On March 23, the Times reported about the new gender-neutral housing pilot program at Hendrix College in Conway, which would allow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students the opportunity to live in student apartments with people of the opposite gender. Officials there said the program was designed to make LGBT students feel more comfortable with college life. The program, the first of its kind in the state, reportedly received enough student applications to fill four, two-student apartments next fall.
Other media soon followed up on our story. The program generated some critical comments from readers. (See link.)
One of those who was told he would be receiving a gender-neutral housing assignment next semester was Aaron Aldridge, a gay freshman. Aldridge said he received confirmation that he had been accepted into the pilot program in mid-March. Then, on Monday of this week, Aldridge said he was called into the office of a resident life coordinator and told the offer was being rescinded. Though he wasn't specifically told why, Aldridge said what he took from the meeting was that the gender-neutral housing program was being scaled back due to controversy.
After talking to Aldridge, Arkansas Times attempted to contact Hendrix dean of students Jim Wiltgen, who had spoken with us about the program for our original story. Hendrix spokesperson Rob O'Connor called back, and asked us to submit questions in writing. His eventual response to several specific questions about the fate of the program, whether it was being scaled back and — if so — why, was this statement: "An administrative error in the housing notification process was brought to our attention by students and corrected. All applicants for the pilot program have their spaces available for fall as originally offered, and the College remains committed to the housing pilot program."
Pressed further on whether that means Aldridge and others who were told the offer of gender-neutral housing had been taken away would, in fact, be living in gender-neutral housing next semester, O'Connor said that they would. "Once students expressed their concern," O'Connor wrote, "the error was corrected."
— David Koon