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College bans dorm sex with roommate around

Published by onlines on September 29, 2009

BOSTON – Sex in a Tufts University dorm is fine. Sex in a Tufts dorm with your roommate present? That’s a no-no.

This semester, the school has a new policy banning sexual activity while a roommate is in the same room. Kim Thurler, a Tufts University spokeswoman, said the school issued the new rule after a dozen or so complaints in the past three years.

“It’s really about respect and consideration, and it’s a question of how roommates utilized their space,” Thurler said.

The new policy concerning overnight guests reads: “You may not engage in sexual activity while your roommate is present in the room.” It mentions no consequences if the rule is broken, however.

Thurler maintains the new policy is not about regulating students’ behavior, rather getting roommates talking about the issue of space with each other. She said the policy is aimed at the school’s 5,000 undergraduates.

Alyza DelPan-Monley, 20, a junior philosophy major, agreed that the policy is more about showing respect for roommates than limiting sexual activity.

“I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had good experiences with my roommates,” said DelPan-Monley. “But this is there for people who can’t communicate with their roommates.”

Freshman Jon Levinson, 18, said he was bothered by it and believed discussions about dorm-room sex etiquette should be kept between roommates.

“I don’t believe it’s the university’s place to determine what goes on in a room,” said Levinson. “Personally, I wouldn’t want to have sex in front of my roommate, and my roommate wouldn’t want to have sex in front of me.”

Levinson said he didn’t think it that many students viewed it as a problem and wondered why the school came up with the policy with just a handful of cases.

Bruce Ratain, 20, a junior political science major, said he was concerned how the school’s Office of Residential Life and Learning implemented the policy without student input.

“It would have been preferable if this decision had come out of a more inclusive and collaborative process,” said Ratain, a senator in the Tufts Community Union, the school’s student council.

Policies at universities and colleges concerning dorm room sex vary. Some Catholic universities prohibit opposite-sex “cohabitation” and sleepovers in dorms, while Harvard University’s student handbook prohibits any “serious or persistent unwanted sexual conduct.”

Efforts to regulate on students’ sexual behavior drew national attention to Antioch College in Ohio — now closed — in 1993. Antioch’s “Sexual Offense Prevention Policy” required students to ask permission from one another if they wanted to have sexual contact, including holding hands.

James Baumann, a spokesman for the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International, said it was unusual for a university to create a rule specifically banning sexual activity in the presence of a roommate.

“That’s the first I’ve heard of such a policy,” said Baumann.

DelPan-Monley compared the new policy to “quiet hours” when roommates are required to keep music, talking and television noise to a minimum out of respect to those studying for exams. “There are so many rules we have to follow,” said DelPan-Monley. “But people don’t always follow them.”

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