Is college dormitory life gearing for a retreat to the tamer 1950s? College housing officials concede there are slight signs of a conservative trend -- but only in some areas.
Coed housing that blitzed the nation's campuses in the 1960s seems here to stay. Many campuses still have separate dormitories for men and women but report that coed housing is far more popular. Dr. David DeCoster, dean of students at the University of Nebraska and a man who periodically surveys campuses around the country for housing data, reports a particularly dramatic increase over the last 15 years in housing that offers separate floors for men and women.
But along with the increased freedom has come a greater demand for more privacy and quiet time, say campus housing officials. Michigan State University (MSU), which for sometime has offered certain floors with longer quiet hours to students who asked for them, has set aside for the first time this fall an entire dormitory geared to keeping strict quiet hours from early evening to late morning.
"We do a study every year of what students want, and we've noticed an increasing number say, 'It's too noisy to study,'" explains Robert Underwood, manager of the MSU Department of Residence Halls.
Most dorms on the MSU campus this fall also offer certain floors that bar visits from students of the opposite sex from midnight to 8 a.m. On most campuses 24-hour visitation is common and is usually the result of a democratic student vote.
"There is a slight trend toward providing a special living environment that stresses a quiet academic atmosphere," Dr. DeCoster says. "It reflects in a sense the seriousness and career orientation of students arriving on campus. It's a combination of what some researchers call a sense of 'me-ism' and a preoccupation with academic success."