Dorm/Roommate Selection for Gay Students

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Dorm/Roommate Selection for Gay Students
By Moondogguy (Moondogguy) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 12:53 am: Edit

How do colleges handle dorm/roommate selection for new freshmen who happen to be gay? Is this something that should be listed on the housing application? Do they have special housing for gays? Do they try to pair gay students together or is it just left up to chance? If left the chance, what if the roommate doesn't like gays? For that matter, is it a good idea to pair up gays of the same sex as roommates? Wouldn't that be equilvalent to having a straight guy and a straight girl as roommates? I'm serious about this subject. Facing these questions with our male, gay high school senior.

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 01:11 am: Edit

it may be different for women, but I had a lesbian roommate in college, and it was never a problem. We were never close friends, but we were fine as roommmates. She was very low-key about it. My sexual orientation was obviously straight, and she certainly never made me feel like she had sexual thoughts about me.

I don't think sexual orientation is something people are asked before roommates are assigned, so everyone just has to take their chances. It really isn't any different from people of different races or religions rooming together and perhaps having to overcome some preconceived notions or prejudices. Isn't that part of what college is for?

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 01:30 am: Edit

It's an interesting question. One of the checkboxes on my daughter's housing questionairre was:

Gay Friendly?

My daughter it was really a lame question that was inherently vague. Of course, she's "gay friendly" in the sense of "who cares? Sexual preference is none of my business".

But, is that what the checkbox was for? Or would checking the box be tantamount to asking for a gay roommate? Or a tacit step out of the closet?

I believe that she finally decided to put asterisks next to that and several other similarly vague questions and added the following footnote below the list:

* Isn't everyone, at Swarthmore?

To answer your question. I would imagine your son would check that box and would be assigned to a roommate who also checked that box. What that would mean in terms of a roommate is anybody's guess.

By Marite (Marite) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 06:32 am: Edit

I would hope that everyone at Swat is gay friendly, but that may not be the case in many schools. One of my S's schoolmates has said publicly that she has been harassed because she came out as a lesbian; this, in a famously tolerant school. There are people who are very uncomfortable around gays and lesbians without harassing them, but their discomfort is palpable. So, yes to checking gay friendly. That should be enough.

It would be the height of folly, in my opinion, for gays to segregate themselves in a dorm. While it might make things easier within the dorm, it would also make them an easy target of harassment as a group. It just needs one or two hostile individuals to make life miserable.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 07:29 am: Edit

My son had a gay roommate freshman year. An unlikely match as S is an all around jock, a college athlete and fraternity type. It was not an issue. The same boundaries for respect were drawn as if they were both interested in women. The school is not particularly gay friendly though there are a number of gays in the arts there. They do tend to self segregate after freshman year as do the various types of non gay students--many of the athletes tend to live with each other, the fraternity brothers tend to go to the frat houses and many of the gay students to arrange to live with other gay students. The young man has remained a friend to S and they shared rides home a few times and as he comes from Syracuse, his family offered to host S2 when he visited the uni up there. Though they travel in different circles, they are casual friends--who they are "seeing" has no effect on their relationship as former roommates.

I was a bit concerned about ribbing and razzing by teammates that freshman year, but S said that other than a few remarks here and there, all surface level and in the same tone of any ribbing, there was no problem. Though some of his friends did say he could probably get a room transfer for that reason as S was not happy with the dorm he got for a number of reasons--distance from the gym, he was one of the few on the team not put in a certain dorm, etc. But I believe S was just too lazy to put in for the transfer and there were advantages in that the dorm was the best amenity wise--it was newer and was apartment style with a living area and bedroom. He had a lot more square footage than some of those stacked 3 in a double.

"Gay" is not an absolute situation. There are kids who are overtly sexual who are not gay, and they can be terrible roommates if they do not obey the laws of simple courtesy. Also some kids are experimenting with their sexuality at this time. Some have a "partner" already. Some have just made the determination they are gay but do not have a partner and may not indulge in sexual activities but are looking for a companion, but casual liasons. It should not make a difference in roommate selection, though as I said, the following year self segregation seemed to occur. Also I will tell you that after freshman year when kids go off campus, there are many "Three's Company" roomie situations and who know who is involved with whom if with anyone and who is gay and who is not is not an issue.

By Jenniferpa (Jenniferpa) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 07:33 am: Edit

This is a question that should be directed to every college that your son applies to. Unfortunately, I suspect that at least some of those colleges, answers wil be few and far between. Perhaps he could contact whichever student group on each campus that is analogous to Gay/straight alliance and ask them. I have a sneaking suspicion that many schools practice a "don't ask, don't tell" policy, if only because there could be issues about discrimination.

By Momto2 (Momto2) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 04:11 pm: Edit

Well thinking of the gay student I believe the box asking about gay friendly is good solution. I would guess they would then not match possibly match up someone who is gay with someone who is anti gay. (I am assuming all gay students and a whole bunch of straight students would check the box) It would be awful to be gay and to be put with a roommate who is homophobic.

