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Dorms Seek Female Housing Options

By David D. Hsu
News Editor

As the number of female students has risen in the past few years, so has the demand for single-sex housing. In response, dormitories and the Office of Residence and Campus Activities are considering several different single-sex housing options.

After last year's dormitory lottery, most of the women unhappy with their assignments had requested McCormick Hall or MacGregor House, hoping to get a single-sex dormitory or a single room. RCA estimated that 100 additional all-female bed spaces were required to satisfy those requests. ["Increased Female Admission Causes Problem For Housing," Sept. 12]

Percentage-wise, female students' demand for single-sex housing has stayed the same even as more women have come to the Institute, said RCA Staff Associate Phillip M. Bernard.

But a small increase in the number of female students may cause a larger strain on the dormitories since fraternities will still draw about the same number of male students, Bernard said. For example, a two percent increase in the number of women students has led to a seven to nine percent increase in the percentage of women in dormitories in recent years, he said.

Also because of this trend, McCormick Hall, the only all-female dormitory, will have less spots available next year than it did this year, said House Manager Bailey E. Hewitt.

"We've thought there is probably a need for more all-women spaces than we can accommodate through McCormick Hall," Bernard said.

To help dormitories plan for students who want single-sex housing, next year's freshmen will be able to select an option in the housing lottery that specifically requests single-sex housing, Bernard said.

Although simply choosing single-sex housing will not guarantee such accommodations, the option helps room assignment chairs plan ahead, Bernard said.

The option also helps gauge whether incoming men want single-sex housing, Bernard said. "We do get requests for that," he said.

"We are telling residence halls that they should expect a certain number of single-sex requests and should plan for them," Bernard said. "We're not telling any house that you have to make a block of halls all-female."

Residents usually decide housing

All-female suites are available in some dormitories. The definition of all-female also varies - whether it means a single-sex floor, suite, or bathroom, Bernard said.

At MacGregor House, there were 10 female suites, 24 male suites, and 18 co-ed suites during the 1994-95 school year, said House Manager Robert Ramsey.

Senior House allows students to choose whether they want to live in a co-ed or single-sex arrangement, said Jonathan M. Hunt '97, a room assignment chair. If people want to live together, they can apply together and get priority for a suite, he said.

The bathrooms are co-ed, but the door can be locked, Hunt said.

Currently, the second floor in one of the suites is all-female except for one male, Hunt said. "That's just how it turned out to be."

"A lot of people got together and talked to Phil Bernard and expressed our interest that we didn't want to be forced to do anything," Hunt said. However, "if students want [single-sex housing], we'll try to make it happen."

At New House, "each living group has its own room assignment chair; it's up to them to decide if they want single-sex housing," said House Manager Luise Keohane.

"It would be possible to set one floor aside for single-sex housing if this is what the house wants," Keohane said.

Burton-Conner House is similarly structured into suites, and typically has several that are single-sex, said Angela Chang '96, a room assignment chair.

Currently, seven Burton-Conner suites are single-sex, but the number can vary from year to year, depending on the needs of the residents, Chang said. "If there is a demand by an upperclassman to make a suite single-sex, they can do it," Chang said.

"Making a quota on how many single-sex suites the dorm should have is not really sensitive to the needs of the residents. We don't know how many suites will be single-sex next year, because it depends on what residents want," Chang said.

Lack of suites makes it difficult

Yet many dormitories lack a suite structure, making it difficult to designate an area all-female.

Places without suites "would be very difficult to make all-female," Bernard said. But room assignment chairs should be able to accommodate females in some manner.

For example, at Baker House, there are no distinct entries or suites, said Barbara M. Cutler '97.

Students vote at the beginning of each term whether or not the bathrooms should be coed or single-sex, said Baker House Manager Kenneth F. Winsor.

Baker will undergo renovations during the summer of 1997 and that may make separate bathrooms, Cutler said. But although the administration is pushing for it, Baker has no plans for single-sex housing next year, she said.

Room assignment chairs and RCA "both agree that Baker is more difficult," Winsor said.

Like Baker, East Campus is structured by floor, not by suite. "If you know the structure of the house, it's very difficult" to make an area single-sex, said East Campus House Manager John P. Corcoran. East Campus houses have 30 to 40 students per floor in rooms along one long corridor.

Also like Baker, East Campus has been talking with RCA about single-sex options. The housing office asked what East Campus would do if it received about 10 women who wanted single-sex housing, said East Campus Vice President Stephanie A. Jenrette '97.

East Campus could respond with a single-sex bathroom and attempt to group the women together, Jenrette said. However, "basically East Campus would be the last place to put people who want single-sex housing," she said.