When does being “comfortable” go too far?

Lately there has been a lot of attention in the media about college-aged women and their sex lives. If you are a normal person you probably already said, “Wait- stop right there. Why should we care?” And you are exactly right, why should we care? Unfortunately, there are many reasons why we should care that go way beyond your personal morals about sex. Barnard College, a prestigious women’s college in New York, is one reason we should care. When students arrived back to campus this Fall they were greeted with a new guest policy that they were never warned about. The new guest policy states that no student is allowed to host an overnight guest “no more than three consecutive nights and no more than six nights total in any 30-day period.” Their guests actually have to sign in (and sign out) with security guards located in each dorm- another reason we should care. The college claims that this new guest policy came about from other students being uncomfortable with their roommates guests- one more reason we should care.

I see so many problems with this that I don’t even know where to begin- it’s actually kind of infuriating. Being a recent graduate of a women’s college this strikes a very personal cord with me. Let’s take it piece by piece. First, the wording and implications of the new guest policy really irks me. Why do they care how many TOTAL nights a student has a guest a month? Six nights doesn’t even cover all the weekends in a month. It seems to me that they are insinuating that when a student has an overnight guest they have sex and they are trying to control that personal choice. I just don’t see any other reason for it. If it was solely for the roommate’s sake they would have stopped at the “three consecutive nights” rule. Yes, even that part seems a little unfair but at least I understand it. It’s uncomfortable to have someone you barely know staying in your room and they certainly shouldn’t over stay their welcome so that part is totally fair. In life you have to give and take a little. But there is absolutely no reason any college or university should be concerned with how many times a student chooses to have an overnight guest. Another reason I feel this new rule is mostly about sex is that it pertains to all students, even those students living in singles. These students are not bothering anyone when they have a guest so why should they be restricted? Why should it matter? I realize that it’s hard to have a rule that only pertains to certain students but that’s one of the many perks of single living or of being an upper classmen. If the roommate issue was the only reason behind the new policy there are many other ways Barnard could have went about it.

Next, I do understand that many colleges have guests policies but how much they are actually enforced is a different issue. I do believe in some sort of guest policy because it’s necessary for the safety of the students but once again, Barnard has gone too far. The fact that these students have to sign in and out their guests with a guard stationed at their dorm is beyond me. It’s like your literally displaying your personal life to the public. I completely understand why students would feel like their guard is constantly judging their personal decisions, even if the guard could actually care less and is just doing his or her job. Every time you bring the same or different person back you are wondering what they are thinking. It’s uncomfortable and a private decision that shouldn’t be logged on a piece of paper. Not to mention that this is occurring in a place that celebrates all the freedoms women have gained and all the successes we have made. But how can you stand for that when your actions say the exact opposite?

Lastly, and the the biggest problem I have with this whole thing, is that this is resulting from the roommate’s “uncomfortableness.” Are you kidding me? How old are we again? Do we know how to use our voices? Apparently not. If these students can’t function in a safe, sheltered, single sex environment there is no way they are making it in the real world. What ever happened to working through your own problems instead of running to administration or a higher power? It’s an essential life skill that these women seem to be lacking. If you don’t speak up your roommate is going to assume you don’t have a problem with her guests so she is going to keep doing it. If these “uncomfortable” roommates could nicely express their concerns I bet 98% of these students would take those concerns into account and be more considerate about their guests next time. There are always going to be the few who don’t care about anyone else or their feelings but that’s what your residential/student advisers are for, not the administration. If three intelligent and grown women can’t work through their problems and differences I really do feel hopeless for the future. Once you bring your problems to a higher power you are then making someone else feel uncomfortable and are invading their privacy and two wrongs never make a right.

This controversial debate couldn’t of come at a better time for my blog, right when I’m talking about being in “uncomfortable” places. So naturally I feel inclined to throw out a few tips about how to talk to your roommate (or anyone for that matter) about something they are doing that is making you uncomfortable:

*Talk to your roommate in private. Not when your or his/her friends are in the room or when you are in a public place. Also, make sure it’s a good time for them to have a serious talk. If they are going through something super stressful they aren’t going to be as understanding as they normally would be.

*Be specific. Don’t just say, “I don’t like when you have guests overnight.” Tell him/her why. Is there something that they do that annoys you? Does it prohibit you from doing what you have to do? If you don’t give them something to work with they aren’t going to be able to fix it.

*Once you voice your concerns, you need to listen to theirs as well. What’s important to you may not be important to them and you aren’t going to be able to change that. You are going to have to find some even ground that you can BOTH live with.

*Whatever you do, don’t be judgmental. Don’t tell them that what they are doing is “wrong.” Make it clear that this is your personal preference, not a matter of right or wrong.

*If you need to, make a list of each of your needs and expectations then compare and contrast. Find a solution that meets all these needs.

*If all else fails, get a trained student involved. Talking to someone else who recently probably went through the same thing you are could be really helpful for the both of you.

*And sometimes you just have to suck it up. That’s what adulthood is all about, welcome to the real world.

College is an essential time for students to grow on their own, think for themselves, make their own mistakes, and learn from them. In four very short years you are supposed to become an adult, a full functioning adult. It’s scary and not easy. But guess what? You have to do it. Rules like these do not exist in the real world but problems like these certainly do. If you can’t learn how to handle them in a safe environment I’m not sure you ever will.

Here are a couple interesting articles about the this new guest policy from The Daily Beast and The Nation.

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