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Old 12-29-2006, 02:23 PM   #1
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Coed Dorm Rooms

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In dorms, men and women now room together

By Ben Arnoldy
The Christian Science Monitor, Dec 28 2006


BOSTON--Janet Dewar and Matt Danzig met as college freshmen and hit it off so well they now are roommates. They share two on-campus rooms with only one doorway into the hall. That they don't share a gender doesn't give them a second thought. "At first when I told [my parents] they said, 'We're going to have to talk to you about this,' " says Ms. Dewar, a sophomore at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. "I told them that there were two rooms, that there's nothing sexual going on between us, and that it wasn't really a big deal."

Some 20 universities and colleges have decided to allow undergraduates of the opposite sex to share an on-campus room. Most quietly made the move in the past five years, with Clark University in Worcester, Mass., deciding this month. It's the final frontier in the decades-long march away from gender separation in college dorms, hallways, and even bathrooms.

While sharing a room comes unnervingly close in the minds of many parents to sharing a bed, advocates for the new arrangements say sexual intimacy rarely plays a role with those who sign up. Instead, for a younger generation it is increasingly common for men and women to just be friends. And some gay and transgendered students welcome the chance to avoid same-sex roommates whom they may not be comfortable around, or who may not accept them. "Men and women are becoming just as good friends as if they were with their same-sex friends. The dynamics have changed. I think the opposite sex is no longer really such a mystery as it was before," says Jeffrey Chang, a sophomore at Clark University, a school of about 2,800 students. Mr. Chang led the effort to lift Clark's ban on opposite gender roommates for upperclassmen housing after he and his close friend Allison were barred from living together. As freshmen, the two did their homework together and ate together. So when it came time to choose sophomore housing, why shouldn't they live together?

After close to a year of research and discussions, Clark administrators decided to allow it, primarily to accommodate gay and transgendered students, says Denise Darrigrand, dean of students. The school already had single-occupancy bathrooms, making it easier to change policy without paying for renovations. Many schools changed their policies partly to better accommodate gay and transgendered students, and most schools make it a choice available only to upperclassmen. The schools report few problems and little reaction to the policy. One parent of a perspective Clark student did call to express outrage over the decision, calling it immoral, according to Ms. Darrigrand. But most parents contacted for the article didn't know their children's schools had such an option, and few students - no more than several dozen at most schools - actually avail themselves of it.

"I think it's just asking for trouble," says Collette Janson-Sand, whose son goes to the University of Southern Maine, and who was unaware that the school now allows opposite gender roommates. "Even if he said it was platonic, I know what young people are like ... [and] I would also worry how much it would take away from his studies."

Not all parents oppose students cohabitating on campus. "At first, it did shock me a little, but it doesn't bother me now," says Leslie Duffy, in an e-mail. Her daughter attends Bennington, a college in Vermont that allows upperclassmen of opposite genders to room together. She hears that most of the male-female roommates are strictly platonic. Those in romantic relationships, she suspects, probably want their space and wouldn't risk being stuck in a tiny room after a breakup. "If not, it's a lesson to learn. College-age people make their own decisions about sexual behavior, and living arrangements have never done much to enable or prevent that," Ms. Duffy adds.

Research finds cross-gender friendships are more common among young people. A 2002 survey by American Demographics and Synovate found that 18-to-24-year-olds are almost four times as likely as those age 55 and over to have a best friend of the opposite sex. More than 10% of those ages 25 to 34 reported their closest friend to be of the opposite sex. In a study published in 2000 by the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, more than a quarter of participants reported having sex with a friend of the opposite gender. Most continued to be friends.

Few colleges have been willing to take gender integration to the room level. Harvard University has been only considering the move off and on for years, a spokesman said...For Christian colleges, concerns about sex outside marriage have kept most from going as far as secular schools in mixing genders in dorms. While it's not unheard of for Christian colleges to have opposite genders on different floors of the same dorm, most opt for separation by wing or even building, says Greg Leeper, associate dean of students at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Ill.

Most of the schools allowing men and women to room together have liberal reputations, including Swarthmore in Pennsylvania, Hampshire College in Massachusetts, and Sarah Lawrence College in New York. In the past year, some state schools like the University of California at Riverside have joined them.

