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Coed bathrooms?

emmalinemmalin Registered User Posts: 41 Junior Member
edited May 2012 in Oberlin College
I've heard that students can choose for their bathrooms to be coed. And also that in these coed bathrooms there are sometimes group showers.Is this true?? A boy could be showering and a girl just walks in and starts showering next to him? Please help! Thanks
Post edited by emmalin on

Replies to: Coed bathrooms?

  • SJTHSJTH Registered User Posts: 1,892 Senior Member
    I'll let those more experienced answer about the group shower rumor. My son has lived on a coed floor for the past two years. In his dorm, the students vote by floor whether they want they showers to be single gender or coed. If even one person chooses (in an anonymous vote) for the bathrooms to be single-gender, that is what happens. The bathrooms in his dorm all had private shower stalls, and the floor voted both years to be coed. It has not been an issue in the slightest. Oberlin is not the only college that does that. In fact, I remember a tour of Connecticut College 5 years ago there was a discussion of their coed bathrooms. Not necessarily my cup of tea, but it has worked out just fine at Oberlin.
  • maayanplautmaayanplaut College Rep Posts: 65 Junior Member
    Within the first week of each semester every dorm/hall/co-op/house has a house meeting. One of the first topics discussed is bathrooms.

    I only lived in Harkness co-op, one of the building with group showers, but I spent time in many other dorms other than my own, so the bathroom policy (not just the showers) affects any and everyone who visits.

    If there is opposition to co-ed bathrooms within the initial conversations each semester, a bathroom within that dormitory will be designated for a single gender. It may not be convenient for yourself or others (say, you may be showering on a different hallway than the one you live on, or have to walk down a flight of steps), but no one will be forced into a situation that they wouldn't be comfortable with.

    The compromise situations in many dorm/hall/co-op/houses are excellent and it works VERY well: The most common is the E system. Essentially, a large cardboard or plastic letter E is place on the door or at the entrance of the showers (there are sometimes signs for both; so all students could brush their teeth while other folks are in the shower, you get the idea), which, when turned a certain way, will indicate who is allowed in the bathroom at the time. You move it when you enter, you put it back to E when you exit (unless someone else is in the room at the time).

    E - "everyone" - Anyone can be in the bathroom/shower
    M (E turned down) - "Men" - Only dudes
    W (E turned up) - "Women" - Only dudettes
    3 - (E turned to the left) - only three people, "Me, myself, and I" - if you'd like to be alone.

    I've also seen wheels that indicate who can be in the bathroom (on a string or a hook so it can be easily turned) at a given time, but the E is commonly used all over campus.

    These signs are respected to the utmost by everyone. It's a big step in a community to respect each other's spaces and wishes, and it is a very mature way to deal with a potentially touchy issue.

    The communities I have lived with have found these signs to be the most effective solution to the range of opinions and offerings of the division of the bathroom. As I said, I lived in Harkness, the only dorm with totally open showers (much like a locker room); Fairchild has a similar setup except that there are curtain dividers between the shower heads.

    Because there were three bathrooms in Harkness, and my shower schedule was so ridiculous (I would fluctuate between late at night, early morning, or in the middle of the afternoon, depending when I was free), I rarely ended up showering at the same time as anyone else, but if someone else were there, we would have sing-a-longs. If I ever wanted time alone, I could have it, too. If the shower on my floor was ever marked for something that didn't involve others, there were two others to choose from in the dorm, too.

    In short, everyone can have whatever they are comfortable with. It's a win-win situation.
  • macmillmacmill Registered User Posts: 422 Member
    ^Wouldn't the tedium of signs and awkwardness etc be avoided by just having men's and women's bathrooms as normal? just sayin...
  • bferrebeebferrebee Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
    Macmill, a majority of students just find it to be utterly *convenient* to have all-gender bathrooms. In the dorm where I lived, there was a bathroom in each hall/wing on every floor. Students just liked that nobody had to walk further to brush their teeth/shower/etc.

    During my first year, my guy friends and girl friends alike enjoyed having sing-alongs from their side-by-side shower stalls. "A Whole New World" was especially popular.

