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Education

UT Austin will allow students in dorms to have roommates of different genders

 AUSTIN, TX. Oct. 1, 2020. A student walks in front of the Main Tower on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
AUSTIN, TX. Oct. 1, 2020. A student walks in front of the Main Tower on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin.

Starting in the fall, UT Austin will allow students to live with someone of another gender in residence halls.

The policy change is aimed at making dorms more attractive.

“We’re able to provide students with choices,” Mylon Kirksy, senior director of residence life at UT, said. “[These are] choices that they’ve been asking for, choices we know that they need, and ultimately everyone wins because people can choose the thing that works for them.”

Kirksy said students who want a roommate of a different gender just live off campus; this change could keep the university competitive with the rest of the housing market in Austin.

It's also a positive change for trans students, Adrienne Hunter, the director of UT's Queer Trans Student Alliance, said. She was part of a group of students who worked with UT Housing and Dining on the policy.

Queer students have been asking for this option for decades, she said.

Last year, her organization surveyed around 2,000 students to gauge life at UT for queer students. Many students who lived on campus reported feeling uncomfortable in their housing situation. She said the university currently allows trans students to have a different living situation if they want, but it’s decided on a case-by-case basis.

"Keep in mind, a lot of these people are freshmen. They might not be out to their parents,” Hunter said. “And they're tasked with having to reach out to University Housing and Dining and [that’s] very much a complicated back-and-forth process for a lot of these students. So they didn’t seek it out and instead they lived in many cases with roommates they weren’t comfortable living with.”

Hunter said having a policy that anyone can access when they fill out housing forms will make it much easier for trans students who want a specific roommate.

The policy will launch as a two-year pilot program and is open to all students.

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