A Public Family Spat on Gender-Neutral Dorms.


Via Neddy at EotW, we learn of the story of a squabble between Karin Morin and her daughter, Daisy, a 22-year-old senior at Stanford. At issue is the university’s policy of allowing gender-neutral living arrangements — that is, men and women sharing the same room — in its co-op dormitories. In the co-op, housing arrangements are decided via consensus. Daisy skipped out on the meeting on housing arrangements, an ended up in an “unusually large” quad room with two women and a guy. She didn’t take issue with the set up she was assigned, and didn’t want to cause a stir after everyone else had arrived at a consensus.

But the elder Morin was less sanguine about the proposition, and said that Stanford had misled them about its housing policy.

Stanford and at least 50 other colleges and universities are promoting through their dormitory arrangements an ideology of gender that we personally reject and oppose. There will probably be plenty of families willing to bet their children’s happiness on the prestige of a Stanford degree. We, however, are not among them. We told our daughter that we would not pay for her final quarter — if she wanted to stay at Stanford, she would have to take out a loan. When she protested that we were changing the terms of her attendance at the university, we told her that as far as we were concerned, it was Stanford that had changed the deal. Our morality is not for sale.

Obviously,  her parents reserve the right to not pay tuition to Stanford, but it seems like it would be more spiteful to Daisy (who took out loans for her final semester.) In Daisy’s response to the NYT blog, The Choice, she suggests that that’s sort of the point.

Living in a co-ed room at Stanford is entirely optional. I certainly knew that there was a possibility of living in one in my house. I could easily have chosen not to live in the house and/or not to live in a co-ed room. … It made no sense to inconvenience a lot of busy people over something that wasn’t actually a problem for me.

This conflict has very little to do with Stanford and gender-neutral housing. Is has everything to do with my parents having a hard time adjusting to the fact that I’m out of the house (I’m the oldest), I’m 3000 miles away, and -especially- that I’m a liberal agnostic while they are conservative Catholics. The NR really should have looked into this situation a little bit before publishing that article.

It’s also worth noting that these policies are an attempt to create safe space for LGBTQ students.

Some may leap to prurient conclusions about a policy allowing a young man and woman to share a dormitory room. But perhaps surprisingly, the policy here is less about sex than about sexual politics and the increasingly powerful presence of gay and lesbian groups on campus. …

Still, sexual orientation is a complicated, and growing, issue for college housing offices. While gay students at some schools have pushed for coeducational rooming, those on other campuses have moved in the opposite direction, seeking to segregate in housing of their own.


3 thoughts on “A Public Family Spat on Gender-Neutral Dorms.

  1. -k- May 7, 2009 at 8:52 pm Reply

    Eeesh. She moved 3,000 miles away for college. Who wants to bet that she takes her first job in Japan?

  2. livininphilly May 8, 2009 at 8:29 am Reply

    The issue of gender neutral rooms is more about gender than it is about sexuality. The creation of safe spaces for students who identify as transgender is really important and I commend Stanford for making the necessary steps to be an inclusive and welcoming campus.

  3. Molly May 8, 2009 at 10:09 am Reply

    I never fully recognized the fact that the gender neutral housing, restrooms, etc. issue was just a veiled discussion about transgender equality and protections until reading the Feministe posts about gender neutral bathrooms. Regardless of why the parents think they are protesting the gender neutral dorms (they may have conventional catholic anxieties about heterosexual cisgendered male and females co-habitating), it is a (secular private!) academic institution’s responsibility to ensure all student’s comfort and safety.

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