St. Mary’s College Now Allowing Opposite Genders to House Together

College StudentsWhen most students enroll to live in college dorms they will have to live with members of the same sex, even if they don’t want to. This is a pretty standard rule with the majority of colleges, but St. Mary’s in Maryland is now changing their rules. They have decided to forego gender consideration when it comes to students selecting their roommates. This is an “open-housing” policy that makes it possible for men and women to house together. This can make it possible for students to house with people they are more comfortable being around.

The college decided to go for this change when they realized that many of their students were not comfortable living with students of the same sex. This feeling of discomfort could be due to not identifying with their birth sex or just not feeling like they fit in. This is important since many students avoid dorms due to the simple fact that they have to live with members of the same gender. Now that St. Mary’s has changed their policy, those individuals can have a chance to live in dorms and actually enjoy the experience overall. Joanne Goldwater, who is the associate dean of students and director of residence life, says that this new policy will ensure students have a safe space to live in.

Students will not be automatically signed up for this program; they do have to give their consent if they want to live with an opposite-sex roommate. Any students who are interested in taking advantage of this program will have to opt into it for the next semester. This new program is just getting started, as there are only 18 students in Prince George Hall of the school living in the open-housing floor. Out of those 18 students only two are of the opposite sex and living together.

One of these students is Hannah Felperin, who is 20 years old with a philosophy major. She lives with a male in a typical dorm room that is complete with two separate beds. She said she was randomly assigned a male roommate after both of them had opted into the program. She stated that she believes in gender neutrality, which is why she doesn’t mind living with someone of the opposite gender. This floor also has a bathroom that is gender-neutral, which means that it comes complete with urinals, stalls and showers that are separated by dividers. Other floors in the college can have gender-neutral bathrooms based on their preferences.

Although this policy is new, the school’s administration started planning it out in 2010. Now that it’s being implemented, it is getting good responses from parents as well as students. They are looking forward to more students signing up in the future, including Alex Conrad, who is a gay 19 year old male. He said that this program was a major factor in him actually choosing this school. St. Mary’s is in good company, with universities like Brown and Brandeis also offering gender-blind programs for students who live in their dorms.