In a move that has stunned -- well, if we're being completely honest -- no one, Rutgers University has announced it will allow male and female undergrads to share rooms in three on-campus residence halls. In addition, men and women will share bathrooms.
Similar gender-neutral housing arrangements are already in place at several other schools including the University of Maryland, Columbia University, and Ohio University. Rutgers is the latest school to follow suit in an effort to make the campus more inclusive for gay students after freshman Tyler Clementi committed suicide last semester.
But some parents aren't so sure they're on board with the idea, especially because the school says it will not allow parents to veto their children's choices.
For the most part, Rutgers students' reactions to the new program -- like this comment from Aaron Lee, a transgender senior -- have been overwhelmingly positive.
I’m really glad they did it, although I wish it wouldn’t have taken as long ... We live in a world where in order to be considered a human being you have to be male or female, and not everyone fits into that kind of binary. It’s important to have spaces where people don’t necessarily have to worry.
But some parents are concerned their heterosexual children might take advantage of the co-ed dorms for "shacking up" purposes with their girlfriends and boyfriends.
Here's how the new mixed-sex housing program will work:
- Students will get into the dorms as per usual -- i.e. through the student housing lottery.
- Students will be given the option of naming a roommate of either sex who is supportive of their sexual preference.
- Students will not be asked to reveal their sexual preference or relationship status with their requested roommate.
- Parents will not be permitted to veto their children’s roommates.
- Students of different genders who don't know each other will not be placed together.
For some parents who rest easy knowing their child resides in a same-sex dorm, this new program might be hard to swallow. And, because gay students obviously get bullied both by students of the opposite gender and the same gender, mixed-housing isn't a cure-all for bullying on campus.
But gay advocacy groups say that gender-neutral housing is an important step in making gay students feel safe and welcome on campus by allowing them to choose a roommate -- regardless of gender -- who is supportive of their preference.
What do you think of gender-neutral housing?
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