This week, incoming Florida State University students can start applying for their fall housing. And they'll see something new on their housing contracts: an option to request an LGBTQ+ rooming option.
Marking that box means students will have the option to live with other LGBTQ students or allies. Staff members will follow up with each individual to work out the details.
"We've known for a while that we were just not able to quite fill the need of all of our students," Shannon Staten, head of FSU's housing department, says.
Before the LGBTQ+ housing option was in place, students were assigned rooms based on their gender on record with the university. If a student identified as female but their record said they were male, they couldn't be roomed with other women. That restriction has now been lifted. Staten says it's something that's been under consideration for years.
"We have heard from groups on and off over the past few years not consistently and not regularly, but we have heard from groups from time to time that students were not feeling supported and their needs met in housing because they could not live with allies or with individuals they wanted to live with due to our restrictive policy," Staten says.
Staten explains the school has been gathering input from students since last February and has also consulted with other universities in Florida that already had similar policies.
One of the groups weighing in is Gender Odyssey, which wrote a public letter last October asking for more LGBTQ housing options. It got more than 600 signatures. Gender Odyssey President Jay Galante says he's pleased to see the changes. Still, he wants the school to consider prioritizing LGBTQ students and not their allies.
"And if there's a need for allies to be involved in these housing assignments, then that is when the ally portion of this program comes into consideration. Where there's an odd number of students, they need to fill a room, let's throw an ally in there. But allies again, should not be the focus of this program," Galante says.
About 190 returning students have already said they're interested in learning more about the new option for the fall.