Ohio University will allow male, female, gay and straight students to cohabitate in the same room during a one-year trial of gender-neutral dormitories.
Starting in the fall, the state university will become the 56th university in America to offer the chance to live in Gender Neutral Housing. Other schools such as Princeton University, Columbia University and George Washington University also have gender neutral campus living quarters.
GNH means that students can live in the same room with any student regardless of sex, gender, gender identity/expression, or sexual orientation, the university website states.
School officials declare that GNH is an emerging topic among institutions of higher learning. By adopting it now, the Office of Student Affairs says the university is creating a more inclusive environment.
This specialized living community is a temporary effort to assess upperclass students' interest for the program. Vice President for Student Affairs Kent Smith said it was generated in part by students.
According to Smith, the idea was initially raised by Student Housing officials as a new trend. But it was a Student Senate member who championed the idea, producing research findings and conducting a campus survey with 1,176 youth respondents.
"[The] Student Senate came forward with their own findings and support for the program based upon a survey which showed 87 percent student support for creating a GNH living community," he stated.
The student championing the GNH pilot is also the vice commissioner of the campus's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Commission. Smith made it clear that GNH is not about those in romantic relationships living together.
Instead, the yearlong pilot is to be one living option out of four others offering residential learning communities or quiet study or substance abuse-free shelter. Students will abide by the Student Code of Conduct as they would in other communities, Smith informed.
However, Smith also conceded that it is virtually impossible to enforce a no-relationship policy in the GNH pilot. In the event that the university does find a student couple living in the GNH area, Smith said, "We will discourage that through writing."
When asked about follow-up measures, he replied, "By policy, we will not be able to exclude them from the housing."
Yet Smith believes this will not be an issue. "Today's generation of students don't have a problem with people of other genders."
Glenn Stanton, director of the Family Formations Studies at Focus on the Family called gender-neutral dorms "a silly trend of schools trying to do the latest coolest thing."
He said research shows that gender does matter in a very big way. "To deny our gender and what it means … is to deny a part of ourselves, " he informed.
Stanton, who just authored a book on gender, said there is already a natural chemistry between males and females. With the barriers taken down, he said sexuality will definitely become an issue. "Those hallways are going to be a sexually energized space," he predicted.
In an atmosphere of sexual freedom, Stanton warned that females are the ones who end up in danger of being sexually used and left hurt.
He also noted that he was not surprised of the GNH community's connection to an LGBT group. "It's their agenda, whole proposition that male, female do not exist except in old, dusty, traditional constructs," he shared.
He called on colleges such as Ohio to hold true to its moral responsibilities. "The schools have a responsibility to say 'We want to help you and protect you and keep you focused on what you came here to focus on,'" declared Stanton.
Still, officials are urging interested students to sign up for pilot program in their housing contracts. The pilot program will take 50 students and house them on a single floor of an existing dormitory, said Executive Director of Residential Housing Christine Sheets.
Smith said GNH is purely experimental and its future on campus is unclear. "We may end it after the first year. We might extend it for another year. We don't know," he said.
Ohio University has 42 residence halls housing nearly 8,000 students.