Green Room

Gender neutrality carried to extremes at Stanford

posted at 7:35 pm on May 4, 2009 by

*Update: The daughter responds in a comment on a NYT blog post which linked to Ms. Morin’s article.

Here’s a new twist on college undermining the values of its students while parents pay dearly for the privilege.  According to Karin Venable Morin, writing on NRO, the formerly great University of Chicago, as well as Stanford University, where her daughter is a senior, now routinely and randomly place young men and women in the same room. That’s right, in the same bedroom. Ms. Morin refers to it as “co-ed within the room.” She has a daughter at Stanford and learned of the novel arrangement in a phone call from her daughter, which she later related to her incredulous mother-in-law:

“She’s sharing a room with one other girl and two boys,” I said.

“You mean a suite.”

“No,” I said. “I mean a bedroom.”

My mother-in-law couldn’t believe it.

“But wait,” I said. “It gets worse. She didn’t ask for this room arrangement. She missed the room meeting because she had a friend visiting from the East Coast. She appointed a proxy, and said she wanted a room with no smoking and no sex in the room, but she didn’t ask for a single-sex room.”

“Should she?” asked my mother-in-law.

“Well, apparently. But she says she didn’t think it was necessary.”

“So she asked to get out, right?”

“Wrong. Her dorm had a seven-hour room meeting, and she doesn’t want to upset everyone’s consensus arrangements. Plus, she says it’s no big deal.”

“So where does she get dressed?”

“That’s the same question I asked,” I said. “She says she gets dressed in the bathroom.”

Just to gain a little perspective on this, let’s remember that it’s unusual for American parents to place brothers and sisters in the same bedroom. It is sometimes done so out of necessity when children are very young, but do you know of a single family in which opposite-sexed children over the age of six share a bedroom? Me neither.

After some digging, the parents learned that the circumstances that led to the co-ed bedroom were the result of a corruption of a “pilot program for gender neutral housing” instituted (without parents’ knowledge) “to create a more welcoming atmosphere for transgender and homosexual students.”

And to think that my husband and I, when we consider colleges for our children, have a problem with schools that don’t offer single-sex dorms.

The “co-ed within the room” is a trend:

Stanford and at least 50 other colleges and universities are promoting through their dormitory arrangements an ideology of gender that we personally reject and oppose.

Read all of Ms. Morin’s account for the gory details. Then consider some alternatives to four years of expensive indoctrination, intellectual abuse, and contempt for traditional values. College needn’t be the default option, though President Obama is keen on making it, as well as pre-school, “universal.” Perhaps your child would be happier learning a trade and doing a dirty job.

From Ms. Morin:

I could talk about conspiracy theories, and how the modern university is trying to change society’s norms. I could talk about how the university caters to the “edgy” — whatever that is at the moment. I could talk about how I have new sympathy for my parents’ concerns about rooming arrangements at Yale when I arrived there 30-some years ago. I could talk about mother-guilt, and how I have failed to convey my moral values to my daughter.

My hope, looking forward, is to warn other parents: Stanford and many other colleges and universities do not respect their common-sense values. The university seeks to undermine those values. If parents don’t want “gender neutral” housing for their children, they need to talk with their money, the only voice the university will allow them. Otherwise, parents will have to resign themselves to the risk of paying a heavier cost than they expect for their children’s education.

Note to Ms. Morin: lose the mother-guilt but keep fighting the good fight.

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Several years ago, I took my son to Syracuse when he was a freshman. I was appalled then to find that his dorm room was right next door to a female dorm room. “Oh, you’re so old fashioned,” the screwl implied. Right. Let’s see, how do you guarantee failure in college: how about total distraction while the hormones are highest? Combine that with drug availability, underage drinking, and attempts at indoctrination. He was a good kid when he went there, but was overwhelmed. Took him several years to get his life straightened back out, including a stint in the military and a dead-end job, but he has now succeeded. I am proud of him to have overcome the terrible college experience.
Parents, if it seems weird to you, IT IS WEIRD! You will pay with your money, but your children will pay with years of their lives.

Christian Conservative on May 5, 2009 at 1:39 PM

Prepare for the new “sleepwalking” defense.

Or violent night terrors.

nor on May 5, 2009 at 1:40 PM

Seriously tho, this should be an opt-in only program.

Yeah, I agree.

It also seems weird to me that, notwithstanding the educational privacy regulations, the folks paying the bill are not in the loop in the process of selecting the room.

Y-not on May 5, 2009 at 1:43 PM

djm1992 on May 5, 2009 at 1:18 PM

Back when I was at Stanford (20+ years ago) there were some dorms with coed bathrooms. They had separate toilet stalls and separate shower stalls, but still not much privacy.

