In response to “Mind the Gap: gender disparity in Heights”

Upon reading the article “Mind the Gap: gender disparity in Heights,” published in the Echo, we could not help but feel angered and offended by many of the ideas posited in the article. As current Heights residents, we very much agree with many ideas put forward by the author. Heights, as a college residence, is lacking in a number of ways. We can all agree that the building is old, run down, and contains some of the most appalling bathrooms on campus due to their lack of continuous upkeep or remodeling. This dorm requires immediate attention by the College and its condition is completely unacceptable.

While we concede these points, we take great issue with much of the logic used in the Heights article. Right off the bat, we took issue with the depiction of Heights on the Friday prior to the publishing of this piece which shows a scene where “To the left of the common room, shouts from the Men’s Baseball Team quad fill the hallways; to the right, the same energy from the Football and Men’s Crew teams.” We cannot continue this article without first addressing the fact that on this Friday, and every other Friday this semester prior to the publishing of this article, the football team has been preparing for a game and was not present on the social scene. We know that this fact is irrelevant to the rest of this piece, however we felt the need to address this intentional misrepresentation of the team.

To return to the main point, we believe that the logic used to explain the large percentage of males inhabiting Heights is extremely flawed. This article suggests that the reputation of Heights as a “party dorm” is what attracts the “boy’s club” to live in the upper recesses of campus. This notion is inaccurate and presents a biased and negative view of all Heights residents. The following argument will outline exactly why a disproportionate number of males ended up as Heights occupants.

The current housing policy on campus must first be addressed before establishing the basis for this argument. Colby offers a multitude of alternative housing options, including:

Substance Free: Foss, Averill, Leonard, Mary Low

Quiet: Mitchell

Mind, Body, Spirit: East,

Coburn, Johnson

HoPe: Go-Ho

The following dorms are normal, traditional housing options:

Dana,Heights, Alfond Senior Apartments (Senior Lottery), Anthony, Schupf, West Quad, Hillside (Underclass Only), Frat Row (other than Go-Ho), Woodman, Bobs

The problem that currently exists is a lack of traditional housing options for those who want to live in groups with their friends and exercise their ability to engage in actions such as legal drinking and socializing within the constraints of the law and College policy. Looking at the list of traditional housing options, the only dorms with multiple options for groups of four or more are Dana, Bobs, Heights, Schupf, Anthony, and the Senior Apartments.

The initial thought would be that the senior apartments should provide adequate housing for seniors with these lifestyles. However the reality is that the apartments can house only a fraction of seniors who wish to live in communal areas with their friends. This lack of accommodation is solved by a lottery and application process, which is described as gender blind and impartial. This claim is called into question, however, when looking at the current demographics of the Alfond Senior Apartments. This year, 16 of the 21 available apartments are inhabited by either all female or partially female groups. This is not an indictment of said groups, as they were certainly very qualified for these rooms based on the application and subsequent random lottery process employed by the College. However, the fact that the best housing accommodations on campus are composed of 37 percent male inhabitants explains any other housing disparity that exists on campus. We also feel compelled to further establish that gender disparity in Colby’s dorms in not solely a male issue, as multiple dorms along with the apartments are gender skewed towards females, including East Quad which houses 98 females and only 25 males.

While this process may truly have been random, and we will give the College the benefit of the doubt, we find it hard to believe that there was not an equal amount of qualified applicants from both genders. We know of many groups who put hours of work into their applications and had excellent group qualifications but were denied not once, but twice in the process. We know this just makes us sound bitter, but we truly have trouble believing that there were not equally qualified male applicants and the gender disparity in the Alfond Apartments is an instance of coincidence. 

The result of this gender disparity was that a disproportionate number of male friend groups had to resort to the large housing lottery that follows the apartment application process. These groups were still  seeking traditional housing where they could live in communal areas with their friends. Speaking from personal experience in having the 20th overall pick in last year’s lottery, which is considered an amazing pick, the options are few and far between. All multi-person rooms in AMS are gone within the first 10 picks, followed by the best rooms in Bobs and Dana. When pick 20 rolled around, we found that the only remaining rooms containing a common space and singles were quads in Heights. Excited to have the opportunity to obtain a room with singles, we took the room. Soon after, I realized that many other groups of friends and sports teams had the same results, completely by coincidence. We absolutely did not choose Heights to create a “boy’s club,” but because it was the only available traditional housing option that allowed us to live a communal lifestyle. In summary, the gender disparity in Heights is not due to the “reputation” of Heights, the desire to form a “boy’s club,” or an environment of “Domino’s and Axe,” but rather the result of individual desires to room with friends. The overall lack of options provided by Colby, along with the low number of male groups that were given apartments led to the large gender disparity in Heights.

