More than 50 colleges across the country now offer gender-neutral dorm rooms. Sometimes there are a limited number of co-ed dorm rooms or restrictions on who can room together, or colleges may not offer co-ed housing options until senior year. However, the trend appears to be growing.
Are co-ed dorms a good idea for your child? What do you think?
Part of this initiative for change in college dorms, which used to have single-sex houses, then single-sex floors, but have ultimately only kept single-sex rooms, was to help gay and transgender students room in an environment that makes them feel more comfortable. However, David Norton, executive director of The National Student Genderblind Campaign that helps students lobby for gender-neutral housing, actually co-founded the campaign when he was in college and was not allowed to share a dorm room with a woman, his best friend since middle school.
"Many best friends these days are opposite genders," said Norton, 24. "It doesn't make sense to have a policy that makes it so you can't live with the person you feel most comfortable living with."
According to a recent article in the Sacramento Bee, "College housing officials say mixed housing hasn't led to increases in sexual violence. Most schools limit mixed-gender rooms to specific buildings or floors. They assign students to mixed rooms only when both people request it."
BYU offers housing for married couples for all four years. Other colleges with gender-neutral dorm rooms include: Bennington College, Brown University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Oberlin College, Sarah Lawrence College, Stanford University, University of California-Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Connecticut, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern Maine, and Wesleyan University. You can view the Genderblind Campaign's latest 2010 Campus Equality Index (PDF) for a detailed list of 54 colleges and universities with inclusive policies.
There are so many distractions in college, it does seem this idea needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis for each student. It might not be right for everyone, that's for sure. However, it definitely makes sense for gay and lesbian students and for platonic friendships (although if you agree with Harry in When Harry Met Sally, straight men and women really can't be "just friends," can they?).
What do you think? Would you allow your child to sign up for gender-neutral housing?
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