results turned that the boys’ floor will open to everyone until 9:45pm, girls’ floors are still only allowed female identified students. A change that the girls are excited is they are now allowed to use another stair which was only allowed to boys for going up to the third floor. Therefore, they could take a quicker pass to their rooms.
“Although I see some changes had made in the dorms based on students’ voices, I do think that all floors should have the same policy. If one floor rejects the option, all floors should not adapt the mixed gender policy in which all students have fair treatments.”said an anonymous student.
Some positive feedback was also reflected from the dorm students.
“The new policy allows us to have more public space for social life.” expressed Cory Z’20.
“We can directly social with other gender identified students by knocking their doors instead of having all of us meet in another public room which is further from our rooms. It is so much more convenient.” said Elaine X’21.
One of the Residential Dormitory Coordinator, Michael Martinez, was also interviewed.
Why did the dormitory allow the students to vote on their floors this year?
“Some students expressed concerns and frustrations about excluding non-binary students, and some expressed it was not fair for students to not be able to visit friends of different gender identities. We heard student voices and wanted to make some change this year. At the same time, we want to respect students’ privacy and students with different comfort levels around students with different genders. So, we had the students on floors vote this year.”
What was the process for the dormitory to establish such change?
“It was a discussion between the Dean of Residential Life and two Residential Life Coordinators on the issue. It made more sense for students to decide how they wanted their floor to be, while we set basic parameters: One veto would eliminate the policy on the floor. We also set time limitations, so the policy only applies before 9:45pm, which allows students to still have some privacy time before going to bed.”
How had such issue had not been discussed in the past?
“The issue had been discussed several times in the past. The big reason that we did not make any changes is that students’ parents and some students have expressed concern about students of different genders living in one building. This is different from other boarding programs. The school wanted to reassure people who were worried about that.”
What are some feedback that the dormitory have heard so far?
“Girls seem to be more excited about using a new staircase and to knock on their friends’ doors. In the beginning, boys were complaining that it was not fair that they are not allowed to access girls floor even though they opened up their floors to girls. But we believe this should not be a situation of, ‘I’ll let you on my floor if you let me on your floor.’ It is about students deciding if they to open their floors up.”
Which floor would a non-binary student live if the floor are separated by binary genders?
“We have some ideas but nothings has been officially decided. We would have conversations and make a plan with the student and their family. It is hard for us to make the dormitory
completely gender neutral. However, we respect students’ gender identities and care about what they need to feel comfortable in the dormitory. A lot of options could be considered around single rooms, faculty restrooms, single shower rooms, etc.”