Now that we have established WHY this occurred, the concerns of female Heights residents must also be addressed. We have always strived to be respectful of everyone we live around, as have all of our fellow Heights residents with whom we spoke following the release of the Echo article. If there are any concerns at all regarding bathroom use, noise, or the smell of axe, we personally would love to sit down with those who are concerned along with our CA to ensure that we can create an environment where everyone feels at home. We felt extremely dismayed when reading that female Heights occupants had times where they felt uncomfortable and,  want to address these issues.

Lastly, we feel compelled to address the remarks made by the CA of Heights who was quoted in this article – particularly the line that reads, “Sometimes males think they don’t have to listen to females, especially one that is shorter and smaller than them.” This contention is absolutely true, as hypermasculinity is a huge issue in our society that often causes men to address women in ways that are completely unacceptable. We personally recognize the faults of such hypermasculinity, and feel that through our Colby education, we have been able to see and understand its damaging effects towards women and society as a whole. This has driven us to ensure that we, along with everyone with whom we associate, conducts themselves with the utmost respect for others. While this comment certainly has merit with regard to men as a whole, we do not believe that it was fair to many residents of Heights specifically, and feel that it was made without basis or reason. If there has been an issue where this has occurred then it must be immediately addressed, but we strive to treat everyone within the Colby community with respect.

These claims of respectful behavior are supported by the quotes given by female Heights residents in the Echo’s article (other than the dominoes and axe). We do not appreciate this stereotype being applied to us as we pride ourselves on being respectful and kind, and are more than willing to start a dialogue about how to make the environment more welcoming for everyone.

Furthermore, the description of Heights residents as “troublemakers” was uncalled for, inappropriate, and disrespectful. To assume the character of an entire group of residents based on the reputation of the sports they play or because they live in Heights is ridiculous. These personal remarks were extremely uncalled for and unjustified, particularly the part that stated that “they all go down together.” For what, may I ask? This suggestion that we have been/are doing anything outside of what living in traditional housing permits and has absolutely no basis. If the CA, the person supposed to be our chief resource in the dorm, already has this punitive attitude towards us, then how are we supposed to form any type of relationship with them? We are groups of hardworking students and student athletes who have done nothing to earn this sweeping generalization of all being troublemakers.

While Heights is perceived as a party dorm, the reality is that the social scene in Heights consists of small pregames of friends or of sports teams hanging out on weekends. Large social gatherings have been few and far between the last two years in Heights – it is more common for people to show up and subsequently leave when they realize nothing is going on. Alternatively, people start to congregate in the common room of Heights through no fault or action of any Heights residents. The fact of the matter is that much of the dorm damage seen in Heights is not committed by Heights residents, but by those who wander through the building aimlessly on their way to the apartments every weekend.

The point that we are trying to make is that the gender disparity in heights is the result of multiple factors, none of which have to do with any deliberate attempt to form a disproportionately male dorm based on any perceived reputation of the dorm itself. A large number of male friend groups simply reside in the dorm and do whatever we can to ensure that all Heights residents feel safe and enjoy their time in the upper corner of the hill. We, as students of the college, greatly resent being assigned the label of “troublemakers” who create an unsafe environment. If there are residents who do not feel this way, we would love for you to reach out to us so we can further discuss how to improve the overall culture of the dorms.

Signed: Griffin Clark, Marcus Jones, Adam Balaban, Daniel Roache, Hunter Riehle, Mbasa Mayikana, Samuel Gomez, Benjamin Hartford, Nick McElroy, Jibri Woods, Nicholas Strand, Jeremy Mendoza, Bryan McAdams, William Brandel, Travon Bradford, Tomotaka Cho, Jake Abbe-Schneider, Tim Harris, Liam Quigley, Ben Swift, Jack Coffman, Seamus Mulcahy, Jack O’Brien, Stephan Chaikovsky.