When asked if living together has brought sexual tension into their friendship, Mr. Danzig said "no" flatly, and Dewar said the same, emphatically. Neither report any awkward or indelicate moments, but when both genders use the same bathroom on the floor not much remains secret. Dating neighbors - known as "hallcest" or "dormcest" - is courting disaster given such close quarters, says Danzig. "I have a variety of female friends - many are entirely platonic, some of them I am attracted to," says Danzig, who sees Wesleyan's rooming policy as an extension of the school's rejection of traditionally defined notions of gender. "There's less pressure to behave the way that stereotypically males and females are supposed to behave."
What do you think of this idea? How different is it from two people of the opposite sex sharing an apartment--something that's already fairly common outside college environments? Would you be comfortable sharing a dorm room with a friend of the opposite sex? If you're straight, would you feel comfortable dating someone whose dormroom-mate was the same sex as you? If you're gay, do you see this as one good solution for gay students who might feel uncomfortable sharing living space with straight students of their own sex? If you were (or are) a parent, how would you feel about your son or daughter having an opposite-sex roommate at college? Do you see much potential for unplanned and/or ill-advised sexual entanglements here, or do you think that'd be unlikely?
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Old 12-29-2006, 02:57 PM   #2
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I have lots of male friends whom I have no sexual attraction to whatsoever. I've shared a house with a mix of men and women, although there is more space than a dorm room. Never had any problems so far. I think it's important that everyone knows the boundaries and has whatever limits they feel comfortable with spelled out.

As for parents thinking that the mere fact that their son/daughter is sharing a room with someone from the same sex means that they won't experiment with sex...I have news for them. lol.
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Old 12-29-2006, 03:06 PM   #3
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I think if I were to share a room with someone of the opposite sex, I'd feel like I lost some of my freedom that I would have had if I roomed with another girl. I probably wouldn't be able to be open about my female life if there were a guy around. I mean, there are some things I wouldn't discuss to my guy friends that I would to my girl friends.

But then again, I've never shared a room with anyone before; I didn't go to a sleep-away college. So, my lack of experience counts me out of this debate. It's just that the quote below really stuck out in my mind while reading the article:

Quote:
"Men and women are becoming just as good friends as if they were with their same-sex friends. The dynamics have changed. I think the opposite sex is no longer really such a mystery as it was before,"
I wonder if that's a good thing or a harmful thing. On one hand, this means the sexes are getting along better and are respecting each other more. But, I've heard guys talk about women being a mystery and they find that attractive. Could the lack of mystery hurt the intimacy between men and women, or could they benefit from it? So far, I haven't seen anyone be harmed by it, but I wonder sometimes.
Yeah, I'm a bit old fashioned
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Old 12-29-2006, 03:17 PM   #4
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I would never do it, mainly because I'd rather pay more rent and have my own room, regardless of the gender of my housemates (which is what I did).

I've never thought twice about other people sharing rooms, apartments, or houses with guys. I've always had female housemates, but that's because most of them were friends from high school or friends we made during college. I don't think we've ever had a guy respond to any of our wanted ads. A guy friend did live in our house for a while b/c he had no housing arrangement. He lived in my friend's room while she was gone and then in my room while I was gone.

I suppose I'd prefer to share a dorm room with a girl (I shared w/ my best friend for the two years we were required to live on-campus). Not because I'd be worried about sex, but just looking back at the type of things we talked about together, I think a guy would feel excluded with three other women wandering around in their underwear complaining about cramps and hormonal migraines. We shared similar interests and had daily routines that didn't cause conflict. We worked because our lifestyles fit, not because we were both women. So if a guy is a better fit, why not? I would not at all be uncomfortable knowing guys lived in other rooms on my floor.
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Old 12-29-2006, 04:20 PM   #5
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I live in a house with six other people. The girl who lives with us has her bedroom directly next to mine.

I have no desire to sleep with her, nor do I ever plan on it. She's a close friend of mine, so what's the difference whether she has a penis or not?

People who have hang-ups about this kind of thing are old-fashioned.
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Old 12-29-2006, 04:23 PM   #6
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The idea of sharing a bedroom with a roommate is repulsive to me, lol. I do have 2 roommates right now, but we have a 3 bedroom apartment, so there is a degree of privacy.