They are not requiring people to be accepting of homosexuality, but at the same time not requiring someone who is gay to live with someone who would be hostile to what they identify themselves as.

It is a very hot topic now with the gay marriage issue on the front burner. I bet many gay students feel very vulnerable as a incoming freshman. Probably most freshman feel vulnerable to some degree but this is an extra issue that could make the already difficult transition a lot harder.

I remember way back when I was about to live in a dorm they asked you to rate yourself about a number of things including smoking and messiness/neatness. I think is is appropriate to have somewhat compatible roommates. I am not suggesting carbon copies of each other though. There is much to learn from living with someone who is different from yourself as long as it is not too extreme or a hostile situation.

By Mini (Mini) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 04:27 pm: Edit

I don't know if there is a good solution, actually.

I'm flashing back to 1967, when my new roommate's parents, from Greensboro, North Carolina eyed me suspiciously for about 10 minutes and then left.

It came out in my very first discussion with my new roommate that his parents' (actually his mother's) greatest fear was that he'd end up rooming with a New York Jew. (I was her worst nightmare, she having never even really considered the fact that he might actually have a Black roommate.) Gay roommates weren't talked about -- there were only two "out" gay men in my class, as I remember, though there were considerably more gay students in the closet.

So - let me ask -- would you have a form that asks about "Jew friendly" or "Black friendly"? Honestly, I don't know the answer, and the question isn't rhetorical, but unlike cigarette smoking, having a gay (or straight) roommate is not per se a threat to life or health, nor even a sign of potential compatibility or lack thereof.

By Jenniferpa (Jenniferpa) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 05:14 pm: Edit

The more I think about it, the more I feel that this question (gay friendly) is absolutely out of order. I'm amazed that Swat has it on the housing form, and I think I'd be more than a little concerned that a school that DID ask the question would find the answer "no" to be acceptable. Unfortunately, you only get to see these housing forms after you've paid your deposit. Surely this is discriminatory: there are hardly any schools that do not get federal funding, one way or the other?

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 05:24 pm: Edit

The "Gay Friendly?" checkbox on the Swat housing questionnaire came after a multi-year effort by the Queer Student Union to add it. The concern by the Dean of Housing was that, should only a few freshmen check the box, it could serve only as a means of assigning gay students to share rooms with gay students, something the Dean wasn't interested in doing as it runs counter to Swat's traditions of non-segregated housing.

They added it a couple years ago and I suppose it's worked out OK. It is one of those "have you stopped beating your wife yet questions" for straight students. My daughter would have been perfectly happy to be assigned a gay roommate. One of her close friends in high school is (almost certainly) gay. And the person who most influenced her to apply to Swarthmore was a gay alumni.

But, she would have been equally happy to be assigned a straight room-mate. Since the truth was that she had "no preference", she wasn't really interested in checking a box that WOULD indicate a preference. So, even though she is "gay friendly", I think her inclination was to lie and not check the "gay friendly" box.

Checking that and several similar boxes, but adding the footnote seemed to be a reasonable way of answering the questionnaire honestly while not expressing a specific preference for a gay or "multicultural" or whatever other kinds of specific room-mates were suggested by the check boxes.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 05:33 pm: Edit

>> I think I'd be more than a little concerned that a school that DID ask the question would find the answer "no" to be acceptable.

It is not a YES or NO question on the Swat housing questionnaire. It is one of about two dozen descriptions. You can put a checkmark next to any of the descriptions that apply.

For example, other descriptions included:

- like to burn the midnight oil

- need to get a full eight hours of beauty sleep every night

- prefer that my room be a social gathering place

- prefer that my room be a quiet place for studying and sleeping

The mechanism is that the long-time (and highly regarded) Dean of Housing takes all 370 freshman questionnaires home, spreads them out on her dining room table, and spends a week matching up roommates to the best of her ability. It's a very personalized process and one in which she tries to honor as many "requests" as she can. For example, my daughter got assigned to her first choice dorm. My daughter's California roommate had requested an East Coast roomate and got assigned to a double with my New Englander daughter.

My daughter and I got a chuckle out of some of the possible checkboxes, but I really do think it is a good-faith effort to match compatible roommates.

By Marite (Marite) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 05:34 pm: Edit

Well, I can see both sides. Perhaps the OP's S has encountered instances of, shall we say, less than friendly behavior and is therefore concerned about what it might be like to live with someone who could behave that way? It would be too much to ask that the OP's S bear the burdern of enlightening said roommate.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 06:10 pm: Edit

I would add that, if my son or daugther were gay, the college's acceptance of, and policies related to, gay students would be a major "big picture" item for discussion in the selection process.

Where it would get sticky would the situation a family we know found themselves in. The parents believed that their kid was indeed gay, but the kid had not chosen to come out of the closet to them. Thus, it was a backdrop for college selection, but no one that could be openly discussed. I'm sure that made for an interesting process. The kid eventually moved from a preference for a large university offering a high degree of anonymity to a preference for a small liberal arts college that is (I assume) relatively "gay friendly".

