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Co-ed bathroom in dorms - am I crazy and how can I find out details from schools on our list?

carbmomcarbmom 37 replies12 threads Junior Member
I took my daughter (a senior this year) to visit a couple schools she's interested in this past weekend. We arranged a dorm visit at one school. I noticed the bathroom in the hallway has a sign that reads "(wo)men". Our guide said that it's for both boys and girls. I went inside. There are three toilet stalls along one wall, three sinks along another, and three single shower stalls side by side along another wall, each has a curtain covering the front. So that means there may be a boy and a girl showering right next to each other. While we were walking in the hallway, the bathroom door opened and out walked a half naked boy, by that I mean he's got a towel wrapped around his waist, and he walked by us leisurely. I didn't get to see what my daughter's reaction was (she's slow on the maturity level, kind of shy as we are asian).

Could I be the only one not comfortable with this situation? From what I learned from our host, the school lets the residents on each floor to decide if they want the bathrooms to be co-ed. Even in a girls only dorm, the bathroom could be co-ed because "some residents may have boyfriends visiting". Is this the norm at many schools now?

It may sound crazy but this can potentially be a deal breaker for me as to daughter's college choice. Can I call the college admissions office directly and ask them what their policy and practice is regarding communal bathroom in dorms? There are already so many factors to consider in the college selection process and I'm just shocked that bathrooms can potentially be an issue too.
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Replies to: Co-ed bathroom in dorms - am I crazy and how can I find out details from schools on our list?

  • romanigypsyeyesromanigypsyeyes 34202 replies770 threads Senior Member
    Certainly not uncommon. It was a thing in my dorm when I started nearly 10 years ago.

    You can call res life and ask them.
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 24558 replies19 threads Senior Member
    Many schools still have traditional bathroom set ups. My daughter's had a hall bathroom shared by 4-5 rooms of girls. If a man wanted to use it, he'd have to be let in by one of the women with their ID cards (it required a swipe to get in, even if you are the mother) and I think only those living on the floor's ID worked. Other daughter lived in a suite, and none of the suites were co-ed. The bathrooms were like a hotel, split with a double sink in the hall with shower/toilets on either side. If their boyfriends were over,of course that's the bathroom they used since it was the only one available.

    Many co-ed schools offer female only dorms. There are also schools that would NEVER allow co-ed bathrooms (Ave Maria, Liberty, BYU).
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  • doschicosdoschicos 26296 replies265 threads Senior Member
    My college had coed bathrooms and dorms back in the 80s, so not new at all. But, yes, you could call and ask either admissions or the residential life office.
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  • ChoatieMomChoatieMom 5752 replies270 threads Senior Member
    And we had co-ed bathrooms in the 70's. In my dorm in 1976, every other room was male-female-male-female, etc., so my roommate and I had males in the rooms on each side of us, and they had females in the rooms on each side of them, and so on. No big deal. No one was running around naked in or out of the bathrooms, but I don't think anyone in that dorm would've cared if there were. It was the 70's--streaking was popular. We couldn't get enough of full-frontal nudity.

    I'm sure there are other options at any college for students who would not be comfortable with co-ed bathrooms.
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  • nw2thisnw2this 2566 replies76 threads Senior Member
    Was it MIT?
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  • carbmomcarbmom 37 replies12 threads Junior Member
    @nw2this Yes it is.

    So it looks like this is nothing new. Geez, I need some time to get comfortable with the image of college age girls and boys stepping out of the shower a couple feet from each other with just a towel on them. I'm aware that most schools these days have co-ed dorms on each floor, but I thought there'd be separate men's room and ladies room in the hallway.
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  • doschicosdoschicos 26296 replies265 threads Senior Member
    There's bathrobes, too. :)

    After a short while, evenly the initially reticent students don't care. Floormates become like siblings.

    But you can find options if it is a deal breaker. You're less likely to find coed bathrooms in some of the schools in the south and at Catholic schools. Also, many campuses offer at least one female only dorm or floor. Looks like MIT has one:
    https://mitguidetoresidences.mit.edu/housing-grid
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  • nw2thisnw2this 2566 replies76 threads Senior Member
    edited September 2017
    @carbmom

    You are not alone, many of the parents on the facebook page are weirded out by this too.
    She'll be fine in McCormick the all women's dorm. That dorm houses many very religious girls (Islamic, Christian, etc.) that opt for single gender bathrooms.
    edited September 2017
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  • alooknacalooknac 1281 replies16 threads Senior Member
    My D, last year as a freshman, had a gender-neutral bathroom. She is quite modest but also very inclusive so I think overall it made her happy. However, like OP, I also wondered about the two facing-each-other shower stalls with just flimsy curtains.

    I tried occasionally, nonchalantly, to find out the particulars, wondering if she was OK with it, did girls go in together to in effect make the two showers just girls, etc.? But I couldn't get any info except that it was "fine."

