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Halls for all: Following national trend, MSUM making all dorms co-ed

MOORHEAD - Minnesota State University Moorhead is making all of its residence halls co-ed for the first time this fall.

Dahl Hall, a traditionally female hall that is being renovated, will become co-ed to give all students a chance to live in an upgraded facility, said Heather Phillips, director of housing and residence life.

Ballard Hall, which has historically been all-male, will now have women living in one wing. That hall has a higher number of single rooms, and making it co-ed will give women more access to those rooms, Phillips said.

All of MSUM's other halls are already co-ed.

"It seems to be much more of a campus norm nationally that campuses offer more co-ed housing," said Warren Wiese, MSUM vice president for student affairs.

Parents sometimes have concerns about co-ed living, but prospective students like it, said MSUM admissions counselor Liz Gunter.

Some parents hear the word co-ed and envision their daughter having a male roommate or male neighbor right next door, Gunter said. But once they understand the genders are separated by floor or by wing, they're supportive, she said.

"It's not like a parent's worst nightmare," Gunter said.

Lisa Hill of Maple Grove recently toured MSUM with her 17-year-old son, Joey. Hill said she won't mind if her son lives in a co-ed hall.

"I was surprised they still had halls that were men's and women's," Hill said. "It's kind of nice. They meet people in the elevator or doing laundry. Maybe meet your husband or wife."

Classes begin Monday at MSUM and Minnesota State Community and Technical College.

North Dakota State University students began moving into residence halls Saturday and continue today. The first full day of classes at NDSU is Tuesday.

Concordia College begins classes Sept. 1.

The majority of Concordia residence halls were single gender until two years ago, said Jasi O'Connor, director of residence life.

Students had been asking for co-ed options, so Concordia converted most halls to be co-ed with the genders separated by floor, O'Connor said.

"From their perspective, they wanted the opportunity to interact with a wider variety of students within their residence halls," said O'Connor, adding that it was for both social reasons and group study opportunities.

The switch also means incoming male students now have four options of halls, rather than just two as they previously had, she said.

Female students continue to have an option of living in a single-gender hall at Concordia. But most students who sign up for that building do so because they prefer the hall, not the fact that it's single gender, she said.

O'Connor described the switch to co-ed as almost a nonevent.

"There just wasn't much comment from anyone about it, students or parents or even people around the campus," she said.

North Dakota State University has single-gender halls and co-ed options.

Some students prefer to live in a single-gender hall, said Rian Nostrum, NDSU director of residence life.

"They at times just feel more comfortable," he said. "They also, for some of them, describe that it just feels more private that way."

Occasionally a student's parent will be adamant that the student live in a single-gender hall, but that's rare, Nostrum said.

NDSU requires students to live on campus their first year. Concordia requires it for the first two years. MSUM does not have a requirement.

Nationally, some campuses are starting to offer housing options that allow students to have roommates of the opposite sex.

That's not a move any of the local campuses are seriously discussing, officials said.

For the third year this fall, Macalester College in St. Paul will offer one section of a residence hall that is for all genders with a gender-neutral bathroom, said Keith Edwards, director of campus life.

Some students who apply to live in that section identify as transgender, or they may have other reasons for wanting that type of living environment, Edwards said.

"There is certainly a trend of people in housing who are looking to create spaces where they can be more gender inclusive," Edwards said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590