Academia still at the cutting edge of cultural evolution, welcome to post-gender America.
In the 1970s, many U.S. colleges moved from having only single-sex dormitories to providing coed residence halls, with male and female students typically housed on alternating floors or wings. Then came coed hallways and bathrooms, further shocking traditionalists. Now, some colleges allow undergraduates of opposite sexes to share a room.
College officials say the movement began mainly as a way to accommodate gay, bisexual and transgender students who may feel more comfortable living with a member of the opposite sex. Most schools say they discourage couples from participating, citing emotional and logistical problems of breakups. Officials say most heterosexuals in the programs are platonic friends.
“College students are adults,” said Chang, who is gay and is now a law student at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “They have every single right to choose the person they feel most comfortable living with.” He estimates that at schools where the option exists, only 1% to 3% of students living on campus choose a roommate of the opposite sex.
“If we are going into a post-gender world, then the regulation of private behavior is just not practical,” he said.
But at colleges, he said, “I think those old-fashioned ways of thinking are kind of dissipating. . . . Over the years, this division between men and women, which was so big, is slowly closing.” Eland’s and Pronto’s living arrangement won’t last long. Both will be studying overseas next fall, she in Spain, he in Costa Rica, and they are not sure where — or with whom — they will live when they return to school.