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Ryerson’s all-gender housing initiative cost under $10,000

By Stefanie Phillips

All-gender housing on campus was paid through already existing funds, Ryerson’s Housing and Residence Life and the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) have confirmed.

With the exception of the signage to bathrooms and shower rooms that were priced at less than $10,000 over the past three years, introducing housing that accommodates all gender identities was done on salaries and budgets that already exist. Therefore, there was no need to make an entire budget, hire anyone, receive grants or take out loans in order to make the transition to all-gender housing. 

This year, the university stopped requiring students to disclose their gender identity on housing application forms and introduced all-gender housing, a system that accommodates all gender identities, including non-binary ones.

Of the roughly 800 students living in residence this year, 49 per cent opted for all-gender housing, while the other 51 per cent selected same gender.

Ian Crookshank, the director of Housing and Residence Life, said it is hard to quantify the price of the change because it was “money that was already being spent.”

“A lot of these changes start not off the side of someone’s desk, but using resources that we already have. What we do is we rededicate them.”

According to Ryerson President Mohamed Lachemi, the costs associated with implementing all-gender housing have been minimal.

“I think it was a good investment given the reaction that we get from students and from the community—very positive. Reaction, feedback to date has been insanely positive,” Lachemi said.

Crookshank short-lists the changes that need time and resources, which includes updating the application process, the website and the signage on all three of the school’s residence buildings.

“I think the good thing about that is really the recognition that sometimes these things don’t cost a lot of money, they don’t take a lot of resource and they don’t take a lot of time.”

Camryn Harlick, RSU’s vice-president equity, also said there were no additional costs associated to the change on their end, either.

The only thing they could think of that could have cost money is changes made to the residence website, but Harlick said the people hired to do the change are “always on retainer.”

Harlick said most of the feedback they received about all-gender housing from students has been positive. The only negative feedback they heard came online, in comment sections under articles.

Samantha Shaw, the residence administration assistant at Humber College, where they have all-gender housing, said, “there is an option … more if you’re comfortable with living with someone of the opposite gender or someone in the transition process there is an option to select if you are comfortable with that or not in the application process.”

Shaw said that the application form is “more binary” but could not confirm if the application asks students to identify their gender.

In a written statement, York University said, “Students are not required to identify their gender when applying for residence at York. We have added a new field on the residence application so that students can identify as transgender on the form.”

Crookshank said the difference between Ryerson and other schools, is that Ryerson doesn’t ask students to “out themselves” at a time when they might not feel comfortable disclosing that information.

“This isn’t really just about a niche program for students, it is about a program for all students that will make them feel at home,” he said.

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