College students filling out their dormitory housing requests this summer are making decisions about their future roommate: Messy or neat? Smoker or non? Early bird or night owl?
Now many of them have a new question to ponder: Male or female?
Across the country, colleges are changing the roommate rules and allowing men and women to share a bedroom. Only a small portion of students are choosing the option, college officials say. And when they do, the arrangements almost always are platonic.
But the shift marks the next step in a decades-long evolution that's shrunk the space that once separated the sexes on college campuses.
"Back in the dark ages, a co-ed dorm was separate floors (for men and women) with an RA making sure you didn't have guys on your floor after a certain time," said Vicky Jones, a Bay Area homemaker who graduated from UCLA in 1974.
Then came co-ed floors. And then co-ed bathrooms.
Now Jones' daughter Kendall goes to Occidental College in Los Angeles, where she roomed with a male friend her sophomore year. Occidental is one of more than 50 colleges across the nation that offer what's described as "gender-inclusive" or "gender-neutral" housing – rooms or suites shared by male and female students.
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