Until recent decades, colleges did not allow men and women to live in the same dormitory buildings and set strict limits on visitation hours.
While these restrictions still hold true at some schools, colleges have generally moved toward more gender-neutral arrangements and, as evident on USF’s campus, many now feature co-ed dorms and apartment buildings.
However, as is also the case at USF, men and women are not allowed to be roommates or share an apartment or dorm room unless they are married.
While the idea of changing this policy may be cause for initial alarm, students who live on campus should not have their choice of roommate filtered by gender restrictions. Students are already living in the same building, and this small step forward would ensure equal opportunity housing.
USF should begin exploring this option.
Columbia University in New York City is one of the latest to begin considering the move. According to CNN, an estimated 30 schools throughout the country have already implemented their own gender-neutral housing policy.
Though policy specifics differ for each school, students wouldn’t be forced to room with someone of the opposite sex without permission or, preferably, a request from both parties.
Of course, the move would be ideal for couples who wanted to live together, but according to Jeffrey Chang, a co-founder of The National Student Genderblind Campaign, less than 1 percent of students at schools that allow co-ed rooming actually choose that option.
Allowing couples to stay together does not seem to be the intention behind the change.
“It’s really a proposal for students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender to have the opportunity to live with a roommate they feel comfortable with,” Sarah Weiss, a Columbia Student Government member who voted for the change, said to CNN.
Whether gay or straight, many individuals have strong relationships with members of the opposite sex that are not sexual in nature.
It’s not USF’s or any college’s place to tell an adult man or woman that they can’t live with someone solely because of their gender, regardless of their attraction to one another.
Though logistical challenges would be an initial issue, procedures could be established that allow all friends to become roommates. It’s the next logical step.
USF’s current policy is backward. Its inequality and discriminatory nature must come to an end. Perhaps now is the time for a progressive change.