Last year's decision to permit co-ed rooming in some Harvard College housing has raised confusion, questions and complaints, prompting Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 to renew discussion of the matter with the house masters.
"Questions have been raised as to which interpretations of our policy fall within the boundaries that we defined last spring," Jewett said yesterday.
Last spring, the house masters decided to permit co-ed rooming configurations where students of each gender would have access to a private bathroom.
Jewett, who supported the decision, said "interpretations of this policy have differed among the houses, and we need to discuss this matter again to clarify the logistics."
Jewett said he hopes to raise the issue with the house masters at their meeting tomorrow.
The matter has been complicated by a dose of student activism and by the physical differences between the configurations of the houses.
Last year's decision, partly lifting a long-standing prohibition against co-ed rooming, came after three years of petitions and advocacy by the Civil Liberties Union of Harvard (CLUH).
That student group has continued to play a role in the debate, and has most recently brought concerns to Jewett's attention about inconsistencies in the administration's policy.
"The administration has tried to be very low-key about it, but we feel that the University is contradicting its own stated mission of showing students that they are capable of living with others who are different from them," said Jol A. Silversmith '94, the former director of CLUH.
"The issue here is that the masters seem to be confused by the lack of policy regarding co-ed rooming." Silversmith said.
CLUH challenges the College's lack of consistency in restricting what current Director Robert W. Yalen '95 deemed "workable co-ed living arrangements."
"We know of cases in Mather towers, the Currier '10 man suite, and in Adams' Senior House, where male and female students have been housed together," Silversmith said.
According to Silversmith, in Mather House, students of differing genders can share suites with only one bathroom.
Jewett said the masters originally conceived co-ed rooming groups as occupying suites connected by a fire door, or rooms opening onto the same hall.
Conflicts between the intentions of last year's policy change and the actual living arrangements this year arose unexpectedly because of the dissimilarities in the layout of the different houses, Jewett said.
According to Silversmith, CLUH opposes stringent gender divisions on the moral grounds that they "imply that physiological differences make students incapable of cohabitating."
But Jewett said that College policy, even as it was altered last year, still limits co-ed housing.
"As I understood things last spring, there would be no actual co-ed rooming per se," Jewett said. "And certainly not coming out of the freshman lottery."
Silversmith agreed that co-ed rooming would only be possible after students were assigned to their houses, and he added that the decision to allow co-ed rooming groups should be left to the discretion of the individual house masters.
"In some cases, men and women are permitted to share bathrooms, and the standard for privacy constitutes a lock on a bedroom door--in other cases, when two bathrooms are available, co-ed groups exist," Silversmith said.
"But the two standards are used interchangeably to suit the varying arguments of the university as they try to maintain their goal of separating men and women at all costs," Silversmith added.
"The next step here is that students are permitted to live together, and that the College elucidates a clear policy so that the masters will understand that it is their prerogative to decide," he said.
CLUH Executive Officer for University Affairs Allan H. Erbsen '94 said that "on-campus resolution of issues of importance to students" was one of the points stressed by Nadine Strossen '72, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, in a visit to Boston yesterday.
Strossen met with Yalen, Silversmith and Erbsen to discuss strategies for raising consciousness of issues where student rights are at stake.
Strossen plans to use the work of CLUH as a model for other campus civil liberties organizations across the country