Unsanctioned coed rooms were not uncommon either. My suite-mate had his girlfriend sleep over almost every night. I had the middle room, which she had to go through every morning to exit. At least they tried to be quiet after midnight.

Given the sexual liberality on many college campuses, I don’t think coed rooms is going to increase the sexual activity of the students. Even in my more liberal youth, the last thing I’d want to do is get involved with someone I HAD to share a room with.

Snidely Whiplash on May 5, 2009 at 1:46 PM

When I was in college my girlfriend and I would have welcomed this. Now that I have two daughters in college I don’t care for it so much. It’s that whole older and wiser thing.

Buford on May 5, 2009 at 2:04 PM

You keep talking about the parents wishes and desires, but I bet 9 times out of 10, the kids want the same thing. While many college freshmen might think that coed bedrooms would be edgy and cool – I am pretty sure that when it comes down to the logistics of where to change and other habits, they will be quick to self-select single-gender bedrooms.

DWSC on May 5, 2009 at 2:15 PM

You keep talking about the parents wishes and desires, but I bet 9 times out of 10, the kids want the same thing.

DWSC on May 5, 2009 at 2:15 PM

Oh, I’m sure you’re right… maybe not 9 out of 10, but I’m sure a majority of students would want single sex rooms. Particularly freshmen girls.

Having said that, the part I question is the legality of keeping the people who are paying for the room in the dark about the nature of the room. Assuming that most students who are living in dorms are supported by their parents, it seems to me that the university as “landlord” should have to work with the people paying the “rent.”

Y-not on May 5, 2009 at 2:22 PM

For anyone looking for an alternative – All the dorms at BYU are single-gender, AND BYU requires single gender apartments for students living off campus.

DWSC on May 5, 2009 at 2:25 PM

Assuming that most students who are living in dorms are supported by their parents, it seems to me that the university as “landlord” should have to work with the people paying the “rent.”

Y-not, I don’t think the school has any obligation to the parents since their child is a legal adult and the parents are simply paying the rent on their behalf. You might have an argument if the student was still under 18. It really has to be the parents who talk to their kids, and refuse to pay for housing if they live in a co-ed bedroom. Let the student raise hell at the school himself. If the schools are doing this because students “demand” it, then the students need to demand it the other way.

DWSC on May 5, 2009 at 2:29 PM

I think almost all of you, including perhaps the authors of this piece and the original piece, are missing the key word here:

she doesn’t want to upset everyone’s consensus arrangements

This is clearly one of the liberal co-ops at Stanford that works by consensus. I think the author is mistaken that this is part of the “Gender Neutral option.” Co-ops are not dorms and pretty much do as they please, from requiring various chores to having only vegetarian food options available. In some sense this is the university version of federalism, where each co-op can try their own thing and see what works for their population. And, in theory, everyone has veto power. In practice, though, here’s what happens to dissenting voices when “consensus” is the rule in Stanford organizations.

calbear on May 5, 2009 at 2:39 PM

Shoot, in my day we only got co-ed rooms if we were lucky enough to score a chick. Kids today have it too easy. Assigned co-eds, rather than through choice? harrumph!

Now if you’ll excuse me, there are some damn kids on the lawn again.

rbj on May 5, 2009 at 2:39 PM

This is insane! And the cost of college keeps going up. Maybe all these liberal parents should start looking at church sponsored colleges if they don’t want little Sally coming home on Christmas break knocked up!

kens on May 5, 2009 at 2:44 PM

Probably a stipulation to the Saudi grant money.

BL@KBIRD on May 5, 2009 at 2:45 PM

Should be opt-in only. Why that isn’t obvious to anyone is beyond me. I hope nobody has to suffer for this before they get it sorted out.

TheUnrepentantGeek on May 5, 2009 at 2:48 PM

When the sexual assault charges start mounting, I’ll be very interested to see Stanford explain.

MadisonConservative on May 5, 2009 at 11:58 AM

Excellent point. Frightening how these bastions of women’s liberation may end up making them into victims instead.

Kim Priestap on May 5, 2009 at 2:51 PM

There is always BYU.

PrettyD_Vicious on May 5, 2009 at 3:06 PM

Y-not, I don’t think the school has any obligation to the parents since their child is a legal adult and the parents are simply paying the rent on their behalf.
DWSC on May 5, 2009 at 2:29 PM

I’m sure you’re right. The university lawyers have probably been through all of these issues with a fine tooth comb and I’m not a lawyer. But it does seem odd to me that the folks who are responsible for paying for the housing are not the ones making the selection. The university would be apprised of which students are dependents (financially) through the financial aid office, so it seems disingenuous to me for the university to behave as if the parents weren’t part of the equation.

