Tyler Clementi's Suicide Prompts Rutgers to Offer Gender Neutral Housing

VIDEO: University program will allow students to choose their roommates gender.
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In reaction to the suicide of a gay student earlier this year, Rutgers University has decided to let students choose the gender of their dorm mates, giving male and female students the option of living together.

The school also said it will not allow parents to veto their children's choices.

Rutgers, which is located in New Brunswick, N.J., will launch the pilot program this fall, giving many of its more than 42,000 undergraduate students the option to decide whether they would like to live with a male or a female student.

The policy is believed to have been born out of the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge during the first weeks of school after he was allegedly filmed during a "sexual encounter" with another man by his roommate who later posted the footage online.

Clementi's death sparked a nationwide debate over the bullying of gay youth.

"This has been under discussion for a long time. Many other universities around the country already have gender neutral housing," said a statement from the university.

"In the aftermath of the Clementi tragedy, members of the university's LGBTQ community told the administration that gender neutral housing would help create an even more inclusive environment. Since then, the university has been exploring this in greater detail," said the statement.

Joan Carbone, the university's executive director of residence life, told New Jersey's Star-Ledger that students will not be asked about their sexual orientation and will choose rooms just as they always have - through a schoolwide lottery system.

The only difference will be that students will be able to name a roommate of either sex on the application. Additionally, students' parents will not be allowed to veto students' request, Carbone told the newspaper. First-year students will only be able to request a roommate who is "supportive" of their sexual preference, according to the paper.

Rutgers joins a handful of universities across the nation that offer gender-neutral housing, according to The National Student Genderblind Campaign, a non-profit organization that advocates for students.

Among those schools that offer such housing are Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., Ohio University and the University of Michigan. The University of Arizona is also considering a pilot program, according to the organization.

Rachel Soltis, a junior at Rutgers, told ABC News that the campus response to the new policy seems overwhelmingly positive.

"It's a good thing that people can now be themselves," said Soltis. "Times are changing."

"I think that there are a lot of students who will appreciate having the option [to choose the gender of their roommate]," she said.

Suicide Prompts Rutgers to Allow Coed Dorm Mates

Questions arose after Clementi's suicide as to whether the freshman had requested a room reassignment from the university.

The New Jersey university was subpoenaed by the Middlesex County prosecutor's office for e-mails exchanged between the institution and Clementi which may shed light on whether Clementi had requested a room change prior to the videotaping incident that was a precursor to his suicide, officials told ABC News last fall.

A user on a gay website believed to be Clementi mentioned on an online message board that he had requested a new roommate after being spied on with a video camera by his college roommate.

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