New rules regulate sexual activity in dormitory rooms
Published: Thursday, September 24, 2009
Updated: Sunday, September 27, 2009 20:09
There are lots of things roommates fight over — sharing food, where dirty clothes go and how loud to play music, to name a few. But a new university policy is looking to preempt conflicts that can arise over when it's alright to engage in sexual activity.
The Office of Residential Life and Learning (ResLife) has added a new stipulation to its guest policy that prohibits any sex act in a dorm room while one's roommate is present. The stipulation further states that any sexual activity in the room should not interfere with a roommate's privacy, study habits or sleep.
ResLife's Assistant Director for Community and Judicial Affairs Carrie Ales-Rich explained that the change comes as a result of an annual review of residential policies that examines the previous year's trends.
ResLife received a significant number of complaints last year from residents bothered by their roommates' sexual behavior. Ales-Rich said that this was one of the most commonly cited sources of conflict between roommates.
"There were incidents that occurred last year, and in the past, where residents of rooms started to feel uncomfortable with what their roommates were doing in the room," Ales-Rich said. "This happened more often than we'd like."
The sex policy, Ales-Rich said, is intended as a tool to facilitate conversation and compromise between roommates, rather than simply proscribe behavior. Ales-Rich emphasized that ResLife hopes students will be able to resolve the issues on their own instead of allowing conflicts to reach a point at which the office has to intervene.
"We want to make perfectly clear that we do not want to hinder someone from engaging in any personal or private activity," she said. "But when it becomes uncomfortable for the roommate, we want to have something in place that empowers the residents to have a good conversation with the roommate."
Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senator Bruce Ratain, who chairs the Administration and Policy Committee, said that while his committee has worked with ResLife before, it was not informed or consulted about the policy change.
Ratain, a junior, said he felt that ResLife should have done more to include students when drafting the new guidelines.
"I understand the intent and problem they are trying to solve, but putting together a policy that meets everyone's interests should involve a larger conversation," he said. "A policy decision like this has a real impact on students' lives. Their input is needed to find a way to form a policy that is neither overly restrictive [nor] cumbersome, but effective in achieving its aims."
ResLife saw a need to take the lead in addressing the issue due to its sensitive nature, according to Ales-Rich. "We found in the past that when it comes to sexual activity in the room, students find it an uncomfortable topic to talk about," she said.
The new regulation is not the only change added this year to the guest policy in the ResLife handbook "Habitats." ResLife now requires students to register their non-Tufts overnight guests with their resident assistants and to obtain consent from their roommates before hosting anyone overnight.
A number of students have taken issue with the sex policy, according to Ratain. He said the Senate plans to address these concerns with ResLife administrators.
"We ... look forward to working with ResLife to find a policy that works best," he said.
Alyza DelPan-Monley, a junior, sees the new policy as a useful tool for decreasing tension between roommates. "I know people who have had problems communicating with their roommates, so having this in place would be good for them," she said.
Sophomore Kristen Collins said she has concerns about the university codifying policy on such a private topic. "I think that it is such a personal issue that it should be dealt with between roommates," Collins said. "It is good that there is a guideline in the event of conflicts, but I don't feel that [ResLife] can enforce it too heavily."
Freshman Jon Levinson questioned the need for any policy at all. "I don't think it's necessary," he said. "I think they are imposing something that should be decided between roommates."
Ales-Rich highlighted the need for students to communicate before ResLife becomes involved. "When roommates share a room, they have to talk about it and compromise about how the room is utilized," Ales-Rich said. "We don't want to let a conflict get to a point where someone from ResLife has to intervene and have that conversation."