Emory’s gender-neutral housing option will expand to the entire Clairmont Residential Center (CRC) for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Residence Life and Housing and the Residence Hall Association (RHA) will offer third- and fourth-year students the option to live with roommates of different genders in all four buildings of the CRC starting this fall.

The expansion, which is the “second phase” of the gender-neutral housing program, will increase the number of potential gender-neutral spaces to 338 beds in 169 apartments, according to RHA President and College junior Niketu Patel.

After a pilot gender-neutral housing program in 2011-2012, ResLife and RHA implemented the first phase of the program during the 2012-2013 academic year, offering the option to students living in two-bedroom apartments in the F Building of the CRC, Patel said.

Director of Clairmont Campus Frank Gaertner said ResLife and RHA expanded the program in response to student interest.

Despite the fact that only 12 students are currently participating in the program, Gaertner said 54 percent of students who took an annual housing survey last December indicated that they were moderately to extremely interested in gender-neutral housing.

Gaertner attributed this discrepancy to the popularity of the F Building itself. He said it was possible that students who wanted to live in the F Building, but not through gender-neutral housing, signed up for those apartments before those interested in the program had a chance to do so.

However, by expanding the program to the entire CRC, students interested in gender-neutral housing will be able to choose from a wider variety of locations next year, Patel said.

In light of the fact that students can live with whomever they want off-campus, Gaertner said ResLife is excited to offer the same option on campus.

Additionally, Gaertner said Emory expanded the gender-neutral housing option because more than 50 other colleges and universities across the country have implemented similar programs.

Other than expanding gender-neutral housing to the entire CRC, no other changes to gender-neutral housing policies will take place, Patel specified. He said residents who select the gender-neutral option will continue to compete with students who choose to live with roommates of the same gender.  Additionally, any vacancies in an apartment will be filled with a same-gendered student, he said.

Though the first phase of the program limited the number of participants who were able to live at Clairmont through the program, Gaertner said the students that were able to participate have had positive experiences.

Participants in the program this year ranked their satisfaction level at 6.59 out of 7, Gaertner said, adding that the program has received no negative feedback.

Goizueta Business School senior Josh Bergeleen, who participated in the program this year, said gender-neutral housing has been the easiest living experience of his entire time at Emory.

“It’s a lot easier to find a friend to live with who will also be a great roommate,” he said. “Great friends aren’t always great roommates.”

Patel said he believes gender-neutral housing ultimately provides students with a more comfortable living experience in addition to showing them that Emory is open to their choices.

“RHA believes that it’s time for change on our campus,” he wrote in an email to the Wheel. “Gender-neutral housing is a step in a new direction for our University.”

Students can sign up for the program through the regular housing selection process, which began on Feb. 18 and ends Feb. 25 for upperclassmen. All roommate requests must be mutual, regardless of gender.

– By Elizabeth Howell