"There are a number of men and women who are friends and who would like to live together, just as there are gay and lesbian students who have difficulty finding people who they're comfortable living with," said Robin Doan, the college's director of student housing.
Doan told the Bi-College News, the college newspaper for Haverford and Bryn Mawr colleges, that requests for opposite-sex apartments have been coming in for the past six or seven years.
Mixed-gender groups of three students will be allowed to share two-bedroom units at the Haverford College Apartments, which house a third of the school's 1,118 students. The new rules will not apply to one-bedroom apartments or to dormitories for freshmen.
Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., and Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., already allow men and women to share dormitory rooms.
Haverford College officials said they expect few boyfriend-girlfriend pairs will take advantage of the offer. Only about five of the 134 apartments are expected to be rented next fall by mixed-gender groups, Doan said.
Killian Kroell, a member of the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Alliance, said gay students frequently prefer to share housing with someone of the opposite sex, but typical college housing regulations prevent such arrangements.
"No one forces you to live with someone of the opposite sex," Kroell said. "You are sometimes forced to live with someone of the same sex."
Haverford already has some of the most liberal campus housing rules in the region, including some dorms with coed bathrooms and groups of one-person bedrooms that share communal living areas.
"In the situation we have now, where you're exposed to sharing a bathroom with guys, it's very normal after a year of doing it," said Kristen Watson, a freshman who plans to live next year with one male and one female friend from Haverford's track teams.
Other schools in the area take a much more cautious approach. Nearby Bryn Mawr, for example, still has an all-female enrollment. And Villanova University has all-male and all-female floors in its dormitories.
"I think there's privacy issues (with coed housing), there's developmental issues, there's educational issues," said Christine Lysionek, who is in charge of Villanova's dormitories. "We're certainly not where Haverford is, nor would we ever want to be."