Rutgers University has decided to allow male and female students to share dorm rooms in three of its on-campus facilities.
The change is coming, the New Jersey university says, to make the campus more inclusive for gay students.
I don’t know about you, but the logic of that escaped me for a while: allowing opposite genders to room with each other is supposed to help those attracted to the same sex?
The article from Columbia’s The State newspaper, which carries the headline, “Rutgers to allow male, female students to shack up” — I am not making this up! — explains that the National Student Genderblind Campaign is pushing for more colleges to offer such a policy.
The reason? Gay students sometimes have a hard time finding a same-gender roommate (or roommates) in dorms. And Rutgers in particular is the university where a freshman committed suicide after, police say, his roommate secretly recorded him having a homosexual encounter with a webcam.
So allowing a gay student to have a female roommate should be a more comfortable idea: the homosexual student isn’t likely to have feelings for the heterosexual roommate.
But there are a couple of problems I can see right away: first, there’s no way to rule out the fact that the heterosexual student wouldn’t still manage to become attracted to the homosexual one. And there’s also no way to police which sets of coed roommates actually contain those with same-sex orientation, which would allow all-heterosexual students to, as the newspaper says, “shack up.”
I’m not trying to be prudish, and if this prevents suicides, then it’s definitely a good thing.
At the same time, it strikes me that all of this can lead to a lot of distraction from what those kids are there to do: graduate.
It also brings to mind one other question: other than any typical homophobic type of objection, what exactly does a straight roommate need to be willing to tolerate from a gay roommate (and vice versa) inside their dorm?
There’s usually not a lot of space in a dorm; if the roommates have their own rooms, they can keep any displays of affection behind those particular closed doors, provided the straight roommates are willing to do the same thing.
But if it’s all out in the open, it seems to me that both sides should be willing to hold each other to the same standard.
A little compromise can accomplish so much.