Last week, Tufts University enacted a new policy barring sexual activity in rooms with roommates present. This decision to regulate and enforce restrictions upon students’ sex lives goes too far, delving into areas of private life outside universities’ purview.
While collegiate institutions bear responsibility to maintain the health and well-being of their students, this doesn’t justify undue intrusion into students’ personal lives. Providing resources on sexual education and counseling are one thing—imposing an umbrella mandatory rule about student sexual behavior such as this one takes a university’s involvement past education and protection.
Sexual practices are a serious issue for many college students, but they should be governed by mutual respect between roommates, not by administrative decrees. The etiquette of having guests over to a communally inhabited space can be difficult. Yet college students must learn to handle these situations themselves. College represents an intermediate stage of independence; the maturity to deal with this kind of situation should be cultivated by students, not deferred to university sex regulators.
Of course, such situations can be quite problematic and difficult to navigate, and not all students are ready to confront such issues. This is where the university can serve its proper role, however, meeting the more exceptional situations and providing counseling and guidance. Residential advisors, counselors, and other resources can mediate and provide guidance and, if necessary, take action in the event that a roommate violates the trust of his peers and disregards their concerns with his sexual behavior. But universities should approach such situations with the delicacy required, on a case-by-case basis—not through blanket legislation.
The onus remains on students, of course, to remember that having sex while roommates are present will likely create an uncomfortable situation. Remaining considerate and mindful of roommates’ comfort, however, should remain with students. It is not for Tufts, or any institution, to regulate when it is appropriate to engage in consensual dorm-room copulation.