Make Hirschy great again

The lingering smell of weed and sweaty socks, the persistent pounding of bass echoing through the floors and various shattered glass—this is where “Annex boys” got their revolting reputation.

Administration announced in the spring of 2016 that the following school year would begin the change of having both genders in the traditionally single-gender dorms of Hirschy and Hirschy Annex.

This announcement came as a surprise to students, and many were not pleased with the decision that was made without any input from students. The reason behind the change was never announced and left students to speculate.

With no official reason ever released for the decision behind the change, rumors settled on one of two reasons: “mix the girls with the guys to calm their destructive tendencies” or “to build community.”

When I got an official reason from Vice President for Student Life Julie DeGraw on the reason for the decision, I was told it was to work toward campus community and prepare students for the real world of living and working with those of the opposite gender.

Hirschy had a positive connotation with on-campus living when it was all female and was highly sought after by female students. Not anymore.

Several windows, doors and appliances are broken each semester by the boys in Annex. Although the university would not release all of the numbers and information on damages, I spoke with RAs and residents, all of whom confirmed the bare minimum of what was damaged.

Last year, Annex boys broke the glass in the same south facing door three times. This semester, since the girls have been in Annex, the first floor microwave, the only one in the building, was broken within the first month of the semester. The third floor lobby is currently in shambles after a few of the male residents drunkenly destroyed it.

I had the opportunity to live in Hirschy during my first two years at Bluffton, and the experience was invaluable. I got to interact with other girls of various years where the community remained calm, respectful and welcoming.

After the decision was announced, my roommate and I decided to move across campus to Bren-Dell. This was my first experience living in a coed dorm—and I didn’t like it. I slept with my box fan on high, my noise maker turned to maximum volume beside my head and earplugs in my ears, and the boys above me still managed to wake me during all hours of the night.

These weren’t even “Annex boys,” they were just college boys whom I had never previously experienced living with. I missed my welcoming, respectful single-gender dorm. I had become accustomed to going into the hallway and visiting other floors where I had made personal connections. But instead, I found myself locked in my room. Community ruined.

Girls living in Annex now will give similar accounts of being woken up by yelling or loud music several nights a week. Being on second floor, the smells of sweaty, weed-smoking boys fill even their floor. Both fall and spring semester, girls in Hirschy relate to the interrupting noises in all hours of the day and night. Windows have been broken on the guys’ floor there, too.

Hirschy was built in 1963 and Hirschy Annex in 1966. Until the 2016-17 school year, they had remained the only single-gender dorm options on campus. The option to live in a single-gender dorm had been a positive aspect of the campus to prospective students and their parents.

Bluffton is currently fighting to keep from being ‘just another college,’ but in taking away this option, administrators are taking away a common interest of prospective students and their families. They’re taking away something that’s becoming more unique and something that remains special to the students already on campus.

The single-gender dorm option leaves an opportunity for students from various backgrounds. After college, students will be able to live where they feel comfortable, which may not be in a building so accessible to individuals of the opposite gender.

The ongoing debate of hall hours is still going on between students, faculty, staff and administration. They are willing to compromise and discuss the possibility of changing the current open hours policy, but never took any of the feedback for their decision to make all dorms coed—even when it took over social media.

Some, including faculty and parents of current students, argue the current hours align with the university’s traditional religious beliefs, but where were these opinions and voices when the single-gender dorms were taken away? Why are hall hours a topic of discussion but offering single-gender dorms isn’t?

Hirschy lost its respectful, warm, sought-after community the day males moved in. And Bluffton lost something that made the campus more welcoming and unique with this decision.

If the unofficial reason was to calm the boys, it hasn’t succeeded. If the reason was to build community—it’s done more damage than good.

The university has been struggling with students and tradition pulling in opposite directions, but maybe offering single-gender dorms could be a compromise—take away hall hours but provide the option of single-gender dorms.

Bringing back an option of single-gender dorms would be a great choice for Bluffton to make while they’re struggling with enrollment. Want to make us stand out as a university? Want to please students already on campus? Return us with the honor of having the option to live in a building without the other gender crashing, smelling and being disruptive around us.

Alyssa Eby is a junior writing major and marketing minor from Harrisonburg, Va. She wrote this opinion piece as part of her coursework for COM 375 Advanced Media Writing.

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Alyssa Eby

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