December 28th, 2006


"Dogs and cats living together! MASS HYSTERIA!!"

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."
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