Before the 19th century, most schools were single-sex. A lot has changed since then: The vast majority of colleges and universities are co-ed, most dormitories are co-ed, and some dorms at the University allow for male-female cohabitation.
Some students at the University, however, still live on single-sex floors, some by choice and some by circumstance.
The single-sex floors are located in Nicolson 5, where there is a female-only floor and male-only floor. Most students who are placed in these halls indicated their interest on the housing forms they filled out prior to matriculation.
After spending the night on the all-male floor as a pre-frosh, Asa Mazor-Freedman ’19 opted to live there this year.
“I kind of knew what I was getting into, whereas with the other dorms, I was worried I was taking a risk,” Mazor-Freedman said. “Also, I knew that the floor had two-room doubles. I wanted a single, but if I didn’t get a single, I thought I might get a two-room double at least.”
William Halliday ’19 also lives on the male-only hall. Unlike Mazor-Freedman, however, Halliday did not indicate the all-male hall as his top choice for housing on his housing form. Rather, he indicated that he would be open to living there.
“I just thought that it wouldn’t be horrible,” Halliday said. “I also thought that if it was the only place they could put me, then I would be fine with it.”
Ellie Donner-Klein ’19 has a slightly different tale. Donner-Klein did not indicate that she wanted to be in the female hall on her form, nor did she indicate any interest in or openness to living there. The reality of her living situation on the all-female hall, however, has come as a pleasant surprise.
“I like it because there’s a small sense of community, which is kind of nice if you really get to know the other girls on your floor,” Donner-Klein said. “The bathrooms are a lot cleaner, which is a nice perk.”
Donner-Klein said that her experience living on a single-gender hall does not seem vastly different from the experiences of her peers who live in co-ed halls.
“It’s a very nice thing, but it’s not very different from living in a co-ed dorm,” Donner-Klein said. “It’s really like living in a normal dorm; the only difference is that you don’t have guys living on your floor. It’s a little bit quieter sometimes.”
According to Halliday, there might not be an enormous difference in the experience of living on a single-sex hall, but a character and community have begun to develop there nonetheless.
“I definitely feel like there’s a sense of community, and I guess there’s less division because it’s all guys living together,” Halliday said. “I think it could provide a sense of normalcy for some people, if they’re used to being around all guys.”
Mazor-Freedman also spoke about the social culture that seems to have emerged on the male hall.
“I think if there’s any distinction, it is much louder in this hall than anywhere else,” Mazor-Freedman said. “There’s also definitely a bro culture. The people here are really cool, but I’m sure you’d find that anywhere.”
The residents of the all-male hall occasionally play poker together. The female hall also has special activities.
“We have balconies, so we’ll have little balcony lunches,” Donner-Klein said. “We will knock on someone’s window and ask them to have lunch on our balcony and sit and talk. It’s a very nice thing.”
Despite the normalcy of life on single-gender halls, stigmas and assumptions often follow their residents. Prior to living on the male hall, Halliday had the preconception that everyone who lived there would be introverted and awkward around female peers.
“I definitely thought before that it was going to be all the prudes living on the male hall,” Halliday said. “I assumed that it would be full of guys [who] didn’t want to live with girls or live near them.”
Peter Fortunoff ’19, who lives in Nicolson on a co-ed floor near the single-gender halls, believes that people who choose to live in a single-gender hall are looking to live in a space that is different from those they occupy throughout the day.
“I think that if that’s the atmosphere someone wants to come back to at the end of the day, then that makes total sense,” Fortunoff said. “Some people prefer a difference between a social space, where they are always meeting new people, and ‘self’ space, a realm in which they can fall back.”
Despite the stereotypes that people have projected onto her, Donner-Klein is at peace with the way things turned out.
“Sometimes you just get placed there, and it turned out really great for me, because I really like the people in my hall,” she said.