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New rules regulate sexual activity in dormitory rooms

Published: Thursday, September 24, 2009

Updated: Sunday, September 27, 2009 20:09

Sexual Policy

Kelsey Marie Bell / Tufts Daily

Under a new ResLife policy, students are not allowed to engage in sexual activity while their roommates are in the room.

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."

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Tue Feb 22 2011 02:26
Why on earth people think it's ok for 2 or more young adults to share a bedroom is beyond me, especially when the bed arrangements allow for you to watch your roommate sleeping. Social time is for outside of the dorm room. The only reason this is accepted is so universities can make more money by smashing more people into a rediculously small space. This is a sick practice, and effects a young persons sexual development. It's not ok to watch/ witness or hear someone else having sex next to you in the same room. This sleeping arrangement at universities needs to stop.
Tue Oct 20 2009 18:08
whatever happened to share and share alike!
Fri Oct 2 2009 23:58
Jason - Public Relations (at least in this case) didn't promote was picked up in the media (probably after being reported by on-campus stringers). Blame for painting the institution in this light rests squarely with the Office of Residential Life and Learning and anyone outside that office that allowed this poorly reasoned, so-called policy to be implemented*. PR did, though, regurgitate half-truths, generalizations, and insane "logic" from O.R.L.L., and really, they should know better; half of the stories / commentary about the policy are inaccurate, leading to far less vehement critiques.. Even worse, the Alumni Office seems to have latched on to the unexpected media presence for the college.

I question where the leadership is; frankly, in both of the cases you mention (and in both the Madoff and Nealley / Rodriguez thefts) absence of active leadership and engagement of the upper levels of the administration caused these stories to crystallize in the media.

It seems to me that those who should be "steering" are asleep at the helm. And I won't be giving another dime or another scintilla of my uncompensated time and effort to support the college when those employed by the university are so actively working to damage the school and its reputation.

(*These are the same ones who failed to adequately address the "carol" incident.)

Jason (Alum)
Wed Sep 30 2009 23:09
As I write this comment, this story is now #1 on's "Most Popular Stories" list. This story has now hit CNN, the Associated Press, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Boston Herald, USNews, USAToday, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and a plethora of smaller news outlets. This story was also featured on Jay Leno's opening monologue tonight.

I also suspect that Tufts has now made itself a target for various family values and morals groups.

I believe the last time Tufts made national news was when the Primary source published the racist Christmas carol. We've also made the local news for the NQR.

Tufts really needs to improve its Public Relations department. When the only stories that make the news are either extremely negative or extremely ridiculous, it's not good for the University. How about some positive news for once? As an alum, I'd really like to able to be proud of Tufts in the news. As it stands now, it's pretty embarassing.

Your name
Wed Sep 30 2009 16:48
Perhaps this is a good idea given that putting two or more grown adults (if I can assume this as Tufts students enter school) into a room at extremely close quarters to each other, without any privacy other than what can be hidden under a blanket, still seems an even stranger concept to me than this extremely entertaining rule.
Grad '09
Wed Sep 30 2009 14:02
So, so glad that Tufts has once again burst onto the national news scene with yet another embarrassing story. Having sex maniacs and racists tied to our degrees is really helpful when trying to find a job to pay for our $200,000 education. Great.
TuftsGuy A'87
Wed Sep 30 2009 11:53
The act of imposing of a new policy does not necessarily imply that the policy needs to be (or even can be) proactively enforced. Its imposition can serve other purposes. As the university spokesperson said, the policy “is intended as a tool to facilitate conversation and compromise between roommates.” Yeah, OK, maybe, but more importantly, it clearly defines the University’s position on the issue should a roommate-to-roommate conflict sink to such a depth that University intervention is necessary. THAT is its real value. Instead of mocking the University for crafting something that is practically unenforceable, we’d all be better served by using its imposition as an opportunity to talk about our differing presumptions about the extents and limits of our rights to pursue "happiness" versus our responsibilities to our neighbors (and roommates) not to tread on THEIR rights. It used to be called “civics,” and it’s demonstrably lacking in our communities in the 21st century.
Wed Sep 30 2009 10:42
I think young adults need to learn themselves how to deal with uncomfortable situations. How to negotiate privacy with your roommate, how to deal with a bully, how to make your roommate respect your "space" and how to be assertive, how to articulate your concerns and if nothing works to change the situation (in this case change your roommate and to move on) are the kinds of skills an undergraduate SHOULD learn and develop on his/her own without interference from school administration or parents. It is ridiculous to complain about such a matter . Out in the world many uncomfortable situations await a young adult, this is one of them. Deal with it!
Jaded RA
Tue Sep 29 2009 23:08
The fact that is never mentioned in all of the articles (including this one), is that this policy is not new. The Residents' Bill of Rights (inside cover of Habitats, the guide to on campus living) clearly states that students have "the right to free access to your room without pressure from your room mate(s)" and "the right to study [and] sleep without undue disturbances from noise, guests, room mate(s), etc." This includes "sexiling" and "performing for an audience" of one. This part of the policy needed to be spelled out because it was becoming more and more of an issue. Now, students have something specific to bring up when a room mate decides to be a jackass and do something like this. Like all the other policies set by the ORLL, the sentiment is always the same; don't be stupid and don't be inconsiderate. It's very easy to be grown up about this and make it a non-issue. Maybe it's time for some students here to get the point and wise up.
former Medfordite
Tue Sep 29 2009 15:59
If you can afford to attend Tufts and you're horny, you can afford to go to a cheap motel and let your roomate get the higher education in mature privacy that their parents are paying for!
Tue Sep 29 2009 14:28
Re: 09 gradumicate

