Social Justice and Equity Committee hopes to put through a new housing statement


Calum Sullivan, Assistant Editor

On March 31, the Lumen sat down with Beckett Knoke, a member of the Social Justice and Equity Committee, to discuss a new housing statement the Committee is hoping to put in place this coming fall. The pending statement, which Knoke said has yet to be fully released, would read, “Viterbo aims to value and honor students’ identities and create a safe living space for all residents.” “We’re not just trying to make it so Sarah and Johnny can live together to continue their relationship”, they explained, noting that SJE is attempting to create language that would let “folks who identify outside of the gender binary to select their roommates who they feel safe with.” 

In listing a reason this statement has become such a key focus for SJE in the recent months, Knoke mentioned Margy Krogman, former director of Residence Life.  “Margy was a huge ally for our trans and queer communities … and created a whole document of trans inclusivity back in 2016,” Knoke elaborated, saying that the new policy was in part to make sure Margy’s vision for trans inclusivity on Viterbo’s campus could be seen through.    “Especially after her stepping down,” Knoke added, SJE wants to ensure “that this is something that gets to continue and that it’s not just on a conversational basis but that it’s written down.”   

Knoke specified how the change would affect students living in residence halls differently than those living in apartments, saying that “the residence halls will remain gendered by floor,” and that “getting non-binary [first year] individuals right into apartment-style houses” would be the goal to help all students feel safe. The statement is aimed first at apartments, with changes perhaps to follow to the residence halls.  

Knoke added that while the majority of focus is on non-binary students, the statement covers many kinds of minority labels.  “The way we first thought about it was under the lens of our trans students,” Knoke said, and stressed that this is the focus of the statement, although it hopes to make campus safer for all students who live in unsafe housing situations.   

Knoke mentioned one particular facet of Viterbo’s current housing policy that stuck out to them, explaining, “Many queer couples are living together, which fits with our current housing policy, whereas straight couples are not allowed to.” Knoke further remarked on something many Viterbo students mentioned in a poll taken by the Lumen on February 23rd concerning student housing. When polled a month ago, ninety percent of students supported a housing policy that involved no longer relying on gender markers at all from Viterbo.   

The Lumen asked Knoke why the housing statement being pushed by SJE was somewhat limited in reach in comparison to the previous poll. “Because we are a Catholic and Franciscan university, there are some rules regarding men and women living together,” Knoke explained. “It would get a little complicated once we have straight couples living together … that’s where the need to have individual rooms for students would be important.” 

Knoke said the statement has only a few more steps to go through, adding that President Rick Trietley has already given his nod of approval for it to move forward.  The new housing statement from SJE could be put into place as early as the end of this year.