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Oklahoma lawmaker proposes bill to partially prohibit co-ed housing at public universities

OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoma lawmaker is spear-heading a bill that would partially prohibit co-ed housing at public universities.

House Bill 2725, authored by Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell, would require the board of regents at each institution to adopt a policy allowing co-ed housing in the same building but prohibiting male and female students from living in the same hallway.

"If you got boys and girls going up and down the same common hallway, going to the showers and the facilities, that is not a safe facility," Russ said.

Russ told News 4 there are published reports to prove his point.

"I have a pile of different reports here," he said Tuesday in his office. “'Co-ed dorms lead to more drinking and sex,' 'date rape: serious subject in colleges,' 'students in co-ed dorms are more likely to binge drink.'”

The proposed bill also called for access between male and female hallways to be controlled. Russ suggested universities use card keys frequently used in hotels or codes.

Some students at the University of Oklahoma told us they didn't think it was necessary. Sophomore Hannah Piper lived in a co-ed hall during her freshman year and said students have options when it comes to living arrangements.

"You don’t have to live on a co-ed floor so, when you enroll and do all of your housing stuff, you can choose whether or not you want to," Piper said. "I feel like making a bill saying 'it’s not allowed' is dumb."

Freshman Eric Ranklin agreed.

"I mean, that just seems like excessive," Racklin said. "We don’t need that much regulation for just living, you know?"

Other students, like junior Bailey Helterbrand, also lived in a co-ed building as a freshman and said she understands why some people would support a measure like this.

"I had guys on both sides of me and across the hall from me, so we were staggered diagonally," Helterbrand told News 4. "I didn’t mind it very much, but I could see how some people would have a problem with it because we couldn’t just go out in the hallway however we wanted and we always had to keep our doors closed."

The bill was initially scheduled to be heard on Tuesday in a Higher Education Committee, but there was a last-minute decision to hold the bill after concerns from lawmakers.

Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, attended OU herself and said she has voted against the bill in the past.

"Girls were separated from boys, I think we know boys and girls hang out together sometimes in college and I don’t want to prohibit that," Virgin said.

Russ said he was not done fighting for the measure.

"I do think it’s important for us in the state of Oklahoma to be good leaders, not just to ignore some of the events that we’ve seen happen with our young people and say ‘young people will be young people,’" he said.

Because the bill was not heard in committee Tuesday, it could be carried over into another House committee. Russ could also request a special hearing or use it for another legislative session.