On Tuesday afternoon as election coverage began permeating the airwaves, Jacob Clark, an elected official in his own right, presented a bill to SGA's Student Senate that could lead to a change within the UT housing culture.
Bill 0113, named "Bill to Promote Gender Neutral Housing at the University of Tennessee," went through the first of two presentations at the Senate's biweekly meeting.
Clark represents the College of Arts and Sciences. He also sits on SGA's Diversity Affairs Committee.
"What I mean when I say gender neutral housing is an option available where males and females can live in the same apartment or suite just like they can in real life," Clark, a junior in College Scholars, said. "Some schools define it as a male and female living in the same room, but we know that's probably not going to happen here."
The bill asks that UT Housing and the Division of Student Life develop a plan to implement gender neutral housing by the fall of 2014 with the help of SGA, URHC and "other interested individuals."
Under Clark's proposal, the option would benefit families with siblings who were interested in sharing a university space, as well as those in relationships, others simply desiring to room with a co-ed group and those within the transgender community.
"A large part of the push for it at other schools has been the fact that you have a significant, maybe not particularly large, but a significant transgender population that wants that option," Clark said. "Because right now, they might not feel that they necessarily fit in a strictly female or male setting."
SGA Vice President Terry Nowell is also in favor of the bill, saying that he foresees its implementation as coming two or three years down the road.
"Yeah I think it is one of the bigger ones," Nowell said. "To change the actual way that students live and the way they associate with people in the residence halls, I don't think it's impossible by any means. I definitely think it's something that student government can tackle. I'll be working with (Clark), URHC and also with a lot of the residents associates and their staff to see it'll be implemented and how it can be implemented."
The bill will be up for vote Nov. 20. It will need a 51 percent majority from the senators to pass. Clark and Nowell both anticipate that it will do so successfully.
"The people who will make these decisions have been very warm to it," Clark said. "So I don't think it's going to be that difficult. But having it passed through the senate and the URHC protects them when someone doesn't like what they're doing. They can say 'we're just doing what the students want.'"
Tuesday's Student Senate meeting nearly lost voting quorum when students began trickling out of the meeting between the presentation of legislation and president Adam Roddy's presentation of the organization's altered constitution.
"That's something that we're definitely hoping to address in this next couple weeks by allowing senators to realize the expectations one more time, and if they're not willing to commit to those, then we'll be looking for people to fill those roles because we should take this seriously," Nowell said. "We're representing the students, and if people aren't taking it seriously then it is going to be a very ineffective council and that's not what anybody in student government wants."