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How should college dorms be organized to create a safe environment?

In an effort to help gay and transgender students feel comfortable in on-campus housing, some colleges are allowing all students, gay or straight, to pick the most-compatible roommates. About 55 schools nationwide allow men and women to live in "gender-neutral" housing.

By Ryan Kellett  |  December 3, 2010; 5:07 PM ET  | Category:  National Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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In my college days (the late '60's), the words "dorm room" and "organized" would not appear in the same sentence.

Posted by: wmadden1 | December 4, 2010 8:40 AM

They should continue as is with separate rooms/halls. Nothing wrong with this. College is about the education and the added social pressure will have an adverse effect.

Posted by: askgees | December 5, 2010 1:32 PM

What is the university doing -- teaching, or setting up living arrangements? Strikes me some of these arrangements are going to be uncomfortable with other students who aren't there for relationships, so those who want sexual relationships should be encouraged to leave the university's dorms, just as married students have done in the past.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | December 5, 2010 1:46 PM

When we look at the question "What do we do with gay/transgendered people when it comes to living arrangements?" as campuses (and the military) are finally doing after many years of burying their heads in the sand, we have the opportunity to see how pointless our traditional norms have been. This is the first step towards making our communities make more sense.
The questions we’ve ducked for ages include:
“Why do we have gender segregated dorms in the first place?”
“Who are we protecting, and from whom and what are we protecting them?”
“Does this work when we realize that there are gay people (I use the term to include lesbians) in these dorms as well?”
“What about locker rooms?”
It’s long been argued that segregated living spaces serve to protect women’s chastity and or decrease unwanted teen or extra-marital pregnancy. If so, then it would seem to have no bearing on where to fit in gay students and has no relevance at all in a men’s dorm or locker room. More questions: Are we trying to protect student’s modesty (merely women or both men and women)? Does separating women from men really achieve this result? If we’re defining modesty as not having someone leer at us for sexual gratification, then we cannot achieve this result, not if there is a person of the same sex who may find you attractive. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying gay folks are any more or less likely to leer at someone then the rest of society - we’re all human, regardless of what group label others/we may choose to give us/ourselves. Sometimes someone’s going to see us with or without clothing and like what they see. We can choose to try to protect ourselves from it (try a burqa), or just deal with it. If we choose the protection route, it doesn’t work unless we only try to protect ourselves from the opposite gender. How does this help us? Why does it seem most of our privacy rules are designed to prevent men from seeing women naked. Doesn’t leering, like sexual harassment and assault, exist male/female; as well as F/M, M/M, and F/F? And what about transgendered folks?
Now people are beginning to admit to themselves that LGBT people exist, we are starting to see that the only way to truly insulate our delicate modesty is to either go back to denying reality or have everyone change in individual cubicles out of site from roommates/locker room mates. The other choice is easy in comparison: we can get over it, loose some of our sensitivity, and gain a whole lot of personal sanity. Sometimes people will see us undressed. Some will like what they see. Life goes on.
Perhaps if we got rid of all this gender segregation, people wouldn’t have as much of a hang-up on seeing other people nude. We cause it to be more of a problem by making it “forbidden.” Thankfully, it seems more and more people are realizing that this is the only real way to move forward. The route of denial is not really working --but then it never really did, we are all just fooling ourselves.

Posted by: Cobalt1 | December 5, 2010 2:50 PM

For all those saying DADT should be repealed what makes this any different on who rooms with who?

Posted by: jhaas68865 | December 5, 2010 4:22 PM

What is the university doing -- teaching, or setting up living arrangements? Strikes me some of these arrangements are going to be uncomfortable with other students who aren't there for relationships, so those who want sexual relationships should be encouraged to leave the university's dorms, just as married students have done in the past.




I'm afraid you're missing the point of gender-neutral housing, and overlooking the fact that it is opt-in. The intent of allowing males and females to live together isn't to allow them to cultivate romantic relationships; it is to allow all students to be 100% happy and comfortable with their living arrangements. This could mean that a gay male student could choose to live with a straight female, or even that two straight students of opposite genders could live together as friends. While I am sure that many students will "abuse" the system, it is incorrect to imply that the goal of the system is to encourage on-campus sex.

