In defense of an all-male Dungeon

By Middlebury Campus

In the fall of 2008, I arrived on Middlebury College campus to learn, with some disappointment, that I would be living on an all-male hall for the duration of the year. My friends at other schools expressed sympathy for me, as I bemoaned the constant “sausage-fest” that would surely comprise my first year at college. As I settled in to the basement of Allen, lovingly dubbed “The Dungeon” by past residents, I prepared myself for a year devoid of the coed excitement promised to me by years and years of college movies and TV shows.

By the end of the first semester, you couldn’t have paid me to live anywhere else on campus. While the initial thrill of coed hallways was wearing thin for my friends at other schools, the good times in the Dungeon were just starting. Our rooms weren’t spacious and our hallway was narrow and dark (some would even say dank), but it didn’t take long for the Dungeon to feel like home. Unassaulted by internal drama and unspoken friction, the bonds built in the Dungeon were made to last. By the end of the year, we weren’t just friends — we were brothers. Nine of us made the transition together to one Coffrin hall, in an attempt to replicate the magic of our freshman year. This year, despite being scattered across campus by Middlebury’s dismal excuse for a housing registration system, my best friends at this school (and one who isn’t here anymore) remain former Dungeonites.

I have recently heard that the College may pursue the idea of making the “Grungy Dungy” a co-ed hallway. I’ve heard of several potential reasons behind the switch: 1. The College is moving away from all single-sex hallways in connection with the new gender-neutral housing policy. 2. More citations are written, and more dorm damage is incurred, in the Dungeon (and all male-only hallways in general) than any other first-year hallway on campus. 3. The College receives more negative feedback from people living in the Dungeon than from any other hallway on campus.

I don’t want to be misunderstood: I am 100 percent in favor of the gender-neutral housing option for all students, and I think it’s downright foolish that until this year, the option for consenting members of the opposite sex to live together was off the table. For such a heteronormative policy to persist for so long at a school with such a liberal pedigree as Middlebury is astounding, and I commend Elizabeth King and Joey Radu for breaking down those walls once and for all.

But what’s the point of going from one extreme to the other? Surely if we can choose to live with the opposite sex, we should be able to choose to live without the opposite sex as well. Providing a new option while taking another one away is not progress, and it’s not acceptable. This isn’t about sexism or misogyny. It’s about making sure that every single person on this campus has a living situation that they feel comfortable with, and that they have some modicum of choice as to the gender of the people in their immediate environment.

It’s not that I don’t like women, or even that I don’t like their company. I really do — some of my best friends are female, and they are some of the funniest, most intelligent, creative, outspoken and inspiring individuals I’ve ever met. It’s just that we get along so much better when we can choose when to be around each other. Men behave differently when there are no women around — that’s just a fact — and I believe the chance to be socially unrestricted in that way is what allowed for such tremendous bonds to form in the Dungeon.

As for the second potential reason for un-Dungeoning the Dungeon, several ideas come immediately to mind that would cure the hand without chopping off the arm, so to speak. Although I’m limited in this forum by space, I would be thrilled to engage in a discussion of alternative solutions to the Dungeon’s disciplinary problems that do not involve gender desegregation. In regards to the final potential reason, my experience, and those of my fellow Dungeonites, seems to indicate that while the Dungeon may be a negative experience to some, it is felt by many others to be quite beneficial. I believe that all perspectives should be considered in this decision, not just a select few.

In the end, the fact is that there is something inexplicably beautiful about the Dungeon tradition, and to break it would truly be a shame. Please, Middlebury, I implore you to reconsider this decision. Let the boys play! Dungeon forever!