Too much mixing? Parents weigh in.

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When Raoul Felder's kids headed off to college, there was little discussion about where they would live. Co-ed dorms were out of the question. Period.

His son, for instance, attended Columbia University and commuted from their New York home.

"The schools have become enablers," Mr. Felder says of current co-ed living conditions. "For the kids, it's heaven. But [co-ed dorms] detract from their ability to concentrate on studies. I think that the old system was fine."

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Felder was part of the generation that led the charge to bring coeducation to campuses across the United States. But as parents, many of them admit that today they're seeing a radically different concept of college life than they had imagined: everything from co-ed dorm suites to co-ed bathrooms.

Many parents do see mixed-gender learning as a practical way to provide equal education and expose students to more perspectives. And some emphasize that once students head off to college, parents should trust them enough to make their own choices.

"If you raise them to be independent thinkers and responsible, there shouldn't be concerns," says Marina Davis of Austin, Texas. Her daughter, Marisa, attends Rice University in Houston and lives in a co-ed dorm. "It's not the school's job to monitor them. It's the parent's job to institute the values they need to stay safe. By college, they should have those values."

But Alice Kroll, whose son, Peter, attends Connecticut College, says mixed-gender living compromises privacy. At the very least, she says, men and women should live on separate floors, and co-ed bathrooms go "too far." Not to mention the odd circumstances they can throw visiting parents into.

Kroll recalls her embarrassment when she was first introduced to the father of her son's roommate - as she stood next to the bathroom sink. It was "kind of awkward," she says. "What do you say?"

Margaret Diaz of Tampa, Fla., agrees bathrooms are extreme. "Adults staying in a hotel wouldn't want a co-ed shower down the hall," she says. "There are certain aspects of privacy that need to be provided for."

Her daughter attends school in a much more liberal environment than the dorm she lived in at Florida State University in 1969. Then, Diaz recalls, there were 11 p.m. curfews, and men were not allowed in women's rooms.

But Ms. Davis, whose daughter says she often stays up late studying with her male friends at Rice, wouldn't want to return to those days. Co-ed living is "working fine," she says. "If parents want their students to be monitored every moment, send them to a strict private school."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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