Upperclassmen will have the option of co-ed, substance-free housing in Gray Court in the coming 2015-2016 academic year.

In 2002, Wood Hall was designated as a substance-free dorm for men for the last time. Next year will be the first time there has been high enough interest to spark the need for such housing accommodations for men or upperclassmen in general.

A slot on the housing application offers a substance-free housing check box. This box is offered on both male and female applications. However, only freshmen women have been placed in substance free housing since 2002.

Jayson Vivas, a Richmond College freshman interested in substance-free housing, decided to explore this substance-free, gender-housing divide. After talking with his substance-free, female friends, and around 15 of his male friends, he concluded there was a large portion of the substance-free community without appropriate housing.

Vivas was directed to Patrick Benner, Richmond College associate dean of residence life, and asked for options and answers. Benner told Vivas to gather petition signatures so he could gauge the level of interest, Vivas said.

Vivas gathered 30 signatures and returned to Benner’s office, who later spoke with university housing.

“I was shocked that it was so easy. I even had an argument prepared,” Vivas said.

Upperclassmen and male, substance-free housing has always been on the university’s radar, Benner said. Unfortunately, the interest level was never high enough to illicit housing space.

“When you go through the lottery system, it is hard to plan certain substance-free housing. When you need the beds, you need them,” Benner said. Wood Hall’s fully substance-free status had been disrupted in the past when other non-substance-free students needed housing.

However, the school’s use of the StarRez housing system will make it easier to plan substance-free housing, Benner said. Students will be allotted particular time slots to request housing, rather than receiving lottery numbers.

Now 20 beds and five suites have become guaranteed substance-free housing within a subsection of Gray next year. These suites are open to both male and female upperclassman. “The 20 substance-free spaces are definite, but if there is a larger interest, we will try to offer housing in a close proximity to these rooms,” Benner said.

Benner said he did not think this would limit non-substance free upperclassmen looking for housing. “We may start to see women normally in North Court displaced to Thomas or Jeter,” Benner said. Those who would normally choose single-sex housing may have to choose co-ed dorms.

Throughout the approaching academic year year, Benner plans on conferring with Vivas in order to create a substance-free space for freshman men in 2016. Apartments will not be offered as substance-free housing due to designating difficulties.

Contact Advertising Manager Holly Speck at holly.speck@richmond.edu