Co-Ed Dorms And Helicopter Parenting

Ken AshfordSex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

First of all, let me say this.  If you have some problem with your children, don't deal with it by writing about it in a nationally-syndicated column.  You embarrass them, yourself, and it doesn't solve anything.

Kathy Venable Morin wouldn't agree with me there.  Last Monday, she wrote an article for National Review online, the subject of which was her daughter's living arrangements at Stanford University.  Her daughter, a Stanford senior, was living in co-op "gender neutral" campus housing.  Room assignments are made by the students living within each co-op.

The New York Times picked up on the article, and summarized the issue:

At issue, as Ms. Morin tells it, is that her daughter was living in a co-op dorm in which co-ed assignments are permitted, and in which room assignments are made via consensus. “She didn’t ask for this room arrangement,” the author writes. “She missed the room meeting because she had a friend visiting.”

“So she asked to get out, right?” Ms. Morin quotes an incredulous friend as asking.

“Wrong,” Ms. Morin replies. “Her dorm had a seven-hour room meeting, and she doesn’t want to upset everyone’s consensus arrangements.”

“We told her,” Ms. Morin adds, “this was unacceptable to us.”

What the NRO article failed to mention, but the Times does, is that Ms. Morin thought that the arrangement was so unacceptable, that she will not be paying tuition for her daughter's last semester.

I am not sure who that hurts, other than her daughter.

I read this and thought: "What's the big deal?"  They had co-ed co-ops in college when I was an undergrad at Tufts over 20 years ago.  I lived in one.  And if two opposite-sex students wanted to share a bedroom (or even have a permanent arrangement sharing the same bed), nobody cared so long as all the co-op members agreed.

Ms. Morin's daughter, clearly embarrassed by her mother, was compelled to comment at the New York Times blog, setting the facts straight:

Hi, I’m Karin Morin’s daughter, the person in question.

1. Living in a co-ed room at Stanford is entirely optional. I certainly knew that there was a possibility of living in one in my house. I could easily have chosen not to live in the house and/or not to live in a co-ed room. Also, no freshmen live in any of the co-ops.

2. I missed the rooming meeting because I was on a plane, not because I had a friend visiting. Since I’m pretty easy-going about rooms I don’t think the results would have been any different had I been there.

3. I had a friend stand in for me at the housing meeting. She knew what I wanted in a room, including that I was totally comfortable living in a co-ed room.

4. I was really happy with the results of the consensus meeting, and I loved my roommates last quarter. I made that very clear throughout this whole process and I’m disappointed that it was omitted in the NR article.

5. The main reason that I didn’t want to “upset everyone’s consensus arrangements” was because I was happy with my rooming situation. It made no sense to inconvenience a lot of busy people over something that wasn’t actually a problem for me.

6. Stanford Housing responded to my parents’ complaint promptly and offered to move me immediately if I was uncomfortable in my room. Many other people within my house were also willing to help.

7. This conflict has very little to do with Stanford and gender-neutral housing. Is has everything to do with my parents having a hard time adjusting to the fact that I’m out of the house (I’m the oldest), I’m 3000 miles away, and -especially- that I’m a liberal agnostic while they are conservative Catholics. The NR really should have looked into this situation a little bit before publishing that article.

I can’t believe I’m having to write this in the NYT blog. This is ridiculous.

(Emphasis mine).

Ridiculous indeed.  Fortunately, most other commenters at the NYT blog are supporting the daughter, as well as noting the inappropriateness of parents trying to control their adult children:

My first year of college I lived in a women’s dormitory. Not only were my room and suite entirely composed of women, but the whole building! One early Sunday morning during finals, we had a fire drill – and more men than I could count poured out of the building!!!

By the time your kid goes off to college, you have raised them. The job is done, and hopefully, you trust them to make decent decisions.


This seems like a ridiculous case of overprotective parenting. Honestly, no university has the responsibility to inform parents of where/who their child is living with. These are adults we’re talking about. It’s her daughter’s job to deal with this. Also, the fact that they are refusing to pay for her schooling now seems outrageous to me. Great parenting going on apparently.


I think what this is most clearly indicates is how out-of-touch many parents like Morin really are.

This is not the 18th century, nor is it a free-for-all–college students are and should be mature enough to live in gender neutral environments. Clearly, this woman’s daughter didn’t have a problem with her living situation, and her parents should respect her enough to let her make her own decisions. The time to inundate her with narrow-minded, outdated philosophies is over.

Poor girl, what kind of morality tells you to put your own child in unnecessary debt by yanking her tuition at the last minute in trying economic times such as these?


Having read the daughter’s explanation, I think she’s way more mature (and smarter) than her mother. May the same be said of my children when they’re seniors.

— College Mom


As the mother of two adult sons, I am saddened by Ms. Morin’s self-righteous decision to value her view of how her daughter should behave more than she values her daughter’s love and respect. Allowing our children their adulthood is difficult. Fortunately for me, my husband kept reminding me (the many times I wanted to take a stand such as Karin’s) that the only thing that matters is your relationship with your child, not being “right.” I applaud Karin’s daughter for choosing her independence over her mother’s wishes, and I pray that this incident will not leave lasting damage to their relationship.


As a conservative Catholic freshman, even I think this goes way too far. I, too, live with helicopter parents, and believe me, I empathise with Ms. Morin’s plight – there comes a point, I believe, when parents have to learn to accept their children’s choices, good or bad. I for one would have responded to a similar situation in a much more negative light (using terms not appropiate for a venerable newspaper). Though I disagree with your worldview, I respect your right to not be jerked around by parental puppet-strings at your age.


Honestly, reading this just made me want to repeatedly punch the parent who deems this sort of behavior acceptable. I dont see the problem at all. Do you not think that after three? years of college that your child (grown up now by the way) has enough common sense or maturity to take care of themselves? If this were an issue, they would surely not be at stanford, they’d be developmentally disabled. There is no reason to punish your own children for your own selfish moral agenda. If she was comfortable, and doing well in school, there should be no problem. There comes a point where you need to realize that you should back up and let your kids lead their own lives.

You just made a public ass of yourself, Ms. Morin.  Oh, and Happy Mother's Day!