By Alwaysamom (Alwaysamom) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 06:26 pm: Edit

In my D's freshman year, there was a gay boy on her floor who was assigned to room with a boy who was definitely not 'gay-friendly'. Actually, he was extremely 'gay hate-filled' and made it very obvious on move-in day to anyone who was in the vicinity. The RA's handled it very well and immediately took the offensive young man to the housing office and had them find him another room. There were three gay boys on her floor (plus one of the RA's) and they all roomed with straight boys with no problems at all. I'm not sure how effective it would be to ask a question about it on the housing application. I would think that in most instances if it does not work out with a roommate, regardles of the issue, that most colleges will work to change the situation.

Moondogguy, I would recommend contacting the rainbow or gay alliance groups on campus of the schools which your son is interested in. They will be most helpful in providing you information which may help in determining if it's the right place for your son. Good luck!

By Momto2 (Momto2) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 11:20 pm: Edit

To answer the question someone asked about the appropriateness of asking if Jew friendly or Black friendly - While I think this is related, it is not really the same thing.

People of different ethnic groups are technically protected from discrimination by law. Gay people are normally not. In many places and situations it is legal to discriminate against gays.

Also many people feel it is a moral issue and cite their religion. I do not hear people saying God is against Jews or Blacks. There is a lot more tolerace for antigay behavior.

For example, if someone makes anti Black remarks or slurs, they can be reported and the school will often take action. This is rarely the case for gay slurs. One example - I can't tell you how many times I've heard middle school kids call each other faggot at school and nothing happens. However if the N work is used the teachers or administration jumps in, as it should. It is still OK in a lot of circles to be vocally antigay and make gay people very uncomfortable.

By Mini (Mini) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 11:29 pm: Edit

But for a very liberal, private Quaker-oriented college, wouldn't you expect anti-gay slurs to be reported, and for the school to take action? Why would they be attending Swarthmore otherwise?

I know schools around the country who have jumped on anti-gay intolerance with a vengeance -- Pomona, Smith, and wasn't there a well-publicized incident a Yale several years ago? I expect Swarthmore would be swarming all over it! (I suspect both tolerance and a statement that racism, anti-Semitism, and anti-gay behavior will not be tolerated is already part of Swarthmore's honor code, though I could be wrong.)

I'm sure (really!) that they had the right interests at heart; I'm just not sure a form implying that being non-gay friendly is acceptable is a good way to go about it.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 12:49 am: Edit

Again, we aren't talking a form that offers a checkbox for "non gay friendly". If you chose to self-identify as specifically "gay friendly" on the housing form, you can do so. If you don't chose to self-identify as such, the Dean of Housing probably doesn't infer anything from it, other than she probably tries to match up the self-identifiers as roommates. It's not like some kind of "litmus test".

I would defer to Mini on Quaker beliefs. But, given the Quakers' long tradition of not forcing views on people, I suspect that Quakers would not be in favor of forcing someone who would be uncomfortable with a gay roommate to live with a gay roommate. Quakers tend to seek accommodation for people of differing viewpoints rather than forcing confrontation or friction.

Swarthmore most definitely has a "harrassment" provision in its college code of conduct. Interestingly, it requires intent to taunt or harm and that the behavior be repeated and persistent to qualify as harassment. In other words, a simple statement by someone that they disapprove of homosexuality would be viewed as legititimate free expression of opinion, not hate speech or harrassment.

In a quick search of the student newspaper, the only "incident" I can find occurred several years ago when a student approached the head of the Queer Student Union and voiced displeasure with obscene slogans being chalked on the campus sidewalks by the Queer Student Union for "Coming Out Week".

By Aim78 (Aim78) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 03:15 am: Edit

A "gay friendly" box is pretty ridiculous. Just because I'm gay friendly doesn't mean I want a gay roommate. Those guys can be a little TOO open about their preference. It could get uncomfortable.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 04:12 am: Edit

>> Just because I'm gay friendly doesn't mean I want a gay roommate.

If you don't want a gay roommate, then you simply don't check the "gay friendly" box and you probably won't get a gay roommate (unless the gay students aren't checking the "gay friendly" box).

Swarthmore kids are usually pretty smart. I imagine most of them figured out that checking the box increased the chances of a gay roommate and not checking the box decreased their chances of a gay roommate.

I don't believe they post a master list on the bulletin board of who did and did not check the box! Nor, do I think your self-selection of "gay friendly" or not is included in your college transcript!

By Marite (Marite) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 04:57 am: Edit

>>Those guys can be a little TOO open about their preference. It could get uncomfortable. >>

This seems to me the kind of situation the box is supposed to address. It's about protecting gays from harassment and also non-gays who feel uncomfortable being around those who are "a little TOO open about their preference."

As Interesteddad pointed out, the box needs not be checked, in which case the likelihood of getting a gay roommate seems remote. While Swarthmore might seem interested in social engineering, the contrary is true. It is trying to accommodate all preferences instead of forcing incompatible people to share a space and of telling them to deal with it should conflict arise.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 08:51 am: Edit

I remember reading a few years ago that some students at Dartmouth, Yale, Penn and elsewhere said they were not comfortable with single-sex housing, which, they felt, assumed students were heterosexual. They were building a case that having only roommates of the same sex constituted discrimination against them. So I wonder whether this is what Swat is trying to respond to.

