NIU needs to get with the times

By Jennifer Meyer

Going away to college and living in a residence hall with a complete stranger can be a nerve-wracking experience for any new student, but maybe more so for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

Every new student worries about adjusting to college life and getting along with others in their residence hall, but LGBT students may have an extra list of apprehensions.

Unlike most of their heterosexual peers, they may worry about being placed with a homophobic student or floor community who will not accept them.

Sadly, some heterosexual students think negatively about being assigned to an LGBT roommate, and it may be one of the first awkward questions roommates ask one another.

However, some of their worries may be alleviated if residents could opt out of having a same-sex roommate. NIU does not offer that option. NIU residence halls are already mostly coed. Is it time for NIU to progress to the next level and allow coed roommates?

According to, Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. and Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. allow coed roommates. Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Alliance member Killian Kroell told CBS News gay students frequently prefer to share housing with someone of the opposite sex, but typical college housing regulations prevent such arrangements.

It could be argued this arrangement would not work well in the residence halls. Intimate partners would choose to live together, break up in the middle of first semester and want a roommate change. However, most intimate partners would most likely choose not to live in a closet-sized room together, due to a need for separation.

Some universities may believe parents would be appalled at coed roommates and not want to send their child to the university. I believe this is how students learn homophobia.

Parents do not attend the university and many are not financing their child’s education. Therefore, their views should not be considered when deciding if the university should allow coed roommates.

Also, it is important to note the university would not randomly assign opposite sex roommates. If NIU were to send out roommate surveys along with the housing request, they would have a better understanding on students’ views of opposite sex roommates.

Just because two people say they prefer to live on a coed, non-quiet lifestyle floor does not necessarily mean they have a lot in common and are compatible roommates. However, if someone is found to be homophobic through a roommate survey, then the proper steps could be taken to avoid placing that person with an LGBT or LGBT-allied student.

If students find it more comfortable to live with someone of the opposite sex, why, in 2005, is this option not available to them at most colleges and universities?

NIU students should be allowed to have more control over their roommate assignments and should be allowed to live with someone of the opposite sex.

I am sure NIU wants the students living in its residence halls to have an enjoyable and memorable experience while attending the university. This may not be a possibility for some students if NIU, as well as other colleges and universities, do not adapt to the times and make the residence halls more open and appealing to all students.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.