    For most of us, all-gender bathrooms have nothing to do with sexiness and everything to do with convenience.
  • quaerequaere Registered User Posts: 1,264 Senior Member
    For the curious, all the nitty-gritty details of Oberlin's bathroom policy are on ResEd's website here. The bottom line:
    Bathrooms will be designated in such a way as to make the smallest number of students uncomfortable, while ensuring that every student has at least one bathroom that they are able to use.
  • D'yer MakerD'yer Maker Registered User Posts: 3,421 Senior Member
    At the risk of sounding dreadfully creepy, I've been lurking around these bathroom threads for some time now and while none of this matters to me, I confess to being oddly intrigued by this.

    I think my interest is largely because giving students the power of "bathroom choice" appears to defy what is "normal" and because the students' choices seem to point out that -- maybe -- one person's "normal" isn't the same as everyone's "sensible." In fact, the idea of what's "normal" (gender-specific group bathrooms in mixed gender residential buildings) may not, in fact, even be "normal" but closer to "peculiar."

    In public establishments, it is now "normal" to have separate bathrooms. But this was not always the case...however, it has become "normal." But in non-public places, where people reside (such as one's own home), mixed gender bathrooms are the norm. You might even have house guests who stay overnight at your home and share a bathroom with them without even considering the gender mix. Yet you would work it all out...without once thinking that it defies "normal" to come to an arrangement where the bathroom(s) are for mixed-gender use. In fact, it would be peculiar (I think) if there were two bathrooms in a residence and one was designated for female use and the other for male use (although I can definitely see how the whole "toilet seat up/down and toothpaste cap on/off" thing might seduce people to that result). So, perhaps, in a residential setting like a dorm, "normal" requires some rethinking.

    I look at this choice much like "casual Friday" in the workplace where, for one day a week, office workers are untethered from convention and asked to make a clothing choice that is personally practical for them while, at the same time, working within boundaries that show a certain degree of respect for their fellow co-workers. Another example might be telecommuting, where the 9-to-5 conventions are (sometimes) tossed aside in the hope of achieving economies based on personal preferences that, in turn, respect the collective's goals. For students, it is not unlike asking them to take their final exams when and where they choose -- with the social constraint being that they work independently.

    I know that designating bathrooms isn't life altering but I like the idea of starting out each semester with a little exercise in which people are compelled to deconstruct convention and create their own paradigm. Repeating my earlier caveat that this impacts me in no way whatsoever, I think it's an interesting social experiment to bring together a group of college students for the purpose of taking their living environment (at least one slice of it) and ask them to improvise with it as a group. This kind of improvisation isn't on a par with MacGyver who could be handed a paper clip, a ball of yarn, a shard of flint and some French fries and escape a SuperMax detention facility within the hour, but it's still intriguing to me.

    I hope somebody has archived the various choices made for the different facilities over the years...for purely socio-anthropological reasons.
  • Kei-o-leiKei-o-lei Registered User Posts: 1,631 Senior Member
    "Us" and "Them" signs on dorm bathroom doors have worked just fine for years
  • WAvegetarianWAvegetarian Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
    "Us" and "Them" are very charged words on Oberlin's campus, and they create a divisive and usually falsely dichotomous relationship we strive to avoid. We also don't have any residence halls that are single gender. The closest is the Baldwin Cottage Women's and Trans* Collective, for which a gender dichotomy is clearly unworkable.

    "Worked just fine for years" is generally what a privileged class thinks until the problem is pointed out to them. Plessy v. Ferguson established the "just fine" state of segregated bathrooms for nearly six decades after the problem was formally pointed out. I bring this up as a relevant example since the designations discussed there were also based around a false dichotomy. As mentioned in the dissenting opinion, "Chinese" individuals were expected to use White facilities, but clearly did not belong to either of the "the two races."
  • D'yer MakerD'yer Maker Registered User Posts: 3,421 Senior Member
    You're presuming that "us" and "them" have some agreed-upon definition and that each person who walks through the door lacks the ability to decide what it means or doesn't mean. In other words, you imposed the false dichotomy there in which people must comport with a meaning for "us" and a meaning for "them" that other people apparently have agreed upon but haven't spelled out. If I'm free to choose whether I'm "us" or "them" -- as is everyone else -- and I am empowered to decide for myself whether I'm more like "us" or more like "them" (or just don't care to give it all that much thought), there's no problem is there? There isn't even a dichotomy.

