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ISSUE 117 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/5/2003

Co-ed rooms at Olaf?

By Brenna Greenfield
Staff Writer

Friday, December 5, 2003

So, you’re late to class and are jolted awake by your alarm. You hop out of bed, rip off your pajamas and reach for the jeans and tee lying rumpled on the floor: the same pair you wore yesterday, and come to think of it, the day before that and the day before that too. In any case, another groggy early morning has begun, and you’re already behind schedule. But wait – freeze for a second mid-dressing. There is a girl (not a pin-up – just your average human) in your room who is not an intimate acquaintance. You are a guy, and you are in your skivvies. Do you feel comfortable changing in front of this person? Would it bother you if they did the same?

At Macalester College, that champion of progressiveness to our north, the possibility of co-ed rooming looms on the horizon. The aim is to create an alternate environment where homosexuals wouldn’t have to feel awkward around their heterosexual roommates, and vice versa. These rooms would be available to all students, but only in a few specific spaces on campus. The idea is to push the initiative through in time for the housing lottery in the spring with implementation slated for the fall of 2004. The Queer Union on campus has spearheaded the proposal and cites their inspiration as the experimentation in co-ed rooming that began at Wesleyan University this past fall.

The proponents of the plan hope to “elevate the Macalester community as a whole to a higher level of acceptance and egalitarianism” by pioneering co-ed rooms, as stated in the Oct. 17 issue of Mac Weekly. But when has acceptance ever meant relegating people to a separate section of campus? It would be a sort of henhouse for the GLBT population, and I think the idea reeks too much of segregation, albeit by personal choice.

Would it not be better to work towards accepting the sexual orientation of one’s roommate instead of having them move out? Sexual orientation is just one small part of who each person is. It, along with all the other components that can cause roommate spats, such as personality, socioeconomic background or cultural heritage, is one of the things that makes each of us unique and adds spice to everyday life. Coming in as a freshman and having to learn to live with that roommate who leaves banana peels in the closet and yells obscenities in their sleep at three a.m. every morning is part of the college experience. Off-campus housing is always an option if what is on-campus doesn’t jive with someone’s personal interests.

Then there are the heterosexuals who decide to sign up for the co-ed rooms and come to the table with three possible motives. There is the couple that decides it’s about time they moved in together – nice that the college now offers the means to do so. But college should not be the place or the time to play house; other things should be paramount, such as education. And what happens if they break up later that year?

Then there are the people who sign up in the hopes of landing an attractive roommate. However, this does not always work out as planned.

Lastly, there are those who argue that they just want a chance to live with their best pal. Yet problems often come with proximity. One night you might be lying in your bunk and get a hankering for a little hanky panky and your roommate suddenly looks more attractive than usual. Regardless of who they are, they are a living, breathing constituent of the opposite sex. The increase in promiscuity, and the ensuing spread of STDs, is a real issue for all of these heterosexual pairings.

So far St. Olaf has resisted the push for mixed housing in a time when many other colleges have, at the least, co-ed floors. Though the issue comes up every year, Pamela Mannebach, director of residence life, says she always tries to postpone co-ed floors through the manipulation of numbers during the summer months. And how about co-ed rooms? Her initial feeling is that it wouldn’t be of great benefit to the St. Olaf community. So with intervisitation hours still on the books (though loosely enforced), it seems the possibility of co-ed rooming here is a long ways away.

Staff Writer Brenna Greenfield is a sophomore from Oakdale, Minn. She majors in French and psychology.

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