I also don't really understand your comment about gender-neutral housing making other students uncomfortable. If a student prefers to live with members of the same sex, they will (obviously) be granted that choice. I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of students would chose to remain in same-sex rooms. I don't understand why, say, a lesbian living with her straight male friend would make anyone else on the hall "uncomfortable." And if such arrangements DO make neighbors feel uncomfortable, there are two recourses: 1) opt to live in a dorm which does NOT include gender-neutral housing (if available) and/or 2) accept that college is a great time to meet people who come from different backgrounds and have different beliefs. Sometimes, feeling uncomfortable is an immediate reaction to a new situation. But if no one ever felt discomfort, then how would we learn to accept others and overcome our own biases?

Posted by: georgetownred | December 5, 2010 6:45 PM

We live in a world where we love to think we control things we don't control at all. I live in a college town. There are coed student living arrangements in apartments across this town, many of them very celebate so far as the roommates are concerned.

Whether or not you have co-ed dorm rooms, the kids who want to will get together.

Posted by: tinyjab40 | December 6, 2010 8:05 AM

Co-ed rooms create more problems than they solve. At that age, it's difficult enough to concentrate on your studies already, without adding additional hurdles to learning.

How does this create a safer environment, as students don't know if other students are gay to begin with?

Sometimes the best way to solve a problem isn't to create a bigger problem.

Posted by: postfan1 | December 6, 2010 8:32 AM

Oh good gawd. The best reason to have segregated dorms if not segregated colleges is to get rid of educational distractions. Most of these comments sound like we're discussing a reality show not college. Students shouldn't have to fight off all the distractions to work out his/her study time. The comeback, of course, is that everyone should be "mature" enough to handle this, but the problem with this is that even "maturity" burns up time and energy during the important educational process. Some folks definition of mature is really "I'll do what I want, but if its a pain in the butt to you, that's your problem." As always, lax rules allow takers to take, everyone else to pay.

Posted by: jhtlag1 | December 6, 2010 8:35 AM

After the first week of passing gas and burping, the experiment will end.

Posted by: MissV | December 6, 2010 8:50 AM

I can't believe that in this day and age, we are still having this moronic discussion. The sooner we start treating college students as something other than little children to be monitored and controlled, the sooner they will grow into adults capable of making their own decisions and dealing with the consequences. This idiotic parental helicoptering creates maladjusted and immature individuals.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | December 6, 2010 9:03 AM

The incidents at GWU serve to show how crossing this line to concede to gay activists must result in crossing lines for heterosexuals too. Conceding more and more rights to gays will result in having no separation between sexes in all other areas of society, such as the military, and perhaps even high school locker rooms. Because this is what will happen: If administrations such as GWU's don't give into the student gay activists, the activists will win in court. The courts will decided that they, just as with non-gay students, deserve to have roommates with whom they feel "comfortable." Rather than attempt the herculean task of deciding among students who is gay and who is not (how to decide? Self-description? What about the bisexual student? What about the bisexual student looking for partners among roommates?), administrations will have to end all gender restrictions whatsoever. And legal precedent will eventually force the military and probably public schools to do the same. The courts will decided that a gay man should not be forced to cohabitate with straight men any more than a straight woman should be forced to cohabit with straight men. And ditto for gay h.s. students. As long as the courts have given in to the fiction that "gay" is a distinguishable identity deserving societal rights, just as with gender or race, these results are inevitable.

And such a separate identity is* a fiction. See for evidence "The Trojan Couch":

You didn't think it would come to this, when those news photos of lesbians crying because they couldn't get married moved you to vote for their "rights," did you Mr. and Ms. Jones?

