It’s an unusual sight on most campuses, but a common one in Hillsdale’s dorms: posted visiting hours noting when opposite-sex students can visit the women’s and men’s dorms.
Despite 90 percent of schools housing students in co-ed dormitories, according to a study in the Journal of American College Health, Hillsdale College maintains its single-sex dorms.
“We’re not telling the students where to live and how to live, but we’re teaching them the fundamental principles that will bless their lives,” Associate Dean of Men Jeffery Rogers said. “We’re learning and growing here. It’s a process, and it’s beautiful to watch.”
Hillsdale has three men’s dorms and eight women’s dorms, in addition to the Suites. All of them are single-sex, except for the Suites, where a men’s wing and women’s wing are separated by key swipes.
Each dorm also has restricted in-room visitation hours for the opposite sex. Women’s dorms allow in-room visitation from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Tuesday evenings, noon to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. Men’s dorms have similar hours, except they allow women on Wednesday and not Tuesday.
Administration cited the college’s Christian mission statement as well as practical reasoning for maintaining single-sex dorms.
“Young women are getting to learn about themselves, and you want to learn it in a sisterhood not with a brotherhood mixed in,” Rogers said, adding that men would have to “change who they were to accommodate females in their space.”
Rogers also stressed the growth and bonding that takes place in the dorms, saying having mixed-gender dorms would be a distraction.
Dean of Women Diane Philipp said it is part of the school’s responsibility to provide a lifestyle free of distractions associated with co-ed housing.
“I have had conversations with many students five, 10, and many years after graduation, and they share that their residence-hall life with their male friends and girl friends without the distraction of co-ed housing was one of the best experiences of their time at Hillsdale,” Philipp said.
But the decision to prohibit co-ed dorms has become a disgruntlement for some students who claim that a college promoting self-government while simultaneously imposing restrictions on students and dorming is contradictory.
“It’s not that we don’t trust the students,” Rogers said. “Trust is not the issue.”
Freshman Luke Grzywacz, who lives in Simpson Residence, said while he would support the idea of a mixed-gender dorm, he understands having single-sex housing. His problem, rather, lies with visiting hours, he said.
“Limiting the visiting hours pretends that college students don’t stay up with people who are not the same gender as them past midnight,” Grzywacz said. “We’re a college that promotes individual responsibility, but we don’t trust our students to interact with each other in a private setting without having some sort of draconian visiting-hour rule in place. It’s kind of absurd.”
Others, however, said the rules communicate a commitment to the college’s mission and beliefs.
“In today’s day and age, with a lot of confusion about gender roles and men and women, it’s a really clear statement of what we believe in,” said senior Griffith Brown, a Simpson resident assistant. “We come to study and to learn, and part of having the single-gender dorm that way is to focus on that goal.”
Junior Emily Barnum, head resident assistant in Olds Residence, agreed having separate dorms for men and women raises Hillsdale as an example to other colleges.
“I think Hillsdale College bears a unique and vital role in America today as a bulwark of tradition and conservative values,” Barnum said in an email. “We have many eyes on us — those who agree and those who don’t. I think one challenge we face in the ’Dale is to live out on campus the ideals that we champion in the classroom.”
And those ideals, it seems, are here to stay.
“Most colleges are co-ed; we’re different,” Rogers said. “We’re still going to hold steady. That makes us Hillsdale.”