The Residential Life website and Director of Residential Life Corry Colonna have provided details regarding dormitory rooms’ designations by gender that contain discrepancies.
In an interview for an earlier article for The Amherst Student, Colonna said that Residential Life will designate rooms as “gendered male [and] gendered female, and then we also are going to have a handful of rooms — not a lot, but there’s some pretty much in every building — that are registered as coed.”
It is unclear how the male, female and coed designations will apply to singles due to conflicting statements from the college’s 2017-2018 housing selection website and Colonna. According to the website, “each room” will be designated as male, female or coed. Rooms assigned “male” or “female” can only be selected by “students whose birth gender is male” or female, respectively. Coed rooms can be selected by any student regardless of gender.
“This is only an issue in doubles and suites,” the website continued, although the sentence does not specify the issue to which it refers. "Roughly 25 percent” of multiple-occupancy rooms will be designated coed, according to the website. In the interview, however, Colonna said that only “about 10 to 15 percent” of multiple-occupancy rooms will be designated coed.
“Some people have been concerned there might be a concern of us pre-gendering the rooms male [or] female,” Colonna said during the interview. “When it’s a single it doesn’t really matter … but we’ve been really cautious … [to] make sure there’s equal amounts of types of rooms for both genders and some coed.”
According to the website, the coed-designated rooms aimed to meet the needs of students who “identify differently than their birth gender ... [Residential Life] want[s] them to be able [to] select rooms with others that will help them build safe and healthy community.”
Quotas by genders have been instituted by Residential Life before. Students were prevented from living in certain dormitories if that selection would skew the building’s existing gender ratio too heavily toward one specific gender. In recent years, Residential Life maintained a balance of genders in dormitories, ensuring that each building had at least 40 percent female residents and 40 percent male residents.
Assistant Director for Housing Assignments and Operations David Watts said in the same interview with Colonna that gender-based regulations were “a practice that we’ve always done in the past — this is just the first time we’re doing it not in person.”
Watts’ statement differs from the one currently described on the housing selection website, which says that specific rooms will be assigned by gender designations.
The Amherst Student reached out to Colonna for comment. Colonna said that he is “working with members of Student Affairs to clearly explain the policy which is designed to increase access to all students, not diminish that ability,” but that no further information was available at press time.
The earlier article about changes to the housing selection process has been shared widely on Facebook by students and groups who heavily criticized Residential Life over a perceived lack of inequality and support for transgender and non-gender-conforming students. Students have reportedly emailed Colonna and other college staff. Groups that have responded and shared the article include student-run activism page Not Under My Watch as well as the Amherst College Democrats, who penned an open letter to Residential Life against these changes.
Update: Chief Student Affairs Officer Suzanne Coffey sent an email to the community at 4:14 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23 stating that the college has withdrawn proposed changes to the housing selection that would have designated rooms by sex. “Gender inclusive housing will remain our policy in all upper-class residence halls,” she wrote. “We recognize and apologize for the impact the proposals described in The Amherst Student have had on our community.” The Residential Life website has been updated to reflect these changes. This article was updated at 9:54 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23.