    The most she ever said was that the biggest problem was that students used that bathroom as a hairdressing salon, as it seemed to always be a girl cutting a boy's hair and they always left hair all over the place. Plus, I think she didn't like going in there to do her business when beauty salon was taking place.

    There were other bathrooms on her floor and in the dorm that she could use and some of them were single sex.

    No matter what anyone at the college tells you, you really need to be prepared for this because even at a school that hasn't had coed bathrooms, this might be the year they do. At D's college I had read that they voted on it as a dorm, but IRL, the gender neutral sign went up the as we were moving her in, before any dorm meetings.

    It does seem to be a nonissue for the kids, and if it is an issue, there are usually options as mentioned above. At D's school, the quiet dorm is single sex by floor but I guess I don't know for sure about the bathrooms.
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  • donnaleighgdonnaleighg 1548 replies33 threads Senior Member
    As someone said, usually the kids vote at the beginning of the year on how they want to set it up. If she remains uncomfortable about it, there would almost always be an option to walk up or down a flight of stairs to find a women-only bathroom. But as others have said, the kids don't seem to care much. Most prefer to just have a gender-neutral bathroom so they don't have to walk as far.
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  • PetraMCPetraMC 944 replies7 threads Member
    "Geez, I need some time to get comfortable with the image of college age girls and boys stepping out of the shower a couple feet from each other with just a towel on them."

    They are men and women, not girls and boys. FWIW my dorm had co-ed bathrooms back in the 90s but I really didn't like it. Although I was more worried about when to poop than when to shower.

    If your daughter is uncomfortable with this arrangement, I would call residential life and ask if there are dorms with bathrooms that aren't co-ed.
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  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys 16651 replies66 threads Senior Member
    My boys didn't care for it either when we toured colleges. I am not a fan either but for the most part we found many colleges have dorms structured so there is choice. Kids that grew up with brothers and sisters sharing a bathroom may be less uncomfortable. For my family, the kids grew up in an environment where my H and I give each other a great deal of privacy and "take turns" in our master bath something we both like and learned about each other when we married so that most likely influenced them and of course with all boys they didn't have a sister sharing a bathroom. But yes every year there is a post from a surprised parent.
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  • Sue22Sue22 6926 replies121 threads Super Moderator
    Given the choice of walking 2 doors from a coed bathroom in their towel or walking the length of the hall from a single sex one many, if not most, kids choose the former.
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  • JHSJHS 18503 replies72 threads Senior Member
    edited September 2017
    Believe it or not, turn-taking is a pretty common strategy for adapting to co-ed bathrooms.

    Your kids would be respectful of other people's desire for privacy and modesty, right? Wouldn't you expect most of their peers to behave the same way?
    edited September 2017
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  • CorinthianCorinthian 1808 replies63 threads Senior Member
    I have a D who is a junior at a LAC, and she has been in a different dorm every year. In both her freshman and sophomore dorms, the bathrooms were smaller and there were more of them, but they could theoretically accommodate 2-3 students at once. Students quickly fell into a pattern of "taking turns" or just walking down the hall to another bathroom if the closet one was occupied. They were marked with handwritten signs designating them gender inclusive.

    This year she is in a dorm built in 1958 where there are 2 "wings" coming off a central lounge. Each wing has one bathroom set up to accommodate more students at once, with about 6 sinks and 6 showers. Presumably the dorm was originally single sex or at least had single sex corridors. Now one bathroom is designated for those identifying as female and one for those identifying as male. She is at the far end of her hall so she has to cross the hall and lounge every time she wants to use the "female" bathroom in the other wing. The "turn taking" strategy described by @JHS worked well in her freshman and sophomore dorms but wouldn't work well in the current one. But as @Sue22 says, she would prefer to have a closer bathroom where students can take turns.

    She considers this all no big deal, and is far more concerned about the lack of air conditioning in these old dorms.
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  • BuckeyeMWDSGBuckeyeMWDSG 1020 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited September 2017
    Sometimes the co-ed bathrooms offer more privacy. For instance the kind that has a single shower, dressing area, sink and toilet with door lock like you'd find in a home that opens onto a hallway. There are usually several of these per floor and either gender can use and offers total privacy for the individual.
    edited September 2017
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  • NJWrestlingmomNJWrestlingmom 1668 replies2 threads Senior Member
    The new dorm at Rowan in Nj was designed to be co-ed, so there is more privacy provided since it was built with that in mind. Each shower has a locking door and a separate area where you can change after/before showering. Still, my son wasn’t a fan. He stayed there for orientation and didn’t shower!! Luckily it was only 1 night! He ended up getting an older dorm that is single gender suites and he’s more comfortable with that, although i’m Sure he would have adjusted if he had the new dorm. After record breaking September heat, he probably wishes he was in the new dorm with AC!
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