When news broke last month that USF planned to change its housing policy, much of the attention was focused on changes meant to help transgender students. However another issue that was eclipsed by the gender neutrality controversy could make just as many waves in the near future.
Starting in the spring, USF will launch a test program that will allow students of any gender to live together. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the program will offer eight to 10 spots and rooming with romantic partners would be discouraged. Yet, Dorie Paine, director of Housing and Residential Education, said to The Oracle that allowing couples to live together could be advantageous if it prevented them from moving off campus.
USF will join a growing number of universities implementing gender-neutral housing. Big East rival Rutgers is launching a similar pilot program this fall.
Cohabitation, when unmarried couples live together, has become more accepted in recent years, and couples have always had the option to live together off campus. However, USF should think twice before allowing fully coed resident halls.
According to 2007 census data, 9.6 percent of couples living together were not married. Many consider it a trial run for marriage, but studies have shown that cohabitation does not make for a healthier marriage and could make things worse.
According to a study released last year by the National Center for Health Statistics, marriages among couples who cohabitated first were 9 percent less likely to last even 10 years. This is on top of already dismal divorce rates, with one-third of all marriages failing to make it to the decade mark.
Aside from long-term consequences, college relationships are not known for being the most stable. While living together may seem ideal for some couples, many college students lack the emotional maturity for that level of commitment.
The driving force behind the housing change was to make it easier for transgender students to have supportive roommates and make it less likely for them to request a room change.
However, allowing couples to room together could make the roommate turnover rate worse. What happens if couple splits up halfway through the school year?
Housing makes students requesting a room change wait at least two weeks, giving them a chance to work out any problems before moving them.
That policy would have to change if couples were allowed to live together. Sharing a dorm room with an ex for two weeks could prove a housing nightmare, having the opposite effect of what the program intends.
Allowing cohabitation would be more problematic than helpful for the University and ultimately would distract from what should be the main goal of college life: education.
Michael Hardcastle is a senior majoring in creative writing.