Jan 23: Students, don’t claim a victory with ‘gender-neutral’ option just yet

Next year Ohio University will give students the option of rooming with a member of the opposite sex. Gasp! How revolutionary!

That’s right, starting in the 2011-2012 academic year students – almost exclusively upperclassmen – can apply to maybe be placed in one of 50 dorm room beds provided as part of the university’s one-year PC-ed out “gender-neutral” housing trial run.

The pilot program is not about creating some sort of social experiment to see if boys and girls can set aside their inherent differences and create long-lasting Platonic relationships. It’s about appeasing the LGBT community, and making OU look sympathetic to students’ wishes.

The thought is that gay or lesbian students might feel more comfortable living with a friend of the opposite sex, rather than a stranger of the same. Makes sense, no? Off campus, it’s already a common practice.

Sure, there are ways for dormers to change roommates on the basis of their sexual identity, but the current process – aside from the bureaucratic hoops that must be leapt through – is far from ideal. Is a person who’s uncomfortable “outing” himself or herself to a roommate going to be more comfortable telling the residence life staff?

Students and parents pay the school a pretty penny to live in the dorms, which by the way is a requirement for freshmen and sophomores. They should at least get to live with someone they’re compatible with.

OU isn’t exactly blazing the Appalachian Trail here. A number of other schools, including that bastion of liberal ideology Miami University, are ahead of Ohio’s first and finest with programs in place already.

The application for coed housing – at least the way it has been conveyed by university officials – appears to be more extensive than the one students filled out to, you know, attend Ohio University. It even has its own essay section where students must explain how they can “add or benefit from living in such a community.”

Of course the school is worried that heterosexual couples will ignore the spirit of the new program for the chance shack up on a nightly basis. Here’s a hint: if a couple is willing apply to share a dorm room, odds are they’re already doing it, and making one of their current roommates uncomfortable doing so.

If two sophomores want to ruin their relationship by spending every waking moment with each other, so be it. They’ll learn from their experience or probably end up getting married.

Besides if mom and dad are paying the bills and aren’t too keen on the lovebirds pushing their beds (and bed bugs) together, the problem is going to solve itself.

But OU officials are making huge strides offering a gender-neutral housing option. They’re showing how much they value diversity and the voice of students. Just ask them.

And remember that when tuition costs go up.