Monday, March 15, 2010

Co-Ed Dorm Rooms

This story does ask an important question--at what point do we allow college students, who are nominally adults, to make their own decisions. The context is not just co-ed dorms, where men and women might be assigned to different wings or floors, but actual rooms where men and women share the room.
That's how Pitzer College sophomores Kayla Eland, female, and Lindon Pronto, male, began sharing a room this semester on Holden Hall's second floor. They are not a couple and neither is gay. They are just compatible roommates in a new, sometimes controversial, dormitory option known as gender-neutral housing that is gaining support at some colleges in California and across the nation.

Eland, a biology major who hopes to become a doctor, said that a roommate's personality and study habits are more important than gender. "This might not be right for everyone," she said of sharing the small, cinder block-walled room with a man. "But I think it's important to have the right to choose where you want to live, how you want to live and who you want to live with."

Pronto, an environmental studies major who works each summer as a forest firefighter, agreed. Apart from remembering to lower the toilet seat, he said, living with a woman friend is not much different from rooming with a man. "As far as I'm concerned, a roommate is a roommate," he said.
Now, I know there are going to be some people who get up in arms about this, but consider. If these two young people lived off-campus--they would be allowed to share a house, perhaps even a room in that house, without almost no-one asking questions.

Are their concerns pragmatic? Certainly--compatibility is not just for couples, but when you live in a tiny college dorm room it might even be more important. The way in which roommates are selected early on-essentially a crap shoot of random assignment--leads to a great deal of stress at a time when Freshmen need less stress.

I don't know if we are in a "post-gender" world, but I do know that younger generations have less concern about gender (and nudity for that matter) than older generations.

Do I think it is for everyone? Certainly not. The schools apparently take care to counsel those who are romantically involved not to live together given the potential implications of a break up. This isn't a particularly popular choice and it does require a certain maturity that some young college students may not have, but why should a school, absent a pedagogical or religious objection, tell a student that their chosen roommate is inappropriate. To be clear, a school should not force a student to have an opposite gender roommate, but if both students choose an opposite gender roommate who is a relative, what good reason--outside of pedagogical or religious reason--exists for a school to deny the option?

We as a society constant harp on the idea that young people have to make their own decisions. So who are we, as a society, to determine what decisions they can make and what decisions they can't make. Again, if two young people at a college choose to live together off campus, why can't they make that same decision to live together on campus?

1 comment:

kherbert said...

I lived in a dorm that was inter connected with a co-ed dorm. This was 1985. I didn't think twice about it. Some people got upset the morning they came down to the lobby area in their PJ's and found guys sleeping all over the couches and floor.

My response was A) You have an bathroom in your room there is no reason to be in a public space in immodest clothes. B) I don't want to see you half naked in public places so put on some clothes C) 1/2 of you complaining have boyfriends that live illegally in the woman's dorm D) The co-ed dorm had a FIRE were blazes were they supposed to go.

There were guy dorms, but they didn't have nice lounge areas with nice couches at the time (Female dorms had just been renovated, male dorms were being renovated). So even if they had treck across campus in bare feet and their sleepware there wouldn't have been a place to bunk down.