The current school year marked the first time George Mason University offered Flexible Housing, an option allowing male and female students to live together on campus. The Office of Housing and Residence Life will soon receive an assessment of the new living option.
Melissa Thierry, assistant director of housing services, said approximately 150 students chose to participate in Flexible Housing, commonly called gender neutral housing, this year, and she believes it has been a success.
“We have had no significant issues reported due to Flexible Housing. A more formal assessment of the program is scheduled for next month, so we will know more and have more feedback at that time,” Thierry said via email. “We currently have 180 students who are currently participating in Flexible Housing for next academic year, 2015-2016.”
Thierry describes Flexible Housing as an occupancy plan that has no gender restraints on how a space in the residence hall is assigned. She said students can choose to live with whoever they would like to live with, regardless of gender.
According to Thierry, OHRL is committed to helping all Mason students be as successful as possible in their college career. This commitment entails providing a living environment with fellow students who will help support each other, and gender should not be a restriction to this support system.
“Our occupancy plan allows any student applying to live in upperclassmen housing the opportunity to go through Housing Selection as a Flexible Housing group,” Thierry said. “Here at Mason, Flexible Housing is more of a method of signing up for a space rather than defining the space itself. Students approved for Flexible Housing are allowed to live wherever the group would like to live.”
More often than not, students participating in Flexible Housing enjoyed the experience of living with the opposite gender.
“I love it,” junior Liz Wheeler said. “When I lived with a bunch of girls, or even just one, it felt like there was a lot of tension and if someone said the wrong thing, all hell would break lose. Now, everything is a lot calmer [and] there’s a nice balance.”
“I would absolutely do it again,” sophomore Madison O’Conner said. “I think living with a guy provides an outlet in the apartment because he is often a mediator in our girly fights.”
On the other hand, Michelle DuMars said she would not do Flexible Housing again because she felt that having one boy live with three girls (including her) changed the vibe of the room for the worse.
“I do not think living with three females was our male roommate’s ideal living situation! Maybe [it would have been better] if we had known him a bit more in the beginning,” DuMars said.
However, some students say they did not like the selection process for gender neutral housing. Wheeler said she found the process annoying, both this year and last, but said she was told that housing is working on making it easier.
“They’re trying to make it so that the whole group doesn’t have to come in and get read the ‘disclaimer’ and sign the paper that says we heard the ‘disclaimer,’” Wheeler said.
O’Conner agreed saying she would have liked it if the interviewing process was a less intimidating experience. She said she knows OHRL is just trying to weed out the couples that are not going to last, but feels it’s obvious to tell when guys and girls are just friends, not romantically involved.
Thierry said that Housing will continue to tweak the application method for Flexible Housing.
“Right now there is a paper process and we plan on making it all online in the future,” Thierry said. “We want to provide our residents with opportunities to be successful students at Mason and will strive to offer any options that will help meet this goal.”
Featured photo credit: Johannah Tubalado