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April 02, 2008

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Tom

Actually all of those colleges offer options for "students who are uncomfortable in co-ed dorms and co-ed bathrooms". In fact most of the housing on all of those campuses are traditional single-sex dorms. Why does it have to be an all or nothing approach? Why not have options for everyone based on their personal morals and comfort levels? Which is what these colleges are doing?

miss kelly

Tom, I doubt very much that MOST of the student housing on any of these colleges is traditional single-sex dorms. At Stanford and Hampshire College? Not hardly! I think that mixed-sex dorm rooms is a mistake for a variety of reasons, which I'll elaborate on one of these days.

I think that something important is lost to our social fabric when we don't acknowledge that men and women are different, that in fact it might be a very good idea to maintain some boundaries between men and women. But I'm old-school. I think this is a case of doing away with a social convention, without understanding why that convention existed in the first place.

Michael

Gender-neutral housing doesn't necessarily imply that men and women are different. It allows students the choice to live with others who are different and learn that they can coexist happily. Also, what makes you think there isn't understanding of why "convention existed in the first place." Do you believe that understanding why convention existed in the first place would automatically lead others to agree with your point of view? I can understand why gender-separate conventions exist based on some people's beliefs, and I can still disagree with them.

I lived on a gender neutral hall in college, and shared bathrooms with men and women and transgendered students. There was never a single issue with this. We didn't learn that there weren't differences, only that our differences didn't prevent us from living together successfully. It was a wonderful lesson.

miss kelly

Michael, what college did you go to?

I guess I don't see why it's so important that you "learn to live together successfully" in a co-ed dorm. Most of the world doesn't live that way. Might it have been equally useful for you to learn to live successfully in a same-sex environment? Might there have been fewer distractions, more emphasis on academia? How would you know about benefits of same sex dorms if you only lived in co-ed dorms?

There's such a move towards co-ed everything these days (except for gyms at Harvard). I think we've lost an appreciation for sometimes separating the sexes, especially in what is essentially the private realm. The notion of privacy seems lost, everything is public, and that's really too bad, IMO.

It also seems odd to me that colleges increasingly offer dorms that are restricted to ethnic and racial groups (Asians, Blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics). How it is advantageous to group people together by their race/ethnic background, but a disadvantage to group people by sex? It strikes me as inconsistent, to say the least.

Tom

Miss Kelly - I apologize, I meant to type single sex floors. Shared bathrooms are more the exception than the rule. In fact as more and more colleges update old residence halls you're seeing more "suites" where only a small number of people share a bathroom. Dorms are getting more and more hotel-like.

What I don't understand is what's wrong with offering people a choice? Nobody is forcing anyone to live in a mixed-gender situation (where you're sharing a bathroom with people of the other sex). But if some people prefer the option of a mixed gender situation why shouldn't they have that choice? Why do we need to force people to conform to your moral standard? And remember, we're talking almost entirely about adults here. People over the age of 18 capable of voting and fighting for their country. Shouldn't they be allowed to choose their living arrangements? If they rented an off campus apartment they would have those options.

Tom

"It also seems odd to me that colleges increasingly offer dorms that are restricted to ethnic and racial groups (Asians, Blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics). How it is advantageous to group people together by their race/ethnic background, but a disadvantage to group people by sex? It strikes me as inconsistent, to say the least."

Again, this is about choice. People who live in "affinity dorms" do so by choice. Often they're not even part of that group. Many American students choose to live in the international student dorm because they want to experience different cultures. There are "quiet dorms" for students who want fewer distractions from their school work, and freshman only housing, etc. etc. Gender neutral housing is just one more option.

By your thinking if putting people together who are different is a distraction then are recommending that we segregate all students into groups based on sex, race, culture, socio-economic standards because they'll thrive better by being with people "like them".

And if you think that some how separating boys and girls will make them think about the opposite sex less - speak to anyone who went to school in the 40's or 50's and see if they spent any less time thinking about it.

Michael

Miss Kelly:

There's no way of proving what could have occurred otherwise at my particular college, only what was: which was an environment that was heavily invested in learning and working, and had far fewer problems than most institutions w/r/t sexual assault and crime. That options exist for individuals to choose where and how they want to live is far more preferable than adherence to the dogma/morality of one sector of society. An individual can succeed in both single gender and gender-neutral spaces. There is no evidence to suggest otherwise, other than the fear we all sometimes have when change occurs that threatens what we feel is "normal" (and of course, "normal" can be rightfully seen as "arbitrary" to some).

We haven't "lost an appreciation for separating the sexes". It happens everywhere, all the time. It's still the mainstream accepted norm. We're only seeing the first few challenges and experiments to that norm that scare and intimidate people with conservative views.

miss kelly

Michael, you're not letting on which college you went to, so I'm gonna guess it was Hampshire College. I'm not the least bit scared or intimated by "challenges to the norms." I do appreciate that traditions have reasons behind them, they serve a purpose. Often, when we make social changes, there's some good that comes out of it, and there's some good that is lost.

You say it's about offering choices to people, and I agree offering choices. However, the fact is that at quite a number of colleges, there are only co-ed dorms with co-ed bathrooms. In cases that I know of, male and female students who objected to this were essentially told to "get over their hangups." Wanting single-sex dorms or single sex bathrooms is often considered a weird throwback, something to overcome. If choice is so important, why isn't the desire for single-sex dorms equally valued?

Emily

I'm a little surprised to see Skidmore College on this list, because I just learned a few weeks ago that the college is testing out mixed gender suites next academic year -- I regret that I don't specifically remember if that means whether a male and a female can share the same room, or just adjoining rooms in the same suite. Aside from one building, Skidmore's dorms are set up in suites; anywhere from 4 to about 8 or 9 same-sex students live in a suite (in a variety of single or double/triple rooms) with a common bathroom amongst them. Yes it's true that the suites alternate down the hall from being female and male, but they do not share bathrooms (unless a friend is visiting, etc). Next year students will be allowed to apply for gender-mixed suites -- obviously something all participants must agree to.

I don't understand what the problem is with these arrangements. In upperclassmen housing, houses are very often a mix of males and females that are friends that wish to live together. Why can't male and female friends live together? Just because they're of different genders doesn't mean they're going to have sex with each other every night or be any less focused on their schoolwork.

And those conservative students who are somehow repulsed by the opposite sex can very easily live in suites or houses of their own gender.

It's a choice. Those who want to live with members of the opposite sex can do so, and those who prefer not to don't have to.

Emily

Ah, so the gender-neutral at Skidmore was referring to the one dorm I left out of my description. There's one section/hallway of that dorm, which is set up hall-style (no suites, so rooms open up to the hallway), that allows male/female rooms next to each other, with a common bathroom. No one is forced to live here (or anywhere, for that matter). Again, I don't see how this is wrong.

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