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 09:12 am: Edit

Even if both roommates are straight, one might feel uncomfortable if the other is "a little TOO open about their preference". No one wants to be shut out of their own room by too many nights with the necktie on the doorknob, or to try to sleep with funny noises coming from a bed on the other side of the room. This is a common source of friction btwn. roommates of all possible gender and sexual preference combinations.

I'm the one who made the analogy to race and religion. The point was not that I thought people should be asked race and religion questions on the housing questionnaire. It was that there are potentially multiple things about a person's roommmate that might require people to stretch their tolerance and preconceived notions about particular groups. That is probably a good process for college students to go through. In other words, if you are assigned a roommate with a race/religion/orientation you are uncomfortable with, maybe you should be encouraged to give it a go anyway. Once you get to know that person as an individual, the preconceived notions behind your discomfort may disappear. Or you may decide that there are other things (noise, hours, cleanliness) that are a lot more annoying.

By Marite (Marite) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 09:56 am: Edit


I'm assuming that the question regarding sexual orientation is only one of many, including whether one smokes or not, is messy or neat, a late sleeper or early riser. As for religion, my younger S, who describes himself as a "vehement atheist" would probably be annoyed by a roommate whose idea of room decor consisted of religious icons.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 10:27 am: Edit

Moondogguy: do what is best for your son. A college freshman has enough adjusting to do without being made responsible for educating a roommate or dormmates on appropriate "gay friendly" behavior. If this wasn't a major problem, even in supposedly liberal elite schools, this discussion wouldn't exist. A single will probably always be a possibility if you or your son talks to the housing office. That would be one solution. After the first term he will have a better ability to choose an appropriate roommate, if he is even comfortable with a roommate. It is pretty easy imho to gague the basic "gay friendly" tone of a campus. Just check out the bulletin boards. Depending on how *out* your son is you may not want to discuss sexual orientation with the school at all until after acceptances are in, at which time your son will have the opportunity to meet with whatever group is appropriate on various campuses during admitted students vists.

"No one wants to be shut out of their own room by too many nights with the necktie on the doorknob, or to try to sleep with funny noises coming from a bed on the other side of the room. This is a common source of friction btwn. roommates of all possible gender and sexual preference combinations"

Really good description. I suggested to a college adminstrator at a dinner party that all dorms needed to have a vacant room, an easy solution it seemed to me to this particular problem. He just about choked on his coffee and said parents would never approve. Just one more of those social issues colleges don't deal with intelligently imho.

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 10:28 am: Edit

>"As for religion, my younger S, who describes himself as a "vehement atheist" would probably be annoyed by a roommate whose idea of room decor consisted of religious icons."

That's exactly my point! Religion/race differences are just as likely to cause immediate discomfort upon meeting an assigned roommate as sexual orientation issues. But students are not asked about religiosity/race on the housing form, and would probably not be supported in making a room change on day one because the roommate was putting religious icons on their own side of the room or because the roommate was a different race. They would be expected to give it a try anyway. Why should it be different for sexual orientation?

BTW - my son could also be described as a "vehement atheist". I support him in his rejection of religion. I would not support him if he wanted to change rooms based solely on being assigned a religious roommate, and I would not expect the housing office to support him either. If the roommate was actively trying to force their religion on him, that's different. Same with race and sexual orientation.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 10:30 am: Edit

I certainly agree with you about the vacant room, Emptynester. For most of these kids, disliking being sexiled is not about prudishness but about wanting to have access to one's own bed, desk, and personal space.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 10:32 am: Edit

There are a few schools (we visited two this summer) where upperclassmen are allowed to live in co-ed rooms, probably in response to the issue raised by Aparent4 above.

I wonder how typical Swarthmore's approach to this is. At my son's equally open minded/liberal school, the only questions asked pertained to smoking, music and sleep. When I initiated a query after my son was assigned a roommate, I was told that more questions are not asked specifically to avoid students "over-engineering" or being overly specific with their requests.

No matter how many questions are asked or answered, no matter what questions are asked or answered, there will always be situations that work out better than expected, and situations that are not working out well. I can see some value in tolerance induction as a goal, as well as problem avoidance as a goal. My main concern would be if there is no out, should significant problems be unresolvable.

Bottom line, for many kids including my son, getting used to having any roommate at all is a huge transition!

By Marite (Marite) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 10:40 am: Edit


I agree with Emptynester that in the case of a gay student, the probability is that he will be the one who will need to educate the roommate, and the homophobic roommate will take comfort in being in the majority, in being the one who is "normal", etc... It is a potentially heavy burden to impose on someone who is having a lot of other adjustments to make.