Posted by: markdf | December 6, 2010 10:14 AM

Regarding whether or not college students should be treated like adults or the children they still are, read "Bacchanalia Unbound" for a look at what is typically occurring at colleges these days. Mixing genders even more than they already are will only make the situation worse--and women will be most harmed by it:

Posted by: markdf | December 6, 2010 10:19 AM

LOL, framing this as something to do with Gay life styles is bizarre! Having only same sex dorm rooms would seem to facilitate the gay life style! I don't get it actually! And having coed living arrangements would seem to have marginal impact on sexual activities ob campus; after all, this is certainly one aspect of college life, although I am sure it is a lot less significant know than say 30 years ago! Most college kids have had a much, much broader sexual education and experience than us old farts!

Posted by: CHAOTICIAN101 | December 6, 2010 10:33 AM

Coeds in the same room? Can anybody really doubt what's going to happen? More sex, more unwanted pregnancies, more rapes. These might be fully grown people...but they're still mental and emotional children. This can't be a serious proposal...oh wait, with our academics all fully injected with pc...yes it can. I'm so glad I don't have daughters. With sons all I ever had to worry about was one pr....Well you get the picture. If I had daughters they wouldn't be going to any U with co-ed rooms. i don't care how much of a bad guy dad looked like.

Posted by: PanhandleWilly | December 6, 2010 10:39 AM

In my line of work I work with people 18 to 24 years of age, in college, outside of college, military and certification program.

Joining sexes in a room is the worst idea you can think.

These are developing adults. But they have not quite come to accept the nuisances between the sexes and slow processes are best.

You very much need boundaries where you may have a male from Nebraska meeting a female from San Fransico social norms and sexual cues are already muddled. And scenarios of when they meet up in the common areas can have varying degrees of success. It can range from learning from each other to misreading cues and leading to a sexual assault.

That has a high frequency now--imagining breaking down the boundaries of a private room. You still need that seperation.

Posted by: CultureClub | December 6, 2010 10:39 AM

I agree. the american universities seem to have misinterpreted their role as a place where meeting, hooking-up, etc. are just as much part of the school's mission as actually educating students.

it's hard to see why gay and transgender people should be able to request special housing when it would be called discriminatory for straight students to ask to be housed separately from gay students.

Posted by: dummypants | December 6, 2010 10:52 AM


you wrongly assume that it the goal has to be EITHER protecting people's modestly and keeping the sexual tension down, when, of course, it's BOTH.

Not rocket-science here, unless you are hell bent on ignoring the common sense behind certain societal norms.

Posted by: dummypants | December 6, 2010 10:58 AM

Thankfully, it seems more and more people are realizing that this is the only real way to move forward. The route of denial is not really working --but then it never really did, we are all just fooling ourselves.

that's a little bit like saying, I know some of my friends want to sleep with my husband/wife, so they might as well come out and tell me because, well, it's a "denial of reality" if we dont.

sometimes circumspection is a matter of mere manners.

Posted by: dummypants | December 6, 2010 11:02 AM

College is about getting an education in the classroom. The vast majority of students are legally adults and can live wherever they want. If they dont like the on-campus arrangements, then they are free to move off-campus. Colleges and Universities should not be concerned about fostering these social experiments lest they turn into our public schools

Posted by: bruce18 | December 6, 2010 11:04 AM

'safe' and 'coed' are mutually exclusive objectives. These are adults in college. Artificial delimiters are not going to prevent the interaction between the sexes. The idea of this segregation is based on outdated societal mores

Posted by: SpecTP | December 6, 2010 11:08 AM

Our colleges and universities are being run by idiots.

(Wildly overpaid idiots.)

Posted by: thebump | December 6, 2010 12:46 PM

Schools and colleges have more responsibilities dumped on them every day, and this is one we don't need. Who cleans up the mess when a relationship that the students thought was forever crashes and burns just before midterms? That's enough of a problem as it is, but now the university would be on the hook for seeing that each of the former special someones ended up in a comfortable place.
Besides, the percentage of students living on campus seems to be shrinking. This could be a ploy to fill expensive dorm space.

Posted by: jlhare1 | December 6, 2010 1:04 PM

If you exclude human nature from the equation,it's probably an OK idea.

Posted by: slim21 | December 6, 2010 1:59 PM

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