SA mulls co-ed housing proposal

by Jennifer Garfinkel | 11/9/04 6:00am

The Student Assembly will vote tonight on whether or not to pass a new resolution proposing more co-educational living options for Dartmouth undergraduates. Under the Assembly's proposal, the River Apartments, eight of the two-room doubles in the East Wheelock residential cluster and several of the rooms in the new McLaughlin cluster will house both male and female roommates.

Members of the Assembly's Diversity Affairs Committee, which proposed the measure, said the resolution reflects some students' belief that the current policy assumes that everyone is heterosexual or feels comfortable living with someone of the same gender.

Tim Andreadis '07, a chair of the committee, said he also believes that the current bias against co-ed housing stems from a belief that women will be unable to resist unwanted sexual advances from their male roommates.

"It assumes that people here are too naive and can't make their own choices, setting themselves up for sexual aggression or abuse," he said. "I think that people at this school are able to make their own choices regardless of who they want to live with."

Andreadis and the committee's other chairs, Yuki Kondo-Shah '07 and Santiago Vallinas '07, pointed to a recent Assembly student-opinion poll as evidence of widespread support for co-ed housing. The recent BlitzMail survey found that 85 percent of the 1,201 respondents said they were in favor of co-ed housing at Dartmouth and 75 percent said they would be interested in participating in this option.

Some students said they think they should be allowed to room with their friends, regardless of gender, while others cited a desire for a system that is more sensitive to homosexual needs.

Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman said it will likely be a long time before a pilot program can go into effect, but said he was not opposed to reaching compromises with the Assembly.

"I don't have a problem with co-ed apartments, but there are a lot of privacy issues to think about," Redman said.

Redman added that co-ed living already exists in a few, select locations on campus, citing the three co-ed Greek houses, affinity houses and the Max Kade German Center as examples. However, he said he fears that widespread co-ed living is unrealistic for logistical reasons.

"It's easy to say that co-ed living will be only optional, but D-plans can provide problems," Redman said. He worried that some students will leave for an off-term only to have others return who may not want to live in a co-ed environment.

For students who aren't happy with on-campus rules, Redman said there are housing alternatives available off-campus.

"One answer is that if you really want to live with someone of the opposite sex for whatever reason, we have off-campus housing," Redman reminded.

Sarah Morton '05 said she moved off campus after her freshman year because the only person she wanted to live with the next fall was male.

"I haven't moved back to campus since, and I remain satisfied with my decision," she said, but added that she is angry that off-campus housing was the only option for her to live with someone of the opposite gender.

Other colleges have already implemented co-ed housing options. At Wesleyan University, students can choose to room with anyone after their freshmen year, a policy Wesleyan's residential life office backs fully.

"Regardless of where you live, who you live with is the most important thing. It shouldn't be something that should be forced upon by our office," said Rich DeCapua, assistant director of Wesleyan's residential life office.

In addition to the Assembly's Diversity Affairs Committee, Academic Affairs Committee chair Steve Koutsavlis '05 is also a sponsor of the resolution. At least 14 members of the Gay-Straight Alliance have also backed the resolution by sending a letter of support to the Diversity Affairs Committee, Andreadis said.

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