As for the roommate with the overly religious room decor, one could argue that it is rather in-your face, similar to putting up sexy pictures in a mixed working environments. The staff in my office took a long time persuading a male colleague that his pin up posters were not appropriate.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 11:03 am: Edit

My son had a gay roommate freshman year. It was not a big deal even though he was a jock/frat type guy. They respected each others lives and it was not issue at all. They are still friends though they selected housing with more like types their sophomore year. In many schools where there is a wide choice of housing, self selection goes on in the upper grades. You do get a lot of "3's Company" type arrangement. As long as the parties respect each other and are courteous and are not "in your face" with sexuality, there is no issue. A rude overtly sexual roommate of any persuasion is a problem, hetero or homo sexual.

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 11:34 am: Edit

Marite - if it's too heavy a burden for the gay student to educate a homophobic roommate, then why is it okay to have a system that would potentially match a minority black student with a racist white roommmate who feels that s/he is the norm? And would most colleges allow the black and racist students to opt out without ever laying eyes on each other?

Going back to the original question, I don't think anyone should be forced to spend an entire year with a roommmate who hates them because they belong to a particular group. But I don't think people should be able to reject in advance an entire class of potential roommates based on religion, race, OR sexuality.

I once lived in a dorm where no one could change rooms for the first few days (maybe a week), but then there was a period of time when people could change freely. This worked pretty well. The few days gave everyone a chance to actually get to know the assigned roommate as an individual before deciding if they were compatible or not, and also to meet some other people who they might want to request to room with. Even a terrible mismatch should be able to bite their tongue if they know it's just for a few days while things sort themselves out. And people could rearrange themselves on race or religious grounds if they felt strongly about it, even though it would not be PC for the college to do that to begin with. It was sort of like the process people are describing happening btwn freshman and sophomore year.

The workplace isn't a perfect analogy. It's reasonable to leave your sexuality and religious preferences at home with your dirty underwear when you go to work. It's harder to say that they cannot be present in your home because they may not be shared by your roommate. If you set up an alter in our shared space and start burning stinky incense, I have grounds to object to that because it intrudes on me. If you recite Shakespeare out loud and I pray out loud, we both have grounds to object. But if you have a crucifix over your own bed and I wear a yamulke on my own head in the privacy of our shared home, would either one of us have grounds to demand that the other person's religious symbol be removed?

By Momto2 (Momto2) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 12:36 pm: Edit

Texas 137 - I can see where you are coming from and in most situations I agree. However in the case of the gay student I do not think it is a reasonable burden for the gay student.

Yes, it might be a good learning experience for the straight student. But no gay kid should have to live with someone who thinks they are morally inferior or a sinner. This kid's room should be a relatively safe space.

Maybe we are seeing the world a little differently. Maybe I see a lot more overt antigay hostility than you do.

I think the gay rights issue is way behind equal rights efforts for people of different races on an overt level. (I am NOT trying to imply racism is over by any means.) One example is that over 50% of the US population is against gay marriage. However interracial marriage is legal in all states, although only during my lifetime. No one at my work would dare go on a verbal rampage about how Jews should not have the same rights as Christians, but for gays it is open season.

By Mini (Mini) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 12:44 pm: Edit

"Yes, it might be a good learning experience for the straight student. But no gay kid should have to live with someone who thinks they are morally inferior or a sinner. This kid's room should be a relatively safe space. "

Should a Hindu or a Jewish or Muslim student have to live with a student who not only thinks they are inferior, but that they are going to hell?

It's a difficult issue, and in the world I live in, overt anti-Semitism, anti-Islam, and racism is still very common.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 12:58 pm: Edit

I am not really sure if it is really possible to match up gays among themselves. It involves identifying kids who are gay, and many of them are in the midst of identifying their own sexual identities at age. Being gay is not necessarily an absolute thing. Many kids experiment with their sexuality when they are in college. Also student have always been assigned roommates without consideration to their sexual orientation--this is no news items that gays are being paired with straights in dorm rooms. The only difference is that kids are more forthcoming with the info. I sometimes believe that kids are jumping the gun with labeling themselves one way or the other. I have seen some pretty confused kids these days. Many kids in highschool have mixed feelings and little experience. Many don't know if they are gay or not. Many are bisexual, or so they say. Many go through phases.

That is an interesting question, about pairing kids by sexual preference. I had heard about Swarthmore permitting male/female roommates if requested. In my day it was a big deal to be in a coed dorm. Now it is sometimes difficult to find a single sex dorm. Perhaps the next generation will be assigned roommates with no consideration to sex. If we are breaking with tradition and are not taking sex into consideration for anything, why not?

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 01:15 pm: Edit

Mini, your post reminded me of the huge controversy at Yale a few years ago, when a group of Orthodox Jewish students sued Yale, because they did not want to live in the residential colleges because they said that much of what went on in them (sex, drinking, shared bathrooms, etc.) was against their religious beliefs. This, after the university offered them single-sex dorms with private bathrooms. The judge dismissed the case, saying that they knew what Yale's housing was like and had the option to attend a different college had they so chosen.

