Office of Residence Life

Gender Policies

Oberlin strives to foster an environment where everyone feels safe and comfortable.

If you're an incoming student, current student, parent or prospective student, and you have questions or concerns regarding Oberlin's residential policies regarding gender, please contact our office.

The Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) produces, co-sponsors and supports projects and programs on diversity and multiculturalism at Oberlin College. The purpose of the center is to serve as a resource for students who have been historically disenfranchised from higher education. The MRC works to support students of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students as well as address the concerns of low-income, international and first-generation college students.

Residence halls, including the bathrooms, should be spaces where everyone feels comfortable.  In order to provide students open accessibility to bathrooms, the office of Residence Life and the Transgender Advocacy Group have created the following policy.

Bathroom Designations

Prior to students voting for bathroom designations, the following will occur:

  • Residence halls with two bathrooms must designate at least one bathroom as an E system bathroom.
  • Halls with three bathrooms must have one bathroom designated as all-gender/E system and the other two bathrooms must be male/female until the bathroom vote occurs.
  • Halls with more than three bathrooms should follow the same guidelines as halls with three bathrooms, but should look to designate an equal number of each type of bathroom throughout the building in such a way as to allow easy access for all students to the bathroom designation of their choice.
  • All halls should have good signage throughout the building that indicates where the bathrooms are and their designation. In addition, the signage should explain the E-system if it is being used.

Bathroom voting: Bathroom votes should occur during the first floor meetings once all students have returned to campus and should be revisited in a meeting one month after opening (beginning of October) and at the start of spring semester.  Students may request to revote on bathroom designations at any time by contacting their RA.

  • There must be an anonymous voting option provided to each student, usually via a Google Form
  • During the vote, students will be asked to indicate any bathroom designations that they would be comfortable with. Bathrooms will be designated in such a way as to make the smallest number of students uncomfortable, while ensuring that every student has at least one bathroom that they are able to use.

What is all gender housing?

All-gender housing means that anyone can live in a room with anyone else, regardless of their genders. This will be implemented in a way that's consistent with student preferences and comfort level.

What is the rationale for all-gender housing at Oberlin?

Because of the incredible diversity of its student body, Oberlin College has implemented a housing policy that is flexible enough to meet the needs of all students, be that a single-sex room or an all-gender room.

What about bathrooms?

By policy, every dorm has at least one all-gender bathroom. As soon as you move in, your floor will have a discussion and confidential vote, facilitated by a Resident Assistant or Housing Loose Ends Coordinator (Co-op Housing), to decide how the remaining bathrooms will be designated. They may be men's, women's, all-gender, or have a rotating designation depending on who is in the bathroom at a given time. If problems arise, there are opportunities for mediation through the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.

In conjunction with TAG (Transgender Advocacy Group), the Oberlin Office of Residence Life has developed a housing policy that we hope will meet the needs and comfort levels of every student on campus. Students are permitted to room with other students of any gender in any dorm, hall, or village house on campus except where specific gender themes are applicable. These include several women-only floors on campus including Baldwin Cottage the Women/Trans* Collective which is a safe space option for women and transgender students.

Incoming Students
How will my roommate be assigned?

When you complete your housing application online you will be asked if you have a preference about the gender identity of your roommate. You will also be asked if you are comfortable living on a single-sex hall. These preferences will be honored. In some cases you will be contacted for more information, usually through e-mail or a phone call.

What if I want a roommate of a specific gender?

You will have an opportunity when you are filling out your housing application to state in detail who you want to live with.

What if I don't feel comfortable living with my roommate?

You should contact your RA or HLEC. This will start a process of mediation, if the problem cannot be solved through mediation, roommate switches can be arranged. If the situation is an emergency, an immediate housing change can be made.

What do I write in the box that says 'gender?' What happens to that information?

Write whatever you want, some typical responses are: male, female, transgender, genderqueer, MTF, FTM. If you identify as transgender or outside of the gender binary, you will be contacted by ResLife about your housing preference. This information will be kept confidential, used to assign your roommate, and will be on your file.

What about bathrooms?

When you move in, your floor will meet on the first day of orientation to discuss and vote on what types of bathroom people want and are comfortable with. There are several common types of bathrooms at Oberlin, including either male-only or female-only designations, an all-gender all-the-time designation, or a bathroom with a rotating designation based on the preferences of whoever is currently in the bathroom. There will always be at least one all-gender bathroom per hall.

What if I don't feel comfortable using the bathroom on my hall?

Because of the discussion, vote, and mediation process that happens, hopefully everyone will feel comfortable using the bathroom on their hall. If this is not the case, contact your RA or our office. Another discussion can be facilitated by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life as well. If the situation is immediately pressing, find a different nearby bathroom - all residences buildings have more than one.

For Parents 
How will my child's roommate be selected?

Your student will indicate the preferred gender of their roommate during the housing application process. All requests will be honored.

Will my child have access to a bathroom that they will be comfortable using?

Yes. At the beginning of every school year, there is a standardized process of discussion and voting to ensure that all students have access to a bathroom that they feel comfortable using.

Why do people choose to live in all-gender housing? (What does this mean about my child?)

People choose to live in all-gender housing for many reasons. For some students, it is based on their gender identity or sexual orientation; others simply want to live with close friends of different genders. The decision to live in all-gender housing doesn't necessarily mean anything about someone's identity or personal life.

What if my child doesn't want to live in all-gender housing? What if I don't want my child living in all-gender housing?

There is all-women's housing available by request in traditional dorms, first-year dorms, and the Women's Collective program house. In addition, since roommate assignments are based on student preferences, your student will not be placed with a roommate of a different gender unless that is something that they are comfortable with. While Oberlin College respects parents' involvement in their children’s lives, Oberlin College sees students as adults, and with the freedom to choose their own housing. However, staff in Residence Life office would be happy to meet with your student to discuss the available housing options, and what each type of housing means, etc.

What if my child has a roommate that they are uncomfortable living with because of their gender?

Since housing selection is based on individual preferences, every student should be assigned a roommate with whom they feel comfortable. If for some reason a student isn't comfortable with their roommate, they can talk to their RA, HLEC, or Area Coordinator about different ways to address the situation. The first step may be conflict resolution/mediation, and if necessary may include changing rooms. All situations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.