As far as this goes - I would actually prefer to have a guy move in with us next year when one of the girls leaves. And my other roommate feels the same way. No issue whatsoever. But when you're talking about sharing a dorm room, I would probably prefer to share with a female unless I knew the guy well. Otherwise, it might be somewhat awkward, at least in the beginning.
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Old 12-29-2006, 08:33 PM   #7
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He likes the idea!!
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Old 12-29-2006, 08:44 PM   #8
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[Q]Billy Crystal (Harry Burns): You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Meg Ryan (Sally Albright): Why not?
Billy Crystal (Harry): What I'm saying is - and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form - is that men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Meg Ryan (Sally): That's not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Billy Crystal (Harry): No you don't.
Meg Ryan (Sally): : Yes I do.
Billy Crystal (Harry): No you don't.
Meg Ryan (Sally): Yes I do.
Billy Crystal (Harry): You only think you do.
Meg Ryan (Sally): You say I'm having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Billy Crystal (Harry):: No, what I'm saying is they all WANT to have sex with you.
Meg Ryan (Sally): They do not!
Billy Crystal (Harry): Do too.
Meg Ryan (Sally): They do not.
Billy Crystal (Harry): Do too.
Meg Ryan (Sally): How do you know?
Billy Crystal (Harry):Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Meg Ryan (Sally): So, you're saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?
Billy Crystal (Harry): No. You pretty much want to nail 'em too.
Meg Ryan (Sally): What if THEY don't want to have sex with YOU?
Billy Crystal (Harry): Doesn't matter because the sex thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.
Meg Ryan (Sally): Well, I guess we're not going to be friends then.
Billy Crystal (Harry): I guess not.
Meg Ryan (Sally): That's too bad. You were the only person I knew in New York.[/Q]

My wife has developed friendships with almost every female friend I had in high school and college. We have the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in effect. My wife however, says this quote above applied to me in my youth.
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Old 12-29-2006, 09:52 PM   #9
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Sharing an apartment with someone is definitely not the same as sharing a dorm room. Apartments are apartments. Dorms are damn shoeboxes! You're stepping on each other all the time. Apartments allow for privacy, since each person has there own space. But dorm rooms allow no personal space, unless the roommate is out of the room.

There'd be no way in hell I'd share a room with another person ever again...regardless of his/her sex or sexual orientation. I've lived on my own for 2 years now, and ain't no way I'm goin back!

Anyway, bring up the perspectives of gay students, while yes, I do see the possibility that this would help them live with someone they are more comfortable with, on the other hand though, i knew of a gay couple who were roommates in their dorm room. The same sex rules allowed them to cohabitate. Heh, I guess that is probably the only opportunity when gay couples can have advantages over straight couples in terms of "coupleness".

Honestly though, regardless of what the dorm rules are, people are gonna find ways to get in bed with one another. Although my campus has certain visitation policies, whenever there is a fire alarm in one the biggest male residence hall, there's usually almost as many women as there are men standing outside. i honestly think there is very little the department of residence life can do to actually increase sexual activity in the dorms. and i'm saying this after having worked in res life.
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Old 12-29-2006, 11:09 PM   #10
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Aren't people attending colleges adults, or on the verge of adulthood?

Sounds like mothering of masses who dont actually need someone to dictate who they can share a room, flat, or bed with. Let the expanding minded students decide for themselves!
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Old 12-29-2006, 11:14 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Angela Harlem
Aren't people attending colleges adults, or on the verge of adulthood?

Sounds like mothering of masses who dont actually need someone to dictate who they can share a room, flat, or bed with. Let the expanding minded students decide for themselves!
I can't tell you how many times I've tried to explain that to helicopter parents.
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Old 12-29-2006, 11:18 PM   #12
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I think the problem is with the parents, particularly ones who are shelling tens of thousands of dollars per year and feel that this should afford them some level of control.
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Old 12-29-2006, 11:22 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by anitram
I think the problem is with the parents, particularly ones who are shelling tens of thousands of dollars per year and feel that this should afford them some level of control.
you're absolutely right. parents who went to college when the philosophy of en loco parentis was followed are having a difficult time allowing their children freedom in college.

some seem to think that investment in college = remergence of umbilical cord and thus make my job a living hell.
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Old 12-29-2006, 11:23 PM   #14
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My mom freaked out when she found out that I was living on the same floor as boys

What, does she think we all just have wild orgies?
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Old 12-29-2006, 11:25 PM   #15
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your dorm is already coed, kinda

if i recall

that would be the roommate
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