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Freshmen Women May Search For Single-Sex Housing Options

By EricSit

The percentage of women in this year's freshman class is close to last year's record high, and many women may once again be searching for single-sex housing options.

Forty-two percent of the 1,081 freshmen are female.

Despite that statistic, Residence and Campus Activities Staff Associate Philip M. Bernard, who is in charge of dormitory assignments, said that there may actually be less of a need for single-sex housing this year.

While the percentage of freshmen women this year is about the same as last year, the actual class size is smaller, meaning a small drop in the number of female students, according to Bernard.

"To me, we have less demand for single-sex housing this year," Bernard said. "It seems we will have fewer requests."

McCormick will likely be heavily oversubscribed

As the number of women at MIT has increased in the past few years, Bernard and other housing officials have been faced with concerns from parents and new students citing religious, ethical, and medical reasons for wanting single-sex housing.

There has been difficulty accommodating the all-female housing requests since McCormick Hall is currently the only all-female dormitory on campus. The dormitory is perennially oversubscribed.

There is a need to expand female housing since only 60 of the 225 women who chose McCormick could be placed there last year, said Margaret A. Jablonski, associate dean for RCA. Approximately 100 additional all-female accommodations would have been required to satisfy the demand last year.

This year, there will be 50 slots available at McCormick, said Angela Kwan '97, McCormick president. "The freshmen who have visited have been pretty enthusiastic," she said. Kwan expects rush to go very well again this year.

"McCormick will have quite a number of requests, but we have found that people request McCormick not only for single gender, but because it's physically very nice," Bernard said.

"Freshmen generally pick McCormick because it is the cleanest dorm on campus and not really because it's single-sex," Kwan said. "But being single-sex is still a factor."

RCA works with dormitories

RCA hopes to work with room assignment coordinators from each dormitory to make more all-female housing areas available on both the east and west ends of campus.

"RCA is looking for more single-sex solutions," said Christopher H. Barron '97, president of Dormitory Council. "Dorms realize that with more incoming students, single-sex housing demand is increasing from year to year."

RCA has worked with room assignment chairs from Next House and Random Hall among others, Bernard said. "They have areas in their halls where they choose to have single-sex" accommodations, he said. However, "we are not mandating any new halls to be single gender."

"Currently, there doesn't seem to be any room in the system to accommodate more single-sex housing," Barron said. The undergraduate housing system needs physical expansion to accommodate the demand, he said.

RCA must determine needs

This summer, RCA was supposed to send a survey to incoming freshmen about different aspects of single-sex housing, according to Dhaya Lakshminarayanan G, last year's Dormcon president. The survey was supposed to find our not only whether students wanted wholesale single-sex housing, but if they wanted single-sex options in the form of entries, halls, suites, or bathrooms, she said.

"Nobody really knows what kind of single-sex housing students really want," Lakshminarayanan said. "Maybe students don't realize that we can easily arrange to have a single-sex bathroom," she said.

"RCA met with Senior House to discuss single-sex options," Barron said. If residents want to live in a single-sex group, it would be possible for them to live together at the end of a hall, he said. "It will give a semblance of a single-sex hall, though not technically single-sex," he said.

Parents will have to be prepared for the reality "that not everybody will get all-female housing. We must be straight with parents [and] ask students what they are looking for," Lakshminarayanan said.

Searching for new options

"We definitely shouldn't stop admitting more women," Lakshminarayanan said. "We could build another dorm but not just because we need single-sex housing," she said.

RCA has indicated that since no all-female housing exists on the east side of campus, that area may be emphasized in future plans for single-sex housing.

"Previously we've had lots of problems attracting women to live on the east side of campus," Lakshminarayanan said. The situation has improved, however, as east campus has started to portray its dormitories as attractive options for women, Lakshminarayanan said.

The women's event held Friday evening for East Campus and Senior House was one example of this effort.

"Women's event was great in that we got women to see that living at the east was another option, and not just another mini-McCormick," Lakshminarayanan said.