Living on a college campus is a unique experience. For many of us, college is our first time away from home. In addition, we live in close quarters amongst a large group of people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Residential life at college can be daunting for many students, but St. Olaf Residence Life strives to create safe and comfortable living spaces. Currently, dorms are coed with floors designated by gender. The gender segregation of dorms by floor at St. Olaf is both advantageous and disadvantageous.
“There is no single right answer regarding the single gender versus co-ed housing debate.” – Hannah Martens ’19
For some, single-sex floors create a more comfortable environment. For those who hold religious beliefs against cohabitation, single-sex floors are the best option. Single-sex floors also offer a quieter living environment away from various distractions, as coed floors could potentially encourage a greater party culture. Many people simply feel more comfortable sharing a living space with those of the same gender.
Other students, however, find the single-gender floor plan limiting. I personally find it frustrating having to travel a floor or two to find a bathroom if I’m hanging out on a male floor. Additionally, many friends made during first year are from your floor. Having single-sex floors makes it more difficult to meet people of other gender identities. Furthermore, gender-segregated floors and bathrooms pose issues for students who identify as transgender or non-binary. Lack of inclusive housing forces many into uncomfortable living situations.
There is no single right answer regarding the single gender versus coed housing debate. Both pose various issues regarding overall student comfort. While I may find coed floors a better option, another student may find it a source of anxiety. Whether they prefer gender-neutral or single-sex housing, every student at St. Olaf should feel comfortable in their living environment. While I do not foresee St. Olaf dorms becoming completely gender neutral, I feel it should strive to become more inclusive. Currently, our campus does not have enough gender-neutral options for housing and bathrooms. More gender-neutral areas would provide students with more options.
Hannah Martens ’20 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Milton, Mass. She majors in English.