BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) _ Virginia Tech will allow opposite-sex roommates to live together for the first time beginning this fall under a new pilot program announced this week.
The pilot program will allow students 18 years or older applying for on-campus housing to request a roommate of their choice, regardless of gender. The option will be available at two residence halls on the Blacksburg campus. Virginia Tech has had co-ed dormitories for decades but until now students had been unable to live in the same room as someone of the opposite sex.
The option for ``flexible housing'' or ``gender-neutral'' housing has been implemented in recent years at George Mason University and at some private schools in the state, but Virginia Tech housing officials say the state's public colleges and universities have been slow to join the trend.
More than 150 universities across the U.S. offer gender-neutral on-campus housing, according to the Campus Pride Trans Policy Clearinghouse, a group that tracks and publishes lists of colleges and universities that offer services or adopt policies friendly to transgender students.
The Roanoke Times reports (http://bit.ly/1z0VQtL) that Virginia Tech's move is in response to a resolution passed in February by the student-run Residence Hall Federation asking university officials to create a gender neutral housing option.
The new program is likely to appeal to transgender or gay and lesbian students who may feel safer choosing a roommate of the opposite sex, but the move is likely to appeal to other students. For example, officials said fraternal twins have sometimes lamented the inability to share living space on campus.
``We don't ask why they want this housing option. There could be many reasons to have a roommate of different gender,'' said Ken Belcher, senior associate director of housing services.
However, Belcher said Virginia Tech officials and university housing policy strongly discourage couples of any gender from rooming together. And while there is no way to prohibit couples from cohabiting, ``we expect our students to be adults and make good choices,'' Belcher said.