ST. MARY'S CITY, Md. (AP) -- A new open-housing policy at St. Mary's College of Maryland now allows students of the opposite sex to be roommates.
The Washington Post reports that students at the public liberal arts school must opt into the program. Students at the southern Maryland school with about 1,800 students this semester will not be randomly assigned an opposite-sex roommate without their consent.
The policy was designed to provide better housing arrangements for students who do not identify with their birth sex or are uncomfortable living with students of the same gender, said Residence Life Director and Associate Dean of Students Joanne Goldwater. It is based on several other gender-blind housing policies, including those at American, Brown and Brandeis universities, Goldwater said.
The policy "is going to ensure that our students have a safe space to live," Goldwater said.
Currently, 18 students live on an open-housing floor, but only two students of the opposite sex are living together, she said.
Hannah Felperin, 20, a philosophy major with a minor in women, gender and sexuality studies, is the only woman living with a male student.
"I firmly believe in gender neutrality and not needing to separate by physical sex," said Felperin.
The 16 other students in the hallways have same-sex roommates, but they all share one gender-neutral bathroom with two showers, two stalls and urinals. Other floors can also chose to make their bathrooms gender-neutral.
Alex Conrad, 19, who identifies as gay, said the open-housing policy was a factor in his decision to attend the school
"It's very much keeping up with the times," Conrad said.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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