EDUCATION

UMD: Alternative housing options offered for students

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For the first time, some University of Maryland students could request to live in an on-campus dorm with someone of the opposite sex. It's part of a pilot program to provide another housing option.

School officials say this was a way to be supportive of everyone -- including the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender student population, since there have been cases of discrimination among roommates.

Resident Life Associate Director Amy Martin said, "Our goal through this program is that students live with people they're most comfortable with, and they feel safe with."

The issue was brought to their attention at a recent forum.

"We heard some really concerning stories of the LGBTQ students on campus and the difficulties they were having with roommates," said Martin.

As a result, Martin said the school introduced two new living arrangements this fall. Option one is gender inclusive housing.

"Gender inclusive housing is where students regardless of their sex, gender or gender identity can live together in the same room," said Martin.

Option two is mixed gender housing. "It's where every other room is assigned a different sex or gender on a traditional hall, floor or in a suite or apartment," said Martin.

Alex Stoller currently lives in mixed gender housing with two other girls and three boys.

"Even if they're boys or even if they're girls I consider them my family...that's real life. I consider them my family. They're my home away from home," said Stoller.

Omer Kaufman lives with all male roommates, a traditional option that students can still select.

"I was able to go for the first three years of my college career here in the traditional setting. It was something I knew how it works, and I was comfortable with," said Kaufman.

School officials say currently 420 students are living in either gender-inclusive or mixed gender housing.

A recent survey found that 97-percent of them would recommend those arrangements.

A similar program is also in place at St. Mary's College of Maryland.

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