University of Oklahoma residential life officials say a new mixed-gender housing program has been successful.
Starting this semester, OU launched a project in which one wing of the fifth floor of Walker Center was designated as mixed-gender by suite.
University officials are working on a proposal that would expand the program in the coming years.
The four-bedroom suites in the wing house two male freshmen and two female freshmen, with a central common area being shared among the four students.
In each suite, the two male students share one bathroom while the two female students share a second bathroom.
Diane Brittingham, OU's director of residence life, said the project has been successful so far, with no major incidents. The students involved in the pilot project have generally held each other accountable for their behavior.
In some regards, Brittingham said, the freshmen who moved into the mixed-gender floor seemed to be more comfortable with the move-in process. Although the students were randomly assigned to rooms, she said, they were more familiar with the situation since they'd volunteered to be a part of the project.
“We've had good response from the students,” she said.
The project came after members of two student organizations — Students for a Democratic Society, and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Friends — approached university officials asking for a gender-neutral housing policy that would allow a specialized housing option for gay and transgender students.
Last March, about 60 students staged a demonstration on OU's South Oval to call for the policy, which they said would protect gay students from harassment.
OU President David Boren appeared briefly before the group, accepted a petition students presented and promised to study the issue.
The petition stated that gay and transgender students are uncomfortable with existing housing arrangements and often fall victim to derogatory remarks and bullying.
A 2005 National School Climate Survey referenced in the petition indicates that 40 percent of the students surveyed reported they felt unsafe at school due to their sexual orientation.
Brittingham said the mixed-gender suite program was the closest option to a true mixed-gender housing unit the university could propose.
The project isn't the university's first attempt to integrate male and female students in its residence halls. Last year, OU established a mixed-