All-Gender Dorms

Courtesy+of+Hannah+Wise+%2721

Courtesy of Hannah Wise ’21

Groton prides itself on an intimate community — residential living plays a significant role as students spend time studying, playing, and most importantly living together for a good portion of the year. Over Groton history, the residential system has changed. Going back to 1975, Groton welcomed the first co-educational class. Since then, Groton has had single-sex dorms for both male and female students. While this system has worked, for the most part, it is time to change the dorm system. Groton must introduce all-gender dorms if we want to become more inclusive. 

An all-gender dorm creates a more realistic simulation of life outside Groton, as people need to foster relationships with others who are not of the same sex. It provides an opportunity to learn to live with people of different identities. In the real world, these skills are necessary in the workplace and in many other situations. Along the lines of relationships, an all-gender dorm can help teach about healthy relationships by further normalizing cross gender friendships. 

 Additionally, all-gender dorms can help quell the issue of ‘gender division.’ Throughout the school, the subtle gender division in all forms is apparent. All-gender dorms can help bridge the divide by creating an environment where students of different genders can participate in dorm-related activities together, rather than compete. 

Most importantly, all-gender dorms are more inclusive to those who identify as non-binary, transgender, gender non-conforming, or genderqueer. Groton has made accommodations for transgender students to live in a dorm that corresponds with their identity. What about non-binary students who do not identify as the options given for dorms? The situation is then precarious because a non-binary student may not feel comfortable being in either type of dorm. Gender is a spectrum rather than binary. By only having 2 options for a dorm, Groton only pushes the idea that gender is binary, which excludes those who do not identify as male or female. At the end of the day, we want all students to feel comfortable — to feel like they’re home. Having a non-gender dormitory space can allow students of different genders to feel more included and safe. 

Obviously, there are many types of concerns that come with all-gender dorms. Some people may not feel comfortable living with those of different genders. Sexual assault is a standout issue in gender-neutral dorms. According to a study done by Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, “81% of all reported rapes and assaults occurred in dormitories” So how can we implement such a drastic change?

A substantial amount of planning needs to occur for all-gender dorms to be successful. Integrating all-gender dorms bit by bit would be the best plan. Groton could start with one all-gender dorm for upper schoolers, and students who feel comfortable can opt in to live there alongside the typical dorm head and affiliates. Groton would have to remain adaptable to the judgments of people living within that dorm, as their experience will be crucial to determining the success of an all-gender dorm. Frequent meetings or check-ins would be a great way to get feedback. Soon after, if it works out well, Groton can add additional all-gender dorms, both in Brooks House and Hundred House. 

All-gender dorms are commonly found in colleges across the world. Even in a few boarding schools changes to long-standing traditions of same-sex dorms are being seen. Notably, Phillips Academy Andover, Phillips Exeter Academy, and Choate have already established an all-gender dorm on their respective campuses. Phillips Exeter, who established an all-gender dorm back in 2017, did a survey and of the students who responded, 90% supported the new dorms, showing positive feedback. So, for Groton, having all-gender dorms should seem feasible. 

Groton prides itself on diversity and inclusivity. However, for Groton to live up to its goal of fostering diversity, it must continue to adapt to changing times. By having all-gender dorms, Groton can continue to welcome new students from all different backgrounds and provide the environment they need to strive.