You should find an old scrunchie or put your sock on the door because when you and me get together it'll definitely be more than 7 minutes...jokes aside that's not long enough to build the tension and really go at it...and this is coming from a guy!

And I wasn't joking about your scrunchie. Put it on your door, I'm coming over.

Tue Sep 29 2009 14:22
Re: Visitor
Mmmm, Big Gulps.
Tue Sep 29 2009 14:14
Re: Wicked Happy
This RA sounds amazing. I wish I'd been in her room...nice Full Metal Jacket reference too. By the way, what's her number?
Tue Sep 29 2009 14:12
re: HatedFreshmanYear
The bed was bouncing without sheets? That's one way to have sex...on top of a 15 year old college dorm mattress without isn't it.

By the way, I agree with what you said and I don't/didn't go to Tufts.

Your name
Tue Sep 29 2009 12:25
when i was in college one of my roommates had no morals and had no problem having sex with her boyfriend while i was in the room my bed right next to theirs --she never asked for a bit of privacy -- their relationship didnt last --doesnt say a lot about her---is sex no longer special and private and saved?
Your name2
Tue Sep 29 2009 12:06
I agree with you, however, your comments don't go far enough...The media's focus could be predicted, but the deeper problem is that this policy is the sort of nonsense that administrators here on Walnut Hill insist on making their focus, instead of truly working to benefit students. Which takes us back to the policy being ridiculous and an embarassment for the institution.
Your name
Tue Sep 29 2009 11:44
What's more ridiculous than the policy itself is that the national news media is reporting on it, like CNN and the Today show. If they want to cover Tufts, there are a million better stories, like how we have an alcohol policy that will end up killing people, or various financial issues, our "mass casualty incident," or any number of things. Instead they focus on the mildly salacious sex story that is unlikely to make a difference in anybody's life. People will continue to have sex, people will continue to be sexiled, and occasionally gross people will try to hook up with their roommates present. It's not news, it's a distraction from the real issues plaguing us, nationally and on campus. Our news media sucks.
Tufts A'81
Tue Sep 29 2009 09:07
Is maturbation included in the definition of "sex act"? If so, it could make for some long nights. . . .
Tue Sep 29 2009 02:35
Why not blame the parents for throwing the kids into the public school prison system. Where kids learn nothing about self-regulation. Also don't forget about manipulation, child-abuse, cult of obedient control freaks which actually encourages children to be consumers instead of being self-productive and creative thinkers. If children are only thinking about sex, maybe it's time to follow the native american way and just "let them be" as nature had intended. Of course that's too difficult for Americans since they lack faith and trust in themselves, in god, in nature, and most importantly in their own children.
Mon Sep 28 2009 19:55
This is one of the reasons I no longer donate to any "institutions of higher education." If this is the sewage they're teaching, let them go out of business.

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