    To look at those signs and see a dichotomy that's disconcerting, one must first place one's self in a very confined box and then believe that there's a bathroom cop lurking who will enforce that self-imagined dichotomy. The real beauty of "us" and "them" signs, of course, is that the cleaning staff has to clean half as many bathrooms. The use of more conventional and divisive signage is, in truth, a means for The Man to oppress the working class. While well-meaning progressive-thinkers are sucked into a debate about labels and regretting the limitations of their preferred language to accommodate all people, they're overlooking the oppression of the labor force that's going on. Those other signs mean there's one extra bathroom that must be cleaned for no good reason. And that extra bathroom (in a dorm) is one less dorm room (or TV lounge) which reduces the size of the student body and is clearly the administration's subtle-yet-devious method of suppressing student outrage.

    And how come nobody complains about the word bathroom? There are sinks and toilets and showers...but nobody takes a bath in them. It's all part of the grand deception. I know that the term "bathroom" worked just fine for years, but how many years since the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Bd. of Education does it take for us to move past the lie?
  • SJTHSJTH Registered User Posts: 1,892 Senior Member
    and what brought this discussion to bear after a comment made a year to go?
  • PlainsmanPlainsman Registered User Posts: 1,503 Senior Member
    "Us" and "Them" are very charged words on Oberlin's campus, and they create a divisive and usually falsely dichotomous relationship we strive to avoid. We also don't have any residence halls that are single gender. The closest is the Baldwin Cottage Women's and Trans* Collective, for which a gender dichotomy is clearly unworkable.

    Actually, according my D2, there is a single sex (female) dorm on campus. There was when she first arrived in 2009. I assume it is still operating.
  • quaerequaere Registered User Posts: 1,264 Senior Member
    There are a few all-female halls on campus (in South and Barrows, at least). But there are not any dorms that are entirely single-sex. It's a common misperception that Baldwin is all women; as WAvegetarian noted, that's not true.
  • jskbestjskbest Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    I would be more concerned with assaults and false accusations... To argue that your house has a "coed" atmosphere is like comparing oranges and apples. Yeah, they both are bathrooms but one is family and friends while the other are complete strangers. Not the same, unless you leave your house open for people to walk in and use it. Plus you have all the needs behind one locked door. In a shower/bathroom of a college the shower is one area, the sinks and toilets in another. If anything, I think that the showers should be seperate from coed bathrooms. However, I don't understand why colleges would want to even attempt a liability of this sort.
  • incalescentincalescent Registered User Posts: 63 Junior Member
    edited August 2015
    I stayed at Oberlin for two weeks over the summer, and I lived in Kahn Hall, a co-ed dorm with co-ed floors. The bathroom "common area" (aka mirrors and sinks) is co-ed, then there are two separate gender-segregated areas with stalled toilets and showers. There is also one private single bathroom on each floor. Hope that helps.
  • megame18megame18 Registered User Posts: 82 Junior Member
    WAvegetarian and incalescent are right.

    Many of the older dorms just have one bathroom per floor with one set of showers and stalls which are almost always just open to everyone or are on E-system as Ma'ayan described back in 2011. All of these bathrooms have individual stalls with doors or curtains, except maybe Harkness, but you have to apply to live there so it's not like you're just going to be placed there.

    Making the bathrooms gender/sex neutral (I can't even tell which one people are wanting to segregate the bathrooms by, not that either makes any sense) helps make them safer for everyone who doesn't conform to the gender binary. Obviously there are traumatic events that could make students uncomfortable using bathrooms with people of a different gender, but for the most part I think most students would think having gender neutral bathrooms just helps the campus be a more welcoming and safe place.
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