Friday, May 08, 2009

Co-Ed Co-op

A friend forward me a link about the brouhaha surrounding co-ed rooms at Stanford's co-operative student housing. One parent was surprised to hear her daughter had ended up in a mixed-gender room at one of the co-ops and wrote a fairly outraged article in the National Review. The NRO article got picked up by the NY Times college admissions blog and generated hundreds of comments from all sides (interesting reading, btw).

The daughter later responded stating that she had no problem with her rooming situation and the entire affair is more a conflict between her and her parents, than with Stanford's policies. Her parents have apparently decided not to pay for her final quarter because of it.

The whole thing is funny to me because I lived seven quarters (two years) in Stanford co-ops and four times had at least one female roommate (once was in the context of a 'commune' where we divided four rooms into sleeping and working space for 15-some-odd people). In my experience it really wasn't a big deal at all since the people who participate are pretty much self-selected and do their best to act like, you know, mature adults.

So I can say for certain that this situation has nothing to do with Stanford's recently introduced Gender Neutral Housing Policy -- as is implied and moralized upon by the NRO article -- and everything to do with the fact that Stanford allows the co-ops to run themselves. Mixed gender rooms have been happening for decades.

The co-op residents decide how to divvy up the rooms during the course of a multi-hour, consensus-driven rooming meeting (which is just as painful as it sounds). In no case are students required to partake in mixed-gender rooms, and indeed can hold up the entire rooming meeting if they are not satisfied with their lot. The woman in question (foolishly) missed the rooming meeting, but on the other hand, had no complaints with how it turned out. If she had complained, University housing would have stepped in, no question.

Still, I can sympathize with a parent feeling blind-sided by all this, and certainly Stanford should do more to alert parents to this possibility. Nothing wrong with a little transparency, but also thank god Stanford treats their students like grown-ups (at least in this instance).

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