All-female dorm to house males

One of the newly designated all-female housing options, 2109 F Street, has four permanent male D.C. residents living in the residence hall.

At the end of last semester, the University announced that Strong Hall – currently GW’s only all-female residence hall – will be changed to sorority housing next year, offering spaces to Chi Omega and Pi Beta Phi. Last month, 2109 F Street and Mount Vernon’s Merriweather Hall were named as the two alternatives for female students wishing to live in a single-sex environment.

But because the University purchased the 2109 F Street as an apartment building and converted it to a residence hall, there are a handful of rent-controlled apartments in the building where D.C. residents unaffiliated with the University continue to live.

“Although there are four male permanent residents living in 2109 F Street, this residence hall will house only female students,” said Seth Weinshel, director of GW Housing Programs. He stressed that the male residents should not pose a problem because 2109 F Street is apartment-style living, which means the women living there will have their own private bathrooms, unlike some of the Strong Hall rooms.

Paige Dingess, a freshman currently living in Strong, said getting assigned to Strong Hall for her first year of school was a comfort for her father. She said that the 2109 F Street option, with older male residents, might not sit as well with him.

“Honestly, I think the situation [in 2109 F Street] might freak him out more than me living with just college freshmen,” she said. “That’s definitely creepier than living with 19-year-old boys.”

In addition to offering the 2109 F Street location, GW Housing Programs selected Merriweather Hall to be exclusive to freshman and sophomore women only.

“I’d just reiterate that next fall, GW will offer two options for female students seeking same-sex housing,” said University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard in an e-mail. “Merriweather will offer a housing environment like Strong Hall but with all private bathrooms. This hall will be all-female.”

Dingess, though, said the Merriweather option is not as desirable as Strong.

“I feel like if you’re going to make a completely all-girls dorm, that it should be on Foggy Bottom,” Dingess said. “Freshmen are new, and I feel like sending them out to the Vern in an all-female dorm is just making it scarier. I just wish there was a better option than that, even if was just the top two floors of a building.”

Current Strong Hall resident Zahra Khan, though, said having the male residents in 2109 F Street shouldn’t be a significant problem for students living in Strong, especially with the Merriweather option for underclassmen.

“With Pelham too, I feel like the Vern is going to be the new developing place to be,” Khan said, referencing the redesigned residence hall on the Mount Vernon campus that will increase the population of the Vern by 40 percent when it opens in the fall.

Khan said that she thinks the new same-sex option on the Mount Vernon campus will offer the same effect as Strong.

“Merriweather is going to be like the new Strong,” she said. “[The residents] are going to be really close.”

Khan, who grew up mostly in Saudi Arabia, made the decision to live in Strong to facilitate an easier transition into life at GW. Many female students, like Khan, live in Strong for religious or cultural reasons, especially freshmen who need to adapt to the environment of college.

“It could be a problem for freshmen who need an all-female housing option,” Khan said. “But sophomores and upperclassmen who live in Strong live there because it’s Strong. We’re all friends who lived here freshman year.”

Despite the University’s initiatives to expand Mount Vernon campus life, freshman Strong resident Brianna Wright said living there might be unattractive to prospective students.

“I think if people want an all-female option on the Foggy Bottom campus it’s a little awkward to have the only option to be one that has four guys, especially four guys that don’t even go to GW,” Wright said.

“If I were an incoming freshman and my parents told me they wanted me to live in all-female housing the first year, I would be upset,” she said. “Some people on the Vern really love it, but a lot of them feel really isolated from what’s going on. I think that would drive some people away.”

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