Current Issue

Dec. 9, 2009

Vol. 110, No. 6

Coed housing in 1974

In response to: Not your parent's dorm room

Princeton may not have a ­gender-neutral housing option today, but it once did. I know. I was there.  

As the chair of the Orange Key Guide Service in 1974, I had the power to hire four students, myself included, to give campus tours over the summer — and the responsibility to house them. I put together a group of three tour guides (including one woman) and another friend, and acquired a suite in Spelman for us. Our number grew to five when our female tour guide invited her sister, a student at a lesser school in Cambridge doing a summer research project at Princeton, to share our suite. We were not overly surreptitious about our three-man, two-woman living arrangements, and the University may have actually approved them.

If our experience is any guide, squeamish parents and political con­servatives need not fear an outbreak   of licentiousness. Our living together felt natural, and we treated each other as roommates, not potential ­conquests.  

I am grateful to Princeton for many things, but chief among them is how it expanded the horizons of this small-town boy. In that Spelman suite, I lived for the first time with an ­African-American, an Asian-American — and two women who were not my sisters. In retrospect, my summer of gender-neutral housing was simply a small but important part of my Princeton education — even if one of the things I learned was to watch out for pantyhose drying in the shower.

Paul D. Wilson ’75
Newton, Mass.

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