Rutgers Dorms Going Co-Ed After Student's Suicide

New pilot program set to start in the fall

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    NEWSLETTERS

    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    People participate in a candlelight vigil for Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi at Brower Commons on the Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick.

    Rutgers University is set to launch a pilot program this fall that would allow students living in campus dorm rooms to pick roommates of the opposite sex.

    The move intends to welcome more gay students to the campus. A call from NBC New York to Rutgers wasn't immediately returned.

    The school's decision to test the concept comes about five months after the death of student Tyler Clementi.

    Clementi, a talented violinist from Ridgewood, N.J., committed suicide after two students -- his male roommate and another female student -- streamed video of him engaging in a sexual encounter with another man.

    Rutgers Students Choose Roommate Sex

    [NY] Rutgers Students Choose Roommate Sex
    Rutgers University will allow students to choose the sex of their roommates, beginning this fall. The program is designed to make the New Brunswick campus more welcoming to gay students.

    While the 18-year-old's tragic leap off the George Washington Bridge could not be directly linked to the privacy issues he experienced at Rutgers, the gay freshman's plight captivated the nation and brought renewed attention to bullying and harassment of gays in schools.

    Gay campus groups have pressed the university for gender-neutral housing options for years to no avail, according to NJ.com.

    The pilot program will involve more than 100 undergraduate students, including gay, lesbian and transgender students and be limited at first to housing in Demarest Hall on College Avenue, New Gibbons on the Douglass Campus and Rockoff Hall in downtown New Brunswick.

    Many self-described LGBT individuals, including Rutgers senior Aaron Lee, eagerly await the opportunity to participate.

    "I'm really glad they did it, although I wish it wouldn't have taken as long," Lee told NJ.com. "We live in a world where in order to be considered a human being you have to be male or female, and not everyone fits into that kind of binary. It's important to have spaces where people don't necessarily have to worry."

    The program will also be open to heterosexual students, who will be given the option to live with their significant others or friends of the opposite sex. 

    First-year students will not have access to the program, but LGBT freshmen will have the prerogative to ask for a roommate who respects their sexual preferences, reports NJ.com.

    Housing assignments will be determined by a lottery, and those students assigned to any of the three buildings offering gender-neutral housing will be able to choose the sex of their roommates.

    Parents cannot overrule a student's choice to live with a roommate of the opposite sex, reports NJ.com. The university won't ask students about their sexual identities.

    "We're not asking students their relationships," Joan Carbone, Rutgers residence life director, told NJ.com. "People should not have to declare their sexual preference to us."

    Several changes will be made to the gender-neutral dormitories to accommodate the program, including replacing shower curtains with doors and restricting access to the mixed-sex bathrooms to residents with special key cards, reports NJ.com. 

    Rutgers joins a burgeoning list of colleges and universities offering mixed-sex housing to students.

    At least a dozen colleges, including SUNY Stony Brook and Ramapo College in the tri-state area, have begun implementing or already offer gender-neutral housing, and the trend appears to be on the rise, reports the National Student Genderblind Campaign, a grassroots organization that aims to "pioneer a movement for broader gender equality," according to its website.

    Rutgers' Newark campus will launch a similar program this fall, according to NJ.com, but the gender-neutral housing will be limited to three rooms in one of two dormitories.