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Mixed gender campus housing would be a welcome idea with SoHo members
by Andrew Johnson, News Editor

Photo credit: Andrew Johnson, News Editor   
Campus living at Carnegie Mellon can assume a variety of forms, from having one's own room, to sharing a dorm room with a roommate, to sharing a suite with several friends.

Living on campus does not mean sharing a room with someone of the opposite sex.

Across the country, a handful of universities and colleges have begun to offer this less traditional housing opportunity. According to a December issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, schools such as Antioch, Yellow Springs, Ohio, Wesleyan, Haverford, and Swarthmore have pioneered opposite sex roommate initiatives.

In fact, Wesleyan has offered the option since 1995.

Dean of Student Affairs Michael Murphy noted that there was no program or policy to support mixed-gender rooms, although it has been discussed in the past.

"I would certainly be open to any revisiting of any of these policies and practices," Murphy said.

The university originally designed Doherty apartments as quarters for married couples, but neither Doherty nor any other campus housing has been offered in this capacity in over 25 years.

Student Dormitory Council President Anthony Balducci said that the issue had come up in meetings but had never gotten past discussion.

"There was not enough student support for the idea to propose change at that time," said Balducci. "If there is student support for any change, SDC is happy to look into the matter."

The issue is not widely discussed. One reason this is so is because of the numerous off-campus housing opportunities. However, the question of why this option is not offered to consenting students still remains.

One group this issue interests is the gay and lesbian community at Carnegie Mellon. Gay and lesbian students often have a have a hard time finding an acceptable match.

Chris Riley, a sophomore mathematics major, and member of SoHo, Carnegie Mellon's Resource Center for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Concerns, said "I think it's ridiculous that I can live with someone who I can have sex with, or with someone I would want to have sex with, [and not] with someone who I have no sexual interest in."

It is not uncommon for a student to move off campus just because of gender restrictions.

"I'm going to live off-campus next year just so I can live with my best friend who happens to be a girl," said one anonymous student.

"All the people who I would actually want to live with were all females" interjected another student. "They didn't allow that, so I ended up with a random roommate."

Another SoHo member, David Kaplan, a junior in mechanical engineering, commented on the lack of any policy designed to find acceptable roommates for first-year gay and lesbian students.

"I got paired with a guy from Nebraska who was a football player, and I was scared shitless about moving in with him," he said. "Things worked out and everything, but there's no system of checks and balances…. [to ensure that] I won't get paired with a homophobic guy."

Student Housing offers many other options to incoming first-year students. They may choose quiet living arrangements, and can choose to live with smokers or non-smokers.

However, Balducci commented, "At this point, there is no discrimination based on sexual preference."

Although differences in sexual preference are often not an issue, direct and indirect issues do crop up for some.

"My roommate was great," reflected one student. "It's just that his friends had loose lips and said things I found very offensive."

Will the future be devoid of gender distinctions in housing? Some universities have already embraced this new viewpoint. It remains unclear as to whether the current barriers reflect the need for a comfort zone between the sexes, a lingering inequality, or just indifference in the face of off-campus alternatives.

However, in the end, students and faculty will have to decide whether coed housing will become a reality, or remain just an idea.

Articles and pictures from Spring Carnival 2002 can be found in The Tartan's special Carnival section.

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