Co-ed living brings confusion to freshmen

Residents of Middlebrook Hall could experience gender integration.

Amanda Bankston

For freshman Trevor Wolff, the possibility of living right next-door to women in Middlebrook Hall was no big deal.

âÄúIâÄôm in college,âÄù he said. âÄúIâÄôm going to have to learn to deal with the opposite sex at some point.âÄù

However, gender integration in certain wings of the hall caused confusion and controversy for a few new residents, said Laurie McLaughlin, director of Housing and Residential Life.

âÄúWe had some misunderstandings,âÄù she said about the idea that bathrooms âÄî like wings âÄî would also be integrated. âÄúAt this point, weâÄôre hoping to clarify things.âÄù

As part of an eight-year effort to make the University of MinnesotaâÄôs housing experience more gender-integrated, men and women live next door in many residence halls. Most recently, Living Learning Communities in Middlebrook have jumped on board.

However, McLaughlin and Associate Director of Residential Life Susan Stubblefield insist that bathrooms are always meant to be gender specific âÄî even in the case of the semi-private, single-occupant bathrooms in Middlebrook.

But some, like Wolff, had a different understanding.

âÄúThey did tell us every bathroom is for everyone,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs not your bathroom; itâÄôs technically MiddlebrookâÄôs.âÄù

Freshman Samantha Greenwaldt had a similar understanding. Though she wasnâÄôt concerned about the lockable bathrooms, the possibility of men using her bathroom raised a few eyebrows among her friends who attend other universities.

âÄúThey thought it was weird when I told them about it,âÄù she said. âÄúMost of them are separated from guys by floor.âÄù

McLaughlin said pilot gender integration programs in different halls have given the University more flexibility in assigning rooms and reduced the number of incidents of misbehavior.

âÄúIn high school, students have both male and female friends,âÄù Stubblefield said. âÄúHaving a mixed community really seems to help students. It seems natural.âÄù

Stubblefield and McLaughlin insist living next door to members of the opposite sex helps âÄúreduce the mystiqueâÄù and foster an appreciation for studentsâÄô differences.

This belief has influenced the plan to provide an increased number of bathrooms in the new University residence hall construction site at 1701 University Ave., which will create a greater possibility for gender-integrated living.

âÄúWhen youâÄôre making renovations or creating a new space, you have to look at how it will be able to be used 20 years down the road,âÄù McLaughlin said.

Bigger bathrooms catering to a larger number of residents keep the University from implementing mixed floors in a number of halls, including areas of Sanford and Bailey halls, Stubblefield said.

But McLaughlin insists itâÄôs all about creating a balance of integrated and non-integrated housing possibilities so that every student is comfortable.

âÄúItâÄôs a process,âÄù Stubblefield said. âÄúWe will look closely at how things go and tweak what we need to moving forward.

âÄúBut overall, the feedback has always been positive.âÄù