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Gender Odyssey asks FSU to increase housing protections for transgender, non-binary students

Students ask Florida State University Housing for more protections
Posted at 8:08 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 20:08:45-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Transgender and non-binary students at Florida State University are asking for more protection when it comes to living on campus. The University recently changed its requirements, but those students said, that's just a start.

Gender Odyssey is a campus organization for transgender and non-binary students. Jay Galante serves as the President. He said the group first brought the issue to the housing department in 2019.

“There is still so much work to be done. And unfortunately, FSU Housing's initial steps of this process have been inadequate at best,” said Galante.

Florida State University's housing form now includes the question "Are you interested in LGBTQ+ housing?" Florida State University Housing Director Shannon Staten said that question is aimed at lessening the risk of an LGBTQ+ student having to endure bullying from their roommate.

“We're excited about that, we think that we'll be able to help students, now, it's still requiring students to reach out to us a little bit, our goal would be to get to the point in the future where you don't have to identify anything, you know, it's so prevailing that all you have to do is tell us who you're wanting to live with,” said Staten.

Yet, members of Gender Odyssey say it’s still not enough. The group listed 8 more steps the university should take to ensure the safety of the school. Those include:

  • The development of concrete goals with dates for completing them, plus accountability for these goals not being fulfilled
  • Transparency from FSU housing
  • Better communication from FSU housing
  • Taking individual identities into consideration when assigning students within the transgender-inclusive housing program
  • Rewording of the current FSU housing survey question from ‘Are you interested in LGBTQ+ housing?’ to ‘Are you comfortable living with an LGBTQ plus roommate?’, followed by identity-related questions
  • Changing transgender students’ names without legal precedent and the housing management system
  • Multiple staff members of FSU housing involved in maintaining the trans-inclusive housing program
  • Ensuring that Seaboard, the University's Housing Management System makes changes to become transgender-inclusive, or otherwise, spending FSU money on an HMS system that is trans-inclusive

“These changes, as far as I'm aware, would not have protected me from my situations. And I do not feel confident that this fully addresses the concerns trans people have on account of campus housing,” said Sadie Carlson.

Sadie Carlson shared her story. She said her roommate was transphobic. Carlson said the issues continued to build throughout the year until she finally went to the RA.

“They basically told me that my only options were to either move or deal with it. There was no discussion with the other roommate. It was not even a slap on the wrist,” said Carlson.

FSU said situations like that take time to handle because they have to follow the university process.

"We can't make the other person move until they've gone through the conduct process. And then if the conduct process determines if they should have to move or relocate Well, we can't guarantee that that'll happen,” said Staten.

Staten said the latest changes from FSU are a part of a pilot program. Right now, four students are living together based on gender identity.

“What we did was we worked with those students, we offered them the ability to live together, we assign them into space, that they could be together knowing that their genders don't match on the university's record,” she said.

One thing the university isn’t doing right now is focusing on a hall or building exclusively for LGBTQ+ students.

“We didn't want to put them all together, because we didn't want one to bring a lot of attention to them that they're not ready for. We don't want people to be able to identify them based on where they're living. So, we thought it best if they were integrated and spread around the community,” Staten said.

Gender Odyssey points to other colleges across the country with housing programs in place to protect transgender students. Many in the group point to the model at the University of Central Florida as a good example.

Florida A&M doesn’t have specific questions or ways for LGBTQ+ students to get housing. FAMU said it is dealing with requests on a case-by-case basis.