Some 20 universities and colleges have decided to allow undergraduates of the opposite sex to share an on-campus room. Most quietly made the move in the past five years, with Clark University in Worcester, Mass., deciding this month. It's the final frontier in the decades-long march away from gender separation in college dorms, hallways, and even bathrooms.
While sharing a room comes unnervingly close in the minds of many parents to sharing a bed, advocates for the new arrangements say sexual intimacy rarely plays a role with those who sign up. Instead, for a younger generation it is increasingly common for men and women to just be friends.
"At first, it did shock me a little, but it doesn't bother me now," says Leslie Duffy, in an e-mail. Her daughter attends Bennington, a college in Vermont that allows upperclassmen of opposite genders to room together.
She hears that most of the male-female roommates are strictly platonic. Those in romantic relationships, she suspects, probably want their space and wouldn't risk being stuck in a tiny room after a breakup. "If not, it's a lesson to learn."