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 01:32 pm: Edit

Momto2 - You are probably right. I don't see a lot of antigay hostility in my little well-educated, liberal pocket of the universe. I guess I expect college to be like that. Being in a Southern Bible-belt state, I do see a lot of strong feelings having to do with evangelical Christianity and race. Actually, I also know quite a few Democrats and Republicans who probably can't get along well enough to be roommates.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 01:59 pm: Edit

Just to clarify: The "Gay Friendly" checkbox is s recent addition to Swarthmore's freshman housing form -- added within the last couple of years. The effort to add this checkbox came ENTIRELY from the school's Queer Student Union and it appears that it took three or four years to convince the Housing Committee to add it.

To answer another question: Swarthmore does offer co-ed rooms as an option in the housing lottery for sophmores, juniors, and seniors. Co-ed rooms are not available to freshmen.

My daughter stayed in a co-ed room (actually a five person Lodge with its own bath and kitchen) during her pre-frosh visit in April. In that particular case, it was four women and a gay guy sharing the Lodge and, I gather, that is not atypical.

Swarthmore's campus culture (both administration and student peer pressure) STRONGLY discourages romantically involved couples of any sexual preference from sharing dorm rooms because of the obvious problems that arise with a "break-up".

By Garland (Garland) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 03:46 pm: Edit

Wesleyan has a gender-nonspecific dorm, which students can request who do not feel comfortable with male/female definitions. Since no declaration of sexuality or gender is needed in it, I imagine it's used also by incoming freshpeople who are gay, bi, etc.

(Speaking of religion, my very liberal Methodist daughter, who would never proselytize or evangelize, did a lot of educating of her Wesleyan friends, mostly Jewish or agnostic, who had classified everyone Christian as fundamentalists, so contact with her did indeed broaden their understanding. This spring, they dyed "Passover eggs"--diversity at its sanest!)

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 09:56 pm: Edit

I had heard some schools are adding a "gay friendly" category. It seems to me that there have been gay students from the beginning of time living with non gay roommates. I don't put it on my list of problematic issues of roommates. Any overly sexual roommate, homo or hetero is a problem. Any inconsiderate roommate is a problem. An intolerant roommate is a problem. I know when I went to college there were some unusual pairups--a rabbi's daughter with an Arab, a West Virginia girl with a Manhattan roommate, a girl from Alabama with an African American Chicagoan. Those did not end up being the problem matches, and some of the odd couples ended up rooming with each other the following years. The biggest problems were the jerks and they did not seem to fit any geographic, ethnic, or other category. Smoking was prohibited in the dorms, so there was not even a match up in that category. I believe the questions they asked for a match was how meticulous you were about the room and whether you were a morning or evening person.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 09:26 am: Edit

"I don't see a lot of antigay hostility in my little well-educated, liberal pocket of the universe. I guess I expect college to be like that."

I would like to think college would be like that too, but if you just look at some of the archived posts from this board and the other, this time last year, you will find threads from parents very irate because their offspring are being subjected to pc indocrination sessions as part of orientation week. If learning tolerance is an appropriate part of a college education (and some will disagree-- their right of course!) I think that is the college's responsibilty to provide it and an unfair burden to force on an individual student. I have nothing but admiration for those students willing and capable of assuming that role. And this whole discussion has sort of centered on verbal harassment; no one has even acknowledged the very real possibility of physical harassment, though Marite may have been alluding to it when she raised concerns with self-segregation? Gay students have a lot more to worry about than intentionally or unintentionally thoughtless comments and many gay students don't have the option of schools like Swat and Wes and don't have roommates who were raised by the parents like Texas137 and Jamimom.

Absolutely agree with Mini that gay students aren't the only ones we should be concerned with protecting. I support all indocrination sessions!

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 09:33 am: Edit

Article about matching roommates.

By Marite (Marite) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 09:56 am: Edit

Maybe I'm overly concerned. It comes from living in what is considered one of the most liberal cities in the US and yet witnessing acts of harassment. No one here would consider it appropriate to make disparaging remarks about another student's religion or ethnicity, yet students have been harassed on account of their sexual orientation. The first inkling I had was when my S was in 1/2 grade. A 1st grader was having a hard time because her parents were divorcing. Then she had an even harder time when some second graders found out that her father had come out as gay. They started calling her and her dad names. She was in tears even though she did not quite know what "gay" meant. In high school, a former classmate of my S has said publicly that she has been harassed on numerous occasions. As far as I know, it's been verbal.
We know that colleges such as Wesleyan or Swarthmore are very liberal and protective of their students'rights. But the OP was not talking about his child going to either. It was a generic query. We cannot assume that his child will want to or be able to attend a college such as Wesleyan or Swarthmore. The college he may end up going, especially if it is a state university, will probably be far more diverse in terms of students' attitudes, if not geography.
I think the ideal solution would be to randomly assign roommates, but allow movement after a week or two. Yet, I also know that in most colleges, changing roommates is near impossible. I recall one poster whose D had a roommate who was consistently drunk and threw up in the room. She finally, after much effort, was able to switch rooms, but not after spending quite some time exiled from her own room by the mess and the stench.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 10:15 am: Edit

Marite, I don't think your concern is exaggerated. For example, there were several anti-gay incidents even at Brown last year (though some involved non-students),including these:

Here is a summary of a report on campus climate from the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, reporting on progress that has been made -- and hasn't been made -- at 14 fairly gay-friendly schools:

And here's the full report:

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 10:50 am: Edit

Aparent4: sort of says it all, doesn't it? Thank you.

