Jillian Weir-Reeves: No reservations

Instituting coed dorm rooms on Main Campus would work toward preventing the consequences of homophobia.

When coed dorms were first introduced on college campuses, I gather it was met with controversy. The idea of the opposite sex living a floor above, down the hall or next door was intimate. Students could pass one another on the way to shower or catch a glimpse of a bedroom if a door was ajar, but reservations were put aside, and it was eventually accepted.
jillian weir-reeves

At Rutgers University New Brunswick campus, things are getting closer. Rutgers has implemented the option of coed roommates for the Fall 2011 semester, and the boy or girl next door could be the boy or girl in the next bed.

Temple should follow the footsteps of Rutgers and offer coed dorm rooms as an option for students. By granting the option for students to be placed with the opposite sex, potential disastrous situations, such as the pairing of a homosexual student and a homophobic student in one room, can be avoided.

Students feeling uneasy about living with the same sex could benefit from Rutgers’ coed plan – an initiative that stemmed from the tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi last September at Rutgers University New Brunswick campus.

Clementi was publicly outted as gay by his male roommate, who recorded one of Clementi’s sexual encounters and broadcast it among fellow students. Cases similar to Clementi’s have sparked rallies of GLBT groups across the country to fight for a coed housing option on campuses.

As administrators and developers build the South Gateway project residence hall, retail and dining complex, they should consider implementing a coed roommate policy with the new dorm.

But implementing coed dorm rooms isn’t a housing free-for-all – it comes with rules and limitations to avoid potential disasters. At Rutgers, students can only be placed in a room with a specific student of the opposite sex if both parties request it, and students do not need to declare sexual preference.

Parents also have the final call in approving a coed roommate. Temple could adopt similar rules to protect students and ease concerns.

Molly Whittle, a resident assistant at the Edge and a junior business major, disagrees.

“Do not get me wrong. It is a good idea for gay and lesbian students, but the heterosexual students are what I’m worried about,” Whittle said. “I would be forced to listen to complaints from students playing house.”

The training for resident assistants would likely expand to accommodate new situations and scenarios that have the potential to occur with opposite sex roommates. However, resident assistants are already trained to counsel and mediate relationships. A little extra training could go a long way if it means some students are more comfortable in their living arrangement.

“I don’t think the difference is about gay or straight but more about preferences for living arrangements that are very personal and have many variables,” said women studies professor Rebecca Alpert. “Some [factors], like messy versus neat, may have more bearing on preferences than sexual orientation.”

Aside from disputes and decor, the elephant in the room is sexual tension. Coed roommate situations could lead to increased temptation and desire.

Some might argue coed room assignments would encourage students to have sex more often. However, students are going to have sex regardless. Whether they have to get up and go upstairs or go over to the next bed is just a matter of convenience.

Universities introducing coed roommates are doing so for the good of the students and adapting to what students need. If policies need to be changed or invented, so be it. In the end, it will only allow for GLBT students to feel more comfortable, welcome and free to be themselves.

Jillian Weir-Reeves can be reached at jillian.weir-reeves@temple.edu.

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