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Gender-Neutral Housing Petition Garners Requisite Signatures for UC Referendum

By Steven S. Lee, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: Oct. 29, 2013, at 10:07 p.m.

A petition to make gender-neutral housing options available for all students at the College has reached the requisite 670-signature threshold to appear as a referendum question on next month’s Undergraduate Council presidential ballot, petition organizer Julia R. Geiger ’16 confirmed Tuesday.

“I thought there was going to be a lot of support for this from conversations with students around campus, but I was frankly surprised at how quickly the signatures came in,” said petition writer Jordan T. Weiers ’16, mentioning that petition had garnered 720 signatures in a little less than a week.

If the signatures are confirmed by the UC Rules Committee, the petition will go before student voters in the Nov. 18-21 UC presidential election.

Currently, gender-neutral housing options are not available for freshmen, and upperclassmen living in mixed-gender suites in some Houses must have locks on their bedroom doors. But a gender-neutral housing pilot program launched in 2011 lifted that requirement in six upperclassman Houses. This past spring, Winthrop joined the Houses already participating in the pilot program.

Weiers said that the referendum is just one of the ways he and his colleagues are pushing for the permanent expansion of gender-neutral housing on campus.

“We’re taking a multi-faceted approach gender-neutral housing in all the Houses,” Weiers said. “The referendum is to show the administration that there is a lot of student support for this.”

UC President Tara Raghuveer ’14, UC Vice President Jen Q. Zhu ’14, petition organizer Brianna J. Suslovic ’16, and Weiers will be meeting with Associate Dean of Student Life William Cooper ’94 on Friday.

“The meeting is going to be about sharing information and discussing next steps with the [gender neutral housing pilot] program,” Raghuveer said.

According to UC Rules Committee Chair Kevin H. Xiong ’17, two other groups are seeking a place on the ballot. The Environmental Action Committee is petitioning for a ban on the sale and distribution of single-use plastic water bottles on campus, and Students for a Just and Sustainable Future is calling on Harvard to purchase an MBTA pass for every student, given that the MBTA provides a 50 percent discount under the UPass system.

Following a change in procedure from last fall, all potential referendum questions will be checked for neutral wording and a group opposing a petition question may submit a 300-word con-statement, which will appear on the ballot along with a 300-word pro-statement from petition supporters.

If any petition is approved, it will mark the second time in two years that at least one referendum question will make the ballot. Last November, all three referenda on the ballotpetitions to establish a social choice endowment fund, divest University funds from the fossil fuel industry, and reform the College’s sexual assault policiespassed with the support of decisive majorities of undergraduate voters.

If successfully passed in an election in which the majority of the student body votes, referenda become the official position of the UC.

—Staff writer Steven S. Lee can reached at Follow him on Twitter@StevenSJLee.

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