Staff Editorial: Gender neutral housing

The approval of gender-neutral housing by the Residence Life Committee marks a significant new freedom for Lawrence students. Next year, the Large Executive House, the third and fourth floors of Hiett Hall, and some general-lottery small houses will allow opposite-sex roommates. Students living in theme houses will choose whether or not to designate their houses as gender neutral.
Recent surveys show that an overwhelming majority of students support this change, although only a small number indicated that they would actually prefer to share a room with someone of the opposite sex.
Still, we think that this is a necessary measure for those who might be more comfortable with a roommate of a different gender. Students should be trusted to deal with any conflicts that might arise in these living situations in the same way that they are able to deal with problems under current housing rules.
The obvious concern with this freedom is the possibility of heterosexual couples choosing to live together. However, this is already an option for homosexual couples, and we think that heterosexual couples should be allowed the same right. Sharing a room with a significant other has the potential to be emotionally tumultuous, but so does living with a close friend.
We trust that Lawrence students are aware of the risks inherent in sharing a room, and will make informed decisions regarding their living spaces. Choosing a roommate is one small freedom along the way to post-graduation autonomy, and learning to make wise decisions about our relationships with other people is something we all have to do on a daily basis.