By Dbhmr (Dbhmr) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 09:27 pm: Edit

I'm a gay student and I just got my housing assignment for UC Davis. It was completely random...we filled out no survey of any kind. I got a straight roommate who is OK with the fact I'm gay. I think most people would end up being OK with it, sometimes it just invovles taking chances and hoping for the best...

By Momrath (Momrath) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 02:11 am: Edit

I'm sure this is will be an unpopular opinion, but I think the problem is not prejudice, diversity, tolerance or anything of the sort. The problem is with the whole concept of roommates. Why should a teenager bursting with hormones, reeling with adjustment pressure, bouncing off the walls with academic pressure have to deal with the artificially imposed stress of living in a 2x4 room with a complete stranger? To build character, to learn to play and work well together, to deal better with adverse situations? In my opinion, all of these challenges could be overcome in a much more productive manner. I say, let the kids have their own rooms, let them have an oasis to escape to, a place where they can listen to their own music, sleep, study, entertain, hide if necessary. My European friends tell me that roommates are unheard of there (I haven't verified this)and they are shocked when they hear our roommate horror stories.

My son was lucky to have his own (teeny-tiny) room. His suite mates who were always accessible for companionship were wonderful; it couldn't have been a better set up. I'd like to see more colleges adopted this kind of communal but separate arrangement. Most colleges have the space and especially the LACs -- God knows -- they've got the money.

By Jenniferpa (Jenniferpa) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 06:23 am: Edit

Momrath: as a European (well, close, English) I can confirm that in England, at any rate, shared rooms are unheard of. This is odd in a country that hasn't quite managed the concept of sufficient water pressure for a decent shower, and where there is much less space anyway. We are, for the most part talking about cells, rather than anything more luxurious, but give me that any day.

I suppose there must be historical rasons for the U.S. arrangement, but I don't know what is. I do not believe that the rationales that are normally presented (getting on with others etc.) are anything but that: rationales, designed to explain the status quo.

By Boysmom (Boysmom) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 07:59 am: Edit

I believe the arrangement has more to do with finances than anything else. Regardles, I'm of the opinion that it's a good idea. I have heard and seen more success stories from roommates than horror stories. My best friend to this day was a college roommate. Even with kids that have siblings, learning to get along with a roommate helps when it comes time to share with a spouse. All three of mine have been very happy with whomever they roomed with whether they roommed blind or picked their roommate. As a matter of fact, except for one, they have remained very good friends with all of them. And that one was still a good learning experience.

I also lived in Europe and will take our lifestyle anyday.

By Garland (Garland) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 08:24 am: Edit

Having had two nightmare roommate experiences (one smoked constantly and stayed up all night watching TV and arguing with her boyfriend on the phone; the other was psychotic, had already assaulted someone, heard voices, and decided after first being friendly that she could not "trust me"), I am not a fan of the process. Both times, I was told by the RA to "work it out". My D spent freshman year clearing out the empty bottles and being sexiled. After she transfered, she always had singles at Wes, and made wonderful friends.

S had a choice between a single on a traditional dorm hall or a double which would be part of a suite. He chose the single. He likes having a haven. I like that fact that there is a choice. It's great when it works out, but a nightmare when it doesn't.

By Alwaysamom (Alwaysamom) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 10:57 am: Edit

Not all English universities give everyone a single room. My D has two friends who were at school there last year and both had roommates. One was at Oxford and the other at the English campus of a Canadian university.

I, too, am of the opinion (and wish) that all kids would be better off with a single room. If everyone had a single, socializing would adjust so that it still took place, but then each individual would still have their own private space and haven. I'm afraid it's a pipedream, though, to think that colleges would ever do this. It just would be too difficult and costly to re-fit all of their dorms.

By Jenniferpa (Jenniferpa) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 11:30 am: Edit

I suppose it was inevitable that budget cuts and an increase in the college bound population would affect this area: it was unheard of in England (at least I never heard of it) 30 (gulp) years ago. As for lifestyle, to each their own (although you'll pry my shower from my cold, dead etc).

By Liek0806 (Liek0806) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 02:55 am: Edit

What do you guys think happens at schools that aren't really supportive of alternative lifestyles. PRINCETON REVIEW ranks some schools like U of Notre Dame, Boston College, Wheaton, and Brigham Young as alternative lifestyle not an alternative which are ranked as the opposite of gay community accepted, like sarah lawrance, brandeis, ucsc?

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 03:16 am: Edit

>> What do you guys think happens....

BC could bring in local priests from the Boston Archdiocese, many of whom seem to have a lot experience working with young lads.

