Housing Sub-Committee Discusses All-Gender and Leed Certification
In its first meeting of the semester this Thursday, the Housing sub-committee of the Housing and Dining Committee discussed two issues that could affect the way students live at Oberlin: what the College’s all-gender housing policy should be for the coming year, and whether or not the college should adopt official green building standards in the construction of its next college housing project.
Students representing a range of groups, from the Edmonia Lewis Center for Women and Transgender People, the Transgender Advocacy Group and Student Senate as well as unaffiliated individuals said they wanted to see more options on campus for all-gender identified persons.
In 2004, Oberlin made all of Noah Hall into co-ed housing, meaning that students of any gender could share a room. This option is available to all upper-class students but not to first-years. It was a step toward accommodating a range of sexual identities beyond male and female. This year, 12 students took advantage of this new housing option. Additionally, all village and co-op housing is all-gender.
Students at Thursday’s meeting asked the College to take additional steps forward in enabling all students to feel safe and included in College housing.
College sophomore Eli Conley, who spoke for the Edmonia Lewis Center, said that students looking for all-gender housing options should have more than one dorm to choose from.
“Students shouldn’t have to be segregated in one all-gender hall,” said Conley.
Students suggested a spectrum of different solutions, from making all campus housing all-gender, to making one floor of each dorm transgender, to redistributing the current number of all-gender spaces in Noah across three or four dorms. Students also suggested that these housing decisions be considered on a case-by-case basis to accommodate privacy issues.
Student Senator and College junior Ezra Temko, on behalf of Senate, brought the idea of all-campus all-gender housing before the Student Life Committee. He said that the SLC had expressed reservations.
SLC’s strongest reservations seemed to concern the reaction of alumni, parents and prospective students.
Molly Tyson, director of Residential Education, voiced another concern she had heard —that some students might, for religious or other reasons, want an alternative to all-gender housing.
“Part of this is that we need to represent all 2,800 students,” she said. “We need to make everyone feel safe.”
An OC alum attending the meeting, who only identified herself as Adrian, said that all-gender housing was consistent with Oberlin’s tradition of social justice.
“I think it’s important for Oberlin to maintain its definition of social justice,” she said. “We shouldn’t just be marginalizing and ghettoizing people in housing, which is something that is very essential to their life.”
Students and subcommittee members discussed possible solutions. Temko proposed a resolution supporting all-gender housing that the subcommittee will vote on. Students and committee members agreed to pursue a compromise for next year in which the spots currently allocated to Noah would be redistributed across several dorms.
“We have a short window,” said Tyson, referring to the fact that the second stage of the housing selection process begins in three weeks, “but we want to do something for next year.”
Students from Oberlin’s Environmental Policy Implemen-tation Group — along with others — spoke to educate the committee about Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, which they advocated should be adopted in Oberlin’s Phase Two on-campus building project.
A building becomes LEED certified if it meets a specific list of environmental sustainability criteria. Levels of certification range from the base level certification to silver, gold and then platinum. Each level reflects an increase in environmental sustainability.
EPIG advocated that the College aim for the LEED silver rating in Phase Two. Planning for this housing, which will be built near Stevenson, is already underway — the College has requested bids from numerous architectural firms. Last semester, the board of trustees rejected an architect’s design, in part because they did not think that it met Oberlin’s environmental goals.
College junior Morgan Pitts, speaking for EPIG, explained that while building at LEED standards is more expensive by .6 to 6 percent, energy savings pay off this cost in as little as five years and save money in the long run.
Pitts emphasized that energy conservation is becoming an increasingly significant factor when it comes to shoring up finances.
“The energy market is very unpredictable right now,” he said, “and prices are really only going one way.”
College junior and Housing Subcommittee Member Andy Barnett said of adopting high environmental standards, “Not only is this marketable, but it’s stupid not to from a financial standpoint.”
“Silver housing projects would help us recement our position as a leader in environmental sustainability,” said Pitts, who suggested that Oberlin has compromised the leadership it gained with the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies since the construction of less sustainable buildings like the Science Center and Union Street Housing.
Students expressed frustration with hearing support for LEED certification but not seeing anything concrete being accomplished.
“This [LEED Certification] is on the horizon,” said Director of
ResEd Business Operations Michele Gross. “It is no longer a ‘not at
all,’ it’s a ‘where and how much.’ You need to bring it
up everywhere you can bring it up.”