A new article in The L.A. Times mentions Pitzer's and Harvey Mudd's gender neutral housing. For the record and for my loyal readers, I remain fairly agnostic on the question, but this might be a function more of the fact that I have lived in a single for the last two years.
It's worth quoting this article in full:
They weren't looking to make a political statement or to be pioneers of gender liberation. Each just wanted a familiar, decent roommate rather than a stranger after their original roommates left to study abroad.Um... what's an "other"? Does Pitzer even have others? That strikes me as particularly odd. But then again, this is Pitzer. . .
That's how Pitzer College sophomores Kayla Eland, female, and Lindon Pronto, male, began sharing a room this semester on Holden Hall's second floor. They are not a couple and neither is gay. They are just compatible roommates in a new, sometimes controversial, dormitory option known as gender-neutral housing that is gaining support at some colleges in California and across the nation.
Eland, a biology major who hopes to become a doctor, said that a roommate's personality and study habits are more important than gender. "This might not be right for everyone," she said of sharing the small, cinder block-walled room with a man. "But I think it's important to have the right to choose where you want to live, how you want to live and who you want to live with."
Pronto, an environmental studies major who works each summer as a forest firefighter, agreed. Apart from remembering to lower the toilet seat, he said, living with a woman friend is not much different from rooming with a man. "As far as I'm concerned, a roommate is a roommate," he said.
Although the number of participants remains small, gender-neutral housing has gained attention as the final step in the integration of student housing.
. . .
Pitzer housing applications ask whether students prefer a roommate to be woman, man, "other," or have no preference. Or students can request to live together, as Eland and Pronto did after losing their original roommates.
Naturally, unexplored in this whole article is the economic benefits to the colleges of gender-neutral housing. In short, colleges that sometimes face a housing crunch due to study abroad or over enrollment might seriously consider gender-neutral housing as a means of addressing their problem.
That said, I have a hard time buying into the politics surrounding it. "The final step in the integration of student housing"? Nonsense. The final step in integration would be to make sure we all lived in one giant room. How inclusive that would be!
In any event, moving on to Harvey Mudd:
Harvey Mudd College, next to Pitzer in the Claremont Colleges, began gender-neutral housing last fall mainly as an option for gay and transgender students, said Guy Gerbick, dean of residential life. Seven students joined; among them are a man and two women, all straight, who share a triple room.First off, props to the gentleman who is rooming with two other ladies. That doesn't strike me as particularly conducive to studying, but it does seem like a fun sitcom. I'm a bit concerned about parents not being able to nix such a decision at Harvey Mudd. Aren't they the ones picking up the tab? Don't you wager that they ought to have more of a decision? I certainly do.
Parents cannot veto such a decision at Harvey Mudd, but Gerbick asks students to discuss it with their families ahead of time. He also asks applicants whether they are romantically involved; all of this year's participants said no. But if they were, the school could not forbid them from rooming together.
"If we are going into a post-gender world, then the regulation of private behavior is just not practical," he said.
Several years ago, an earlier proposal for gender-neutral housing was killed at Harvey Mudd by skeptical administrators and older, more conservative trustees, Gerbick recalled. More recently, 74% of Harvey Mudd students voted in a survey to allow the option and, to Gerbick's satisfaction, a new administration agreed.
But what the heck is a "post-gender" world? As for regulation of private behavior, you have to be joking. Harvey Mudd regulates what goes on students' white boards. They regulate flyers that they don't like and conversations that they don't like. Why wouldn't they want regulate what goes on in their dorm rooms? At the very least, they ought to be consistent.
As for whether or not I'd ever want to live with a woman, I think it's best summed up in the question of whether or not a woman would ever want to live with me. I remain agnostic on that question as well.