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Segregation the solution

By Ben WedgeStaff Contributor

Cameron House, and Howe Hall in general, has a long-standing legacy as being the rowdiest place on campus. Until recently, Cameron House was an all-male residence. Not long ago, all of Howe Hall was single gendered. Now, the last vestige of single-gender dormitories on campus is Newcombe, a section of the once female-only dorm called Sherriff Hall.
I have heard many stories over the years of the glory days of residence at Dal – I know some men, who between them, lived in Howe Hall every year between 1977 and 1986.
Back then, people lived differently in residence.
The year used to start with the first-year men going over to Sherriff to carry the girls’ bags upstairs. Afterward, the Sherriff dining hall was used for a big dance party, where dancing and dry humping were two mutually exclusive activities, and everyone would get to know each other. The legal drinking age was 18, like it is in sensible places such as Alberta, Quebec, and Manitoba. At the end of the night, they’d all head home, except the sneakiest of the lot.
Now, things are different. Parents move their student in, and then the students go downtown, or to different events on campus as part of the Dalhousie Student Union’s Orientation Week. Though these events are officially “dry”, students find ways to consume liquor before, during and after. The drink of choice for many seems to be hard liquor, and at the end of the night, many new couples have hooked up, maybe never to speak again.
A recent study by researchers from the United States that surveyed 500 students at five universities showed that students living in co-ed dorms are 2 ½ times more likely to binge drink on a weekly basis, and twice as likely to have at least three sexual partners in one year.
That’s not to say sex is a bad thing – as long as students are responsible about their drinking and sex, there should be no long-term consequences. Sex is vital to human interaction and development.
In a post on The Frisky, a university-focused website, Olivia Allin argues that, despite some intense partying, she didn’t want to sleep with freshman guys on campus.
“I realized they were mostly slutty,” she writes.
Is that what we’re here to learn?
The Toronto Public School Board is exploring the option of creating all-male schools, citing studies that show single-gender education increasing academic success. At university, we’re shifting further and further from this “old” way, and instead dashing headfirst into a fully co-ed scenario.
Maybe the solution isn’t full segregation: allow students to make decisions themselves. Co-ed dorms should allow the opposite gender to remain, accompanied, in the dorm at any time. Preserving more floors and wings of our residences may not be the end of the world, in fact, it may just allow us to flourish academically, and provide a clearer divide between studying and partying hours.
According to Elizabeth McCormack, co-ordinator of the Dal Women’s Centre, one in six female undergrads has been a victim of rape, and fewer than one per cent of date rapes are reported to police. These are situations that occur at parties, and at clubs, where drugs can be slipped into drinks, or young people engage in normally unwanted sexual activity.
In an e-mail interview, McCormack explained that much of this is due to peer pressure and the need to fit in with everyone else in residence.
Many of these pressures go away in a single-gender residence situation – the pressure is reduced to certain times, rather than the near-constant partying and liquor-fuelled sex buffet that exists in the co-ed situation.
Both men and women could benefit from some separation in that first year away from home – a chance to study more, but still ample opportunity for partying when wanted. Given the stats, perhaps it is time we look, once again, at single-sex residences, to slow the dropping grades and dangerous party ethic present on modern campuses.

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