By Alwaysamom (Alwaysamom) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 08:42 am: Edit

Interesteddad, I would possibly expect a comment such as that from one of the immature teens on these forums (although I find most of the kids here make intelligent and mature comments) but from a dad, it's just sad. If that was an attempt at humor, it failed miserably. If you were equating young gay boys to pedophiles, I truly am disappointed in you.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 08:55 am: Edit

I find that very offensive as well. Why would anyone equate pedophilia with homosexuality?
We have a book that discusses students experiences being GLBT on various campuses. Some students are listed by name others wish to remain anon.
One student for example was targeted at BYU by roomates who had guessed that he was gay, and then tried to entice him into admitting it over the phone by pretending to be an attractive TA. He was made pretty miserable because his dorm mates were constantly baiting him, at the same time they made it clear that they felt he was sick and wasn't a good enough Mormon. ( which was why he went to BYU in the first place, he thought he could pray his orientation away)

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 09:10 am: Edit

Liek-- imho the best way to find out what "happens at schools that aren't really supportive of alternative lifestyles" is to ask students at that school. You should be able to find pertinent organizations with email contacts on the school website. If you don't-- that already tells you something. Did you see Aparent4's links? I agree with one of Interesteddad's earlier posts: "if my son or daugther were gay, the college's acceptance of, and policies related to, gay students would be a major "big picture" item for discussion in the selection process."

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 10:03 am: Edit

re. the 3:16am post after giving it a bit of thought. A very good example imho of unintentionally thoughtless remarks that can be extremely hurtful and the sort of comment most gay young people endure on a regular basis from even tolerant friends who sometimes just don't really get it. I am guessing ID didn't intend this to be offensive.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 12:54 pm: Edit

Actually, I meant it to be a dig at the hypocricy of religious organizations that run two of the schools mentioned above as being notably intolerant of "alternative lifestyles".

I am sorry, but I can't tell you how offended I am when a religious leader in Rome has the unmitigated gall to stand up at his pulpit and accuse the United States of losing its moral compass, when his organization has covered up a widespread, long-standing pattern of the most offensive sex crimes against our children.

It seems to me that the colleges that respect someone's right to his or her own sexual preference are the institutions that have their moral compasses set properly.

By Garland (Garland) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 01:20 pm: Edit

ID, I knew that's what you meant. But, you just can't make a pedophilia jab--even one satirizing an entirely different group--on a thread about gay kids dealing with serious life issues.

You just can't. If that makes me PC, guilty as charged.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 02:08 pm: Edit

OK. My apologies.

I'll leave that topic with three questions: Why did the powers-that-be in the Boston Diocese repeatedly fail to defrock priests who committed sex crimes against young male parishoners? Why would there be such institutional protection of behavior that is so clearly unacceptable by anyone's moral compass? And a hypothetical question: Would the same protections have been extended to child molestor priests guilty of preying on young girls?

To bring this back on topic. My advice to my gay son or daughter would be to not consider schools that are, as a matter of policy, notably intolerant of gay or questioning students. I would help them research the climate on campus very closely and try to be a supportive sounding board on thinking through what kind of campus environment would be most comfortable. And, I would be especially leary of schools run by organizations that may be institutionally hypocritical in their intolerance as I feel that is the worst kind of intolerance.

By Newnudad (Newnudad) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:58 pm: Edit

Don't anyone send this thread to Holywood! Quick - Censor out any kids that go to USC...We don't want to take a chance that somebody will resurrect "Three Is Company"! Can't we come up with something new? How could we do it without Jack?

Just food for thought! And it's time to go home!

By Noshiksagoddess (Noshiksagoddess) on Friday, September 10, 2004 - 03:42 pm: Edit

I'm living in a theater centered dorm (creative and performing arts community) at the george washington university, and was shocked to discover on my first night here that not only are there NO gay men on my floor, but a couple of the people here, mostly guys, are openly and bizarrely homophobic---I was told "there are no good gay actors," and if that's not ridiculous, what is? One of these homophobic guys, however, when he found out I was bisexual, indicated that he found that attractive and proceeded to verbally sexually harrass me for the next week. When I spoke to officials about it, I was told that "people need time to grow in college." Yeah, but I would be worried about my safety now! This person has actually asked me if I'm afraid he'll rape me.

Maybe this is the wrong thread, but it's kind of scary, considering that I'm in a big urban school

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Friday, September 10, 2004 - 05:57 pm: Edit

I am so sorry to hear of your predicamnet. Its not enough for an official to pooh-pooh your true concern for your physical safety and mental health. Is this official an RA? I would certainly go to a a mature adult in a capacity to address this individual about the implied threat (?) or to the counseling center. Unclear if he was jesting, or truly making a threat.
Are there gaby/bi men on another floor in your dorm? Perhaps you could trade rooms with someone.

By Noshiksagoddess (Noshiksagoddess) on Friday, September 10, 2004 - 06:07 pm: Edit

I spoke to my RA about the homophobia (before the harrassment began) and she said that it was too bad and that I should confront the guy about it. So I spoke to the head of the arts community, and he was the one who told me "people grow."

So we'll see.

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