Rutgers’ New Rules on Roomies Raises Lots of Questions

The recent decision to allow male and female students to live in the same dorm room at Rutgers’ New Brunswick campus has raised lots of questions—not the least of which is whether this practice eventually also will take hold at the university’s Camden campus.

According to published reports, Rutgers is offering co-ed living experiences in an effort to “make the New Brunswick campus more welcoming to gay students.” Undergrads will have the option of choosing a roommate of the opposite sex, which will allow gay and transgendered students to choose male or female roommates. Moreover, heterosexual students will be allowed to live with their boyfriends, girlfriends or platonic friends that happen to be of the opposite sex. Also, the halls will include unisex bathrooms, where men and women share the facilities.

For my part, I’m not sure this is such a great idea.

Before transferring to Temple University in 2001, I spent my freshman year at Eastern University, a self-described Christian school in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. (At one point I considered becoming a youth minister, but that’s another story). At Eastern, we didn’t even have co-ed floors, and opposite genders were only allowed to visit each other’s dorm rooms during specified visiting hours. Oh yeah, and the dorm room door had to remain open at all times.

Was it annoying? Yes. Draconian and stifling? You bet. But at the same time, I came to see the (theoretical) sense in it.

I’m certainly not suggesting that every college and university adopt a policy like Eastern’s. I understand the romantic exploration that goes on in college, and I think (when practiced safely) it’s a positive aspect of one’s growth into adulthood. But isn’t it already difficult enough for students to navigate the precarious world of sex while also balancing the myriad newfound responsibilities that come with living away from home? Isn’t this just throwing another immense distraction into the mix?

Moreover, I’m not really sure how this encourages a campus atmosphere that is more welcoming of gay and transgendered students. It almost seems to do the opposite, implying that there’s something inherently volatile in a homosexual man and heterosexual man living in the same dorm room. Shouldn’t the aim be tolerance, regardless of one’s sexual preference?

Like I said, the issue raises lots of difficult questions.

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