BY JONATHAN POLSON
Students will be able to live in Eagle Landing apartments with two men on one side of the apartment and two women on the other.
According to Chris Porter, director of residence life, the opportunity is available for any Eagle Landing apartment and is offered to any interested students.
“We’re not limiting the number. It’s a pilot program,” said Porter. “We’re going to have it go for three years and then reassess at that point.”
Many students showed interest in having mixed-sex suites in Eagle Landing since its opening in 2010, according to Porter, but the program took off this year after Porter looked into what other colleges offer in regards to mixed-sex living situations, especially within the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“At the time when we first opened we thought, well let’s go as planned first and see how that works out,” said Porter. “Not many places have the ability to assign people in one side of an apartment behind a lockable door and another set of people behind a lockable door, each with their own bathroom.”
While the suite will be mixed-sex, the individual bedrooms and bathrooms will remain same-sex. Eagle Landing’s set up allows the possibility for men and women to share an apartment while maintaining individual private amenities.
This program differs from Madison Hall’s gender-neutral living community, which was instituted as a residence hall focused on providing a safe, accepting living space for the campus’ LGBT students. However, the mixed sex suites at Eagle Landing will follow the same protocol that students must actually room with someone of the same biological sex.
“It’s our business practice,” said Porter. “There’s no place on campus where both sexes use the same bathroom.”
Porter stated that one reason for the program is to offer students living options that were previously only available off campus.
As housing selection begins on March 15, there is no current estimate of how many students are showing interest in the new mixed-sex suites living. Students were informed of the option in the initial housing selection information email sent out last week.
“It’s interesting that they’re offering that option if anyone wants to do that,” said junior geography major Meredith Stone. “It’s experimental and interesting because I don’t think any other schools do that.”
Some students expressed concern that this option could create uncomfortable situations if students decide to room together for the wrong reason.
“A lot of couples might think it’s a great idea to move in together, but problems could arise if they break up,” said junior business major Anna Pierpoint.
However, Porter said that she does not anticipate any adverse repercussions from a mixed-sex living situation that would not arise in any other rooming relationship.
“For us [residence life], we’ll encounter the same challenges that we do in our current apartments: helping students learn to communicate their needs, compromise and collaborate with the other students in the apartment to make it the best living environment as possible,” said Porter.
Porter also mentioned that room changes will still be available when irreconcilable issues arise.
There are currently no plans to expand this program to other residence halls on the UMW campus, according to Porter.
“I’m not sure this set up could happen in other buildings just because of the layout of Eagle Landing,” said Porter.