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Co-ed residence hall life not on OSU’s horizon

Abby Sweet / Lantern photographer

While more colleges in Ohio and nationwide are giving students freedom to choose their on-campus roommates regardless of gender, Ohio State has no plans in the works to allow men and women to live together on campus.

Ohio University, Wright State University and Kenyon College began offering gender-neutral housing for students living on campus for the first time this year. They join Columbus College of Art & Design, Oberlin College and Miami University – Ohio schools that have had the option for years, according to their respective websites.

Toni Greenslade-Smith, the associate director for University Residences and Dining Services at OSU, said the option has been considered, but only as an idea.

“We’ve talked about it, but nothing more than a brainstormed list. It doesn’t have any concrete legs yet,” Greenslade-Smith said. “It’s not on our radar for 2013; that doesn’t mean it’s not on our radar at all.”

She said officials would consider the different wants, needs and expectations of sophomores living on campus if second-year students are required to live on campus in the future.

Dwayne Todd, vice president for student affairs and dean of students at CCAD, said the college began offering gender-neutral housing to students who requested it three years ago after it opened Design Square Apartments. In deciding who should live in the new rooms, officials realized previous rules preventing gender-neutral housing were outdated.

“We tried to think of reasons why we should maintain (the old housing rules), and we couldn’t think of a single reason … so we did away with the rule,” Todd said.

Upperclassman students are given the option to live in two-bedroom or four-bedroom gender-neutral apartments, complete with a private bathroom. Students not interested in the option are not placed in mixed-gender housing. This year, 24 students took advantage of the option.

Todd is a Ph.D. student at OSU studying gender-neutral housing for his dissertation. He said the impact of gender-neutral housing has been positive, leading to increased academic success and retention rates for students. He said the option has been a “non-issue,” and CCAD will continue offering it.

“There are misperceptions and assumptions of what this might lead to … They haven’t come true,” Todd said. “There’s this whole idea that we have to protect students from themselves, but I think it’s passé for us to be making those choices for them.”

This year marks the first time OU has offered gender-neutral housing to students, in an effort to provide more inclusive housing. Currently, 17 students are using the option, said Judy Piercy, associate director for residential housing at OU. She said that while the option has been used by members of the LGBTQ community, it is available to everyone.

The option has been met with support from the student body. A survey conducted by the Student Senate revealed that 84 percent of 1,700 students surveyed were in favor of gender-neutral housing.

Only upperclassmen were given the option this year, though Residential Housing will recommend that the option be extended to all students next year, Piercy said.

Greenslade-Smith said one of the reasons OSU has not offered mixed-gender housing is because it has not been successful at other colleges – in terms of the number of students using it.

For Piercy, it’s not about the number.

“We thought going into this that hundreds of students would want this,” Piercy said. “Not everyone wants this living option. It’s not going to have a huge impact overall. But for those who need and want it … it’s worth it.”

Steph Wilson is a third-year in pre-nursing at Wright State University. WSU has offered students the option of co-ed housing for the first time this year. Wilson has one female roommate and one male roommate in an on-campus apartment and said the living situation works for her.

“It’s hard to live with another person, regardless of gender,” Wilson said. “I’m a tomboy, so I find it hard to live with females. I think a (co-ed) situation like this is perfect for someone like me.”

Chris Clouse is a third-year nursing student who attended OSU for two years before transferring to Mount Carmel College of Nursing. He lives off-campus in a house with six men and two women. He said living in a co-ed house has not been a problem.

“A lot of people make this more awkward than it should be,” Clouse said. “Once you lay some ground rules, it’s really not that big of a deal.”

Clouse said some parents might have concerns about co-ed rooms on campus, but he said he thinks residence halls are co-ed already.

“Floors are co-ed and everyone is pretty much in each other’s rooms all the time anyway,” he said.

OSU students have mixed opinions on whether the university should offer gender-neutral housing to students.

Kenya Cheston, a third-year in pharmaceutical sciences, said she disagrees with gender-neutral housing on moral grounds.

“Spiritual beliefs play into that (decision),” Cheston said. “There’s already enough temptation between girls and guys, and I feel like it would be encouraging that even more … It would give the university not-so-great of a reputation morally.”

Tadas Taraskevicius, a first-year in marketing, said he believes students should be able to decide for themselves if they want to live in mixed-gender housing.

“I think OSU has avoided it out of political correctness – some people don’t want unmarried people living together, but if people live off-campus that way, I don’t really see the difference in living on-campus,” Taraskevicius said. “I hope to see it. Everyone should have that choice.”

 

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