Co-ed residence halls, where men and women live in the same building but not in the same room, have been a standard of college life for decades—the private Ohio liberal arts school Oberlin College made the cover of November 20, 1970, issue of Life magazine when it was one of the first colleges in the country to have co-ed halls. But gender and college housing are in the news again now, as dozens of colleges and universities across the country are offering the option for students to choose their roommates without restrictions on gender. The issue has garnered national coverage in news outlets from the Los Angeles Times to Fox News, and it has been the subject of numerous scholarly articles.
The current movement started as an effort to help gay and transgender students feel comfortable in on-campus housing. But more colleges are embracing the idea because it allows all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, to pick the most compatible roommates.
CCAD started offering gender-neutral roommate selection last year after opening its new Design Square Apartments, which have private bedrooms.
“Many of our students share off-campus apartments with roommates of differing genders, and they wanted that same option if they continued to live on campus. Now that we have an apartment building with private bedrooms and bathrooms, the choice to provide such an option was an easy one for us to make,” said Dwayne Todd, vice president of student affairs and dean of students. “Our experience with mixed-gender housing has been virtually problem-free.”
Like most schools, CCAD only provides the gender-neutral roommate selection option to students at a sophomore level or higher. Additionally, CCAD discourages romantic partners from living together. Staff were prepared to make room transfers if couples did move in together and then broke up—but that hasn’t happened. Todd said, “We’ve found that in practically every case, our mixed-gender apartments are comprised of friends and siblings. I suppose some healthy distance is still important to those who are in romantic relationships.”
Sophomore Animation major David King’s decision to live in an on-campus apartment with three female roommates stemmed from their being well-acquainted their freshman year. “We all became friends when we had foundations classes together,” he said.
Still, living with three women has been an eye-opener. As with any new roommates, “once you live with someone, you see a different side,” King continued. “The fact that they are females means we have some different perspectives on how to deal with relationships and conflict.” He acts as a buffer at times and encourages his roommates to be forthcoming about issues that could brew into larger problems. In addition, they all share their experiences dealing with members of the opposite sex. “I’ve learned a lot about women from hearing their point of view on their relationships,” he said.
“It’s an interesting balance. I think we’ve all benefited from the experience.”
Published in print twice a year, CCAD’s IMAGE magazine shares stories about our creative community, whether here in Columbus or around the world—what we’re doing, thinking, and planning next. The IMAGE blog brings those stories online for transmission at the click of a mouse.