Coed College Bathrooms - I Saw A Lot

I went to a college that had become coed about 20 years before my freshman year, but had only provided housing for women for a few years before my freshman year.  Some of the dorms had a women’s floors, but most were all male.  There was one single bathroom (toilet and sink only) on the first floor, but nobody had a key.  On each of the three floors, there were large, old, barracks-style bathrooms.  Big old urinals, toilet stalls that provided little privacy, several rows of sinks, and two-person showers.  The showers were the only area where there was any privacy, but you had to undress and hang your towel outside the shower before use.

The facilities in the classroom buildings and gyms were not much better.  The women’s bathroom was typically in an isolated area of the basement of the older buildings, and the only way to get to the indoor pool was to walk through the men’s locker room.  You could avoid the changing areas if you took a certain path.  (As an aside, men had to take their swim test nude, with women students on work-study acting as lifeguards).

The best way to study was in groups, which often were held in the men’s dorms.  This presented a problem for any women who wanted to participate in a study group, should she have to use the bathroom.  There were also issues should a dorm resident with to have a female visitor overnight.

I went to school before alcohol was restricted on campus, and keg parties were common.  The best place to locate the keg was in the men’s room.  These parties attracted women, but they needed to enter the men’s room to get the beer, and the consumption of the beer made the use of the bathrooms mandatory.  The beer also provided a solution, as the relaxing of inhibitions caused coed bathrooms to quickly develop.

After the party was in full swing, women were all over the bathroom.  First, the area near the urinals was the best place to hang out (it seems gross in retrospect).  So the chance of using a urinal without a group of girls observing was nil.  And, they were big old urinals that went into the floor, so you had to stand well back.  It would have been wimpy to use the stalls, but they provided little additional privacy because of their design.  The stalls were a little under four-feet high, and most doors did not close properly.  It was easy to see the person in the adjoining stall when you were standing.

It did provide a solution to the women who wanted to study in the men’s dorm.  If they didn’t mind sharing the bathrooms with men during the weekend, the week became no different.  It was very common to see women in the men’s room during the week.  As far as girlfriends or sisters who came to visit for a weekend, they adapted to the situation.  Showers were a little tricky, but everyone tried to be respectful.

During my time at college, the administration became alarmed at the dropout rate among women, and decided they were not treating women fairly.  And they certainly were not.  By my sophomore year, a new women’s access to the pool was constructed, and more appropriate women’s bathroom provided in each classroom building and dorm.  Many of the men’s bathrooms were also redone.

Today, nothing remains that would let anyone know about this aspect of women’s campus life those thirty-plus years ago.  Everything had been redone, and men and women now have truly equal (and more modern) facilities.

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26-30
1 Response Mar 3, 2010

I recall that when I was in college, the bathrooms were effectively coed. But, I didn't see much, except for the girls who walked around in towels that were too small. Those were the days.