Steven Blum: An experiment in co-ed housing

For the past month and a half, my male roommate and I have had the pleasure of sharing a bathroom with two girls. Besides the occasional hairs in the sink and the tubs full of makeup, it was like sharing a bathroom with anyone.

The oh-so-socially-progressive experiment was running marvelously until we received an e-mail from GW Housing Programs two weeks ago, informing us that our housing situation had been an error (The Hatchet reported on this last Thursday). We were in direct violation of University policy, and either the girls or my roommate and I would have to move out.

Now, like many male GW students, I don’t care for girls. Oh sure, they’re fun to gossip and giggle with, but I’m not going to have sex with one of them in a shower … it’s just not my bag. That’s the reason why the experiment paid off so well – no pressure, no awkward sexual tension (at least on my end) and the girls had excellent taste in decoration. I lived with straight males last year and “Journey” is still ringing in my ears. My positive experience is proof that GW needs to make co-educational housing an option for those who want it.

Each year, GW works hard to make students feel as comfortable as possible in their dorms. They allow us to swap rooms if we end up with someone we don’t appreciate (like a drunk or a practicing pagan), and they put up posters reminding us to be social. They even turn on the heat when it gets cold outside. But if someone feels most comfortable around a friend of the opposite sex, they’re out of luck.

At colleges across America, housing officials have implemented policies that embrace gender diversity. Wesleyan University, Swarthmore College, Haverford College, Oberlin College, Sarah Lawrence College, Brown University, New York University and, starting next year, American University all offer the option of co-ed housing. Julie Weber, the director of housing at AU, implemented the plan for suite-style co-ed housing after numerous students came to her with requests. “With many students now growing up in gender-diverse households,” she said, “we thought it was only fair that we do what makes them feel most comfortable.”

Some fear that co-ed housing would be awkward, or confusing. At Yale University, where students have organized a committee to reinstate co-ed housing, administrator Dean Brodhead described the school’s mixed-gender dorm experiment of the 1970s a “disaster.”

“Almost always, tensions arose among the people involved,” he said. Ambiguity arose about the nature of people’s relationships, and it became too complex to negotiate friendships when romance was a possibility.

But what Brodhead must have forgotten is that romance is always a possibility, whether there are two girls living in a room, or a boy and a girl. Saying that only boys and girls could possibly end up in a romantic situation is perpetuating a hetero-normative view of campus life that doesn’t exist. I heard a story about a friend who ended up hooking up with his male roommate on the first night of college, and the few weeks it took him to switch rooms were awkward as hell. Awkward happens – straight or gay.

Separating males from females by suite doesn’t reduce sexual activity in dorms – just look at Thurston Hall. People are going to have sex no matter what, so the University might as well recognize the complexity of the issue and allow us to choose our own roommate. If, under the system, you don’t want to live with someone of the opposite sex, don’t. No one is forcing you.

The rest of us would rather have the choice of living with our best friend – even if it means a few hairs in the sink. At least we should have some sort of choice to make a decision as responsible residents who ought to be able to choose our optimal living arrangement.

-The writer is a sophomore majoring in anthropology

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.