Our Gender Neutral Universities

Thirteen years ago, five freshmen at Yale University found themselves with a dilemma. Yale required all freshmen and sophomores to live in co-ed dorms where floors were mixed and bathrooms were often shared.  Exemptions were made for those who were either married or over 21.  The five students were orthodox Jews, raised in tradtional homes whose values and principles were deeply offended by the Yale requirement.

After many complaints to the Yale administration were denied, the five decided to launch a law suit against the university.  In the meantime, at least two of the students underwent a civil marriage in order to avoid the requirement of sharing a bathroom with someone of the opposite sex.

Three years later their case was denied and a year afte that their appeal failed.  The Court claimed that the students knew of the mandatory housing rules before they applied to the school and therefore could not complain about the conditions once they arrived there. 

The saga of the Yale Five was repeated across the country as more and more colleges decided to integrate their dorms with men and women sharing floors and even bathrooms.

Now we find that many campuses throughout our country have opened the door to shared rooms between males and females.  This, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times,  is in order to encourage a  a form of non-discriminatory gender neutrality, which caters to gays, bisexual and transgender lifestyles. 

Once limited to such socially liberal bastions as Hampshire College, Wesleyan University, and Oberlin College, mixed-gender housing has edged into the mainstream. Clark and Dartmouth universities introduced mixed-gender rooms last fall, and Brown and Brandeis announced plans last month to follow suit.

The University of Pennsylvania, Skidmore and Ithaca colleges, and Oregon State University also allow roommates of different genders. Students at New York, Harvard, and Stanford universities, among many others, are now calling for gender-blind dormitories. Nearly 30 colleges throughout the country have offered gender neutral housing to their students. In some colleges, such as Stanford, co-ed  room assignments are made by consensus and students can find themselves allotted to a gender neutral room even without their consent.

Supporters, of course,  hail the trend as a key advance for homosexual and transgender students that eliminates a gender divide they see as outdated, particularly for a generation that has grown up with many friends of the opposite sex. Traditional rooming policies, they say, infringe upon students’ rights and perpetuate gender segregation. 

Eliminating distinctions between men and women is one of the hallmarks of the new feminist movement and almost certainly applauded  by it. But what kind of life are we recommending for our students when we offer them such kind of living arrangements?  What are we teaching them about respect for privacy and sexual responsibility?

Any argument that the new room arrangements are simply a healthy means to integration is dispatched by the realities of life on campus.  At the time the Yale students were launching their law suit, the Yale Daily News published an article titled “Yalexicon: Your indispensable guide to understanding Yale Speak.” The definitions included:

“Couch Duty”: Being forced to sleep on a common room couch because your roommate and his/her significant other want some time alone together.”

Sexile”: Banishment from your dorm room because your roommate is having more fun than you.”

 “Walk of Shame”: When you find yourself in rumpled evening wear, walking to your dorm from someone else’s room early in the morning.ertes

The administrations of many of our colleges are blithely disinterested in complaints that these living arrangmeents will lead to promiscuity. On the contrary, they see them as benign and healthy additions to campus life.

Yale President Richard Levin expressed such a view in 2001 upon the failure of the Yale Five’s appeal:  “Why come to a university like this one if you won’t open your mind to new ideas and new perspectives?” he said. “This is not a place where people who close themselves off to the world can thrive.” Levin also stressed the importance of residential colleges at Yale. “We’re pretty committed to idea of people getting to know people different than themselves.”

Really? Well what about students who don’t opt for such a lifestyle?  What about those students who insist on following the traditional values of modesty and temperance?  Is their lifestyle somehow not  “different enough” to warrant exposure to the incoming freshmen ? 

Perhaps not.  Perhaps what we will see in the future is mandated gender neutral dorms in which future students like the Yale Five will be required to share a room with someone of the opposite gender – or someone even of a bixsexual or transgender orientation, in order to encourage their “awareness and integration”. 

For such students this stultifyingly politically correct culture, embracing as it does a new pagan orthodoxy, would then not be one of openness, tolerance and integration, but a fretful distopia where discrimination becomes the rule and hostility to traditional values the dominant credo.


One Response to Our Gender Neutral Universities

  1. Bob Miller says:

    This stuff is getting way out of hand but is not really new. In the late 1960’s in my dorm (really an apartment house), the resident “entertaining” his live-in or not-quite-live-in girlfriend would hang a tie on the bedroom doorknob to shoo roommates away.

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