Sophomore Jordan O'Malley and her friend, junior Oscar Feliciano, live in Genesee Hall in a suite with three other people. Unusual, yes, but the most unusual aspect of their living situation is that they live in a room together.
In the fall of 2009, Genesee hall launched a gender neutral housing program. Feliciano lived with O'Malley's boyfriend in his freshman year and has been friends with O'Malley since they met. When the topic of housing came up, O'Malley mentioned that she knew another girl who wanted to room with a male friend, so the four of them looked into the program together.
"It started as a joke to piss off her boyfriend," said Feliciano, "but then we started to think it wasn't such a bad idea. It doesn't matter what gender you are," he added. "What matters is if you know someone. Having to room with a stranger of the same gender could cause more problems."
O'Malley described the living situation as "carefree." "I'm not afraid to cross any boundaries because I know him so well," she said. "He's the closest friend I've made here."
Occasionally, O'Malley and Feliciano said, they get into a few disagreements over cleanliness. "He'll have the sheets all the way off his bed and I always have to keep Febreze in the room so it doesn't smell," she said. "Sometimes he uses my towels, too."
"Both our towels are blue, so I just grab the first towel I see," responded Feliciano. "She is a little high maintenance; she gets annoyed sometimes, but she never wants to kill me for anything." O'Malley took a moment to remind him that their towels are two different shades of blue.
One of the situations regarding cleanliness that seems to stand out most was an incident where Feliciano peeled an orange and left it on the floor, an episode which is dredged up often between them. Any confrontations they have are "more like bickering than fighting," said Feliciano. "We argue like siblings would."
Privacy does not seem to be much of an issue either. "I know her well enough, so I know how to get around things," Feliciano said. "She gets changed regularly in front of me; if you were outside looking in you'd probably think it's weird, but it's normal for us." O'Malley agreed and said, "I would never get changed in front of the other guy we live with."
"It's not the gender, but the person that makes it matter what you do in front of them," Feliciano said.
O'Malley's advice to others considering gender neutral housing is to "know what you're getting into." Both had other people in their lives telling them to reconsider their decisions, including their parents. Though O'Malley's boyfriend knew Feliciano previously, O'Malley said she still believes he was apprehensive about the rooming situation at first.
Having Feliciano as a roommate, however, has not hurt their relationship at all. In fact, O'Malley finds the living situation much more conducive to having a boyfriend. "I didn't have any problems with my freshman roommate, but we had boundaries and rules, so it was awkward when my boyfriend would come to the room," she said.
"It's only been a month, but it's been really fun so far," O'Malley said. She added that the two of them will live together again next year, but will be moving off campus.