It’s been a zillion years since I was in school, but I don’t recall signing anything like a lease agreement for my dorm room. Had I trashed my dorm room, the university’s recourse would have been to kick me off campus. Under the logic used here they couldn’t really hit me with a bill and expect me to pay for it and they certainly couldn’t send the bill to my parents. Kind of an odd situation to give someone access to something expensive (like a dorm room) without making any attempt to ensure that they would be financially responsible for (or capable of paying) the damages. Had I been living in an apartment off-campus, I doubt I could have passed the financial background check for an apartment… I’m sure my parents would have had to sign off on any lease.

But, yeah, ultimately although I don’t think this is a good arrangement, it all boils down to how the parents raised their kids… so it’s a little hard to get worked up about it.

Y-not on May 5, 2009 at 3:10 PM

There is always BYU.

Heck, Berkeley has single-gender dorms (as in, the entire structure has rooms for only one gender). But, again, this is about a (barely-)adult woman who chose to live in a co-op (not a dorm) and now has to choose among her living partners (who caused the situation) and her parents (who cut off her funding).

The thing is, as Snidely Whiplash noted, most colleges have hundreds of students in de facto mixed-gender rooms. The difference here is that the daughter actually told her mother of the situation. Somehow I think her being punished doubly for this (first by being assigned the room, then by having her parents cut off her funds) is not going to foster closer family ties.

calbear on May 5, 2009 at 3:19 PM

I’m not surprised by any of this. I worked with a guy who went to Rochester Institute of Technology in the 80s, who told me he lived in a dorm with co-ed shower rooms. “No big deal,” apparently. There seems to be a mentality that reduces gender to an arbitrary biological construct, with no effect on our lives that we cannot change to our liking. The ultimate fruit of post-industrial society.

Audous Huxley was right.

manwithblackhat on May 5, 2009 at 3:20 PM

Did I say Audous? I meant ALDOUS. He was still right, though.

manwithblackhat on May 5, 2009 at 3:21 PM

Just fyi. I checked to see what the U of C’s arrangement is and in their case, at least, it’s opt-in and won’t be available in the housing that has been traditionally single-sex.

Also, I found the same “story” about the Stanford student that’s quoted above re-told as being about a University of Chicago student, so I wonder if there’s a little bit of internet mythos going on here.

Y-not on May 5, 2009 at 4:17 PM

I didn’t realize the housing situation in this case was in one of the co-ops at Stanford. The co-ops are more autonomous than a regular dorm situation. They are smaller buildings, more like frat houses or sororities in size, and run somewhat in the same manner of independence from normal dorm guidelines, having to comply with fewer guidelines.

What is as disturbing to me is the “don’t rock the boat” attitude. Consensus, consmenshus; take a stand if you’re not comfortable with the situation you ended up in. College is supposed to be about learning to think independently, not conforming to those around you for the sake of political correctness or not offending someone.

Snidely Whiplash on May 5, 2009 at 4:34 PM

College is supposed to be about learning to think independently, not conforming to those around you for the sake of political correctness or not offending someone.

I suppose that’s the one upside of the parents yanking the funds: This woman’s going to have to learn how to make a choice in which she’s going to have to either confront someone or quickly find life even more uncomfortable.

As is stated in the article, the consensus process, even when devoid of the nasty politics of the article I linked to, is brutal and long (seven hours in this case), one in which every person must be happy with every detail decided upon. It’s not a process that is very agreeable to amendment. She might have to leave her friends behind (with sore feelings and a budget problem) and desperately look for last-minute housing. I’d offer her my extra room, but, seeing as how I’m male, that would kind of defeat the whole purpose of her moving out.

But yeah; this is being misrepresented as a consequence of some sort of LGBT agenda rather than a consequence of co-ops being autonomous.

calbear on May 5, 2009 at 6:20 PM

calbear on May 5, 2009 at 6:20 PM

Yep, looks like there’s some spinning going on.

Mr. Y-not’s institution recently weighed this issue and in their case, at least, the calculation was 100% about keeping the college competitive for the best students by offering the full range of housing options. Political correctness had nothing to do with it.

Basically, the message is that if you’re a parent and you are concerned about these things (which you should be) pay attention to the details before you write that check. At the U of C, at least, all that would mean is making sure your kid signed up to live in a single-sex dorm. I gather at Stanford you’d want to keep your kid out of a co-op.

Y-not on May 5, 2009 at 7:02 PM

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