Over the past few decades, more colleges across America have been adopting co-ed dorm room options for their students.
Institutions such as Brown, Harvard, UConn, Dartmouth, Carnegie Mellon and Stanford are some of the more well known schools to already provide their students with the option of gender-neutral housing assignments. Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., has provided this option to resident students since the 1970s.
This has naturally created quite a stir amongst parents and students alike for some time. Tastefully dubbed “gender-neutral” housing, this option offers members of the opposite gender to cohabitate.
Although co-ed floors are common at most public and private universities, only about 50 colleges currently have adopted the gender-neutral dorm room option in which males and females may choose to live together in the same room – a trend that will hopefully continue to grow in the future.
In an effort to promote the cause of gender-neutral living, the National Student Genderblind Campaign was created in 2006.
Their Web site contains a quote from the Harvard College Democrats that sharply points out,”The proper role of the college is not to determine with whom students may or may not live, but rather to empower its students to make their own decisions responsibly.”
The accelerating drift towards gender-neutral housing was prompted by the necessity to accommodate gay students who prefer to live with the opposite sex and transgender students who do not identify with either gender. Since gender has taken on all kinds of definitions in the world we live in, this is a natural evolutionary process towards gender equality. In fact, some colleges have not fully adopted mixed rooms, but make exceptions for transgender and gay students.
Apart from the gay and transgender segments of the population, those in favor cite their rights as adults to choose where and with whom they want to live as their primary reason. Secondary arguments include the fact that the experience emulates “real life,” where there are no gender boundaries.
Furthermore, there is no reason why men and women cannot live together if they can respect each other’s space and observe similar study and sleep habits. As long as all the people living in the dorm are comfortable with it, there’s no reason why such living situations should be against the rules.
Still, many universities that offer gender neutral housing often discourage the co-habitation of students who are romantically involved for a plethora of obvious reasons.
Despite the growing trend, there are plenty of people opposed to the gender-blind housing movement. Although most college students prefer to live in a single-sex dorm room, many colleges would rather not aggravate parents and donors who view the movement as immoral and thus reject the idea altogether. Similarly, many parents and students fear the issue of safety as well as sexual harassment.
St. John’s is a Catholic university and adheres to strict Catholic moral standards, so having gender neutral dorm rooms, or even gender neutral floors, would be a difficult thing to achieve.
But since St. John’s has one of the most diverse student bodies and is located in one of the world’s greatest urban and cultural backdrops, students who would like to live with members of the opposite sex should not be denied the right to do so. As long as students pay their money, who they live with should be up to them.
The plausibility and propensity of St. John’s ever allowing men and women to cohabitate in a dorm room is small.
However, the controversy surrounding many colleges’ recent shift begs many interesting topics for discussion. Gender-neutral housing will continue to redefine the environment of dorms at American colleges in the coming years, regardless of the resistance that schools like St. John’s present.