At the start of the 1970’s a man entering a woman’s hallway, only under exceptional circumstances, was required to yell “man on the hall,” to announce his presence to the female residents. These circumstances were just about limited to only a resident’s father or a maintenance worker. Until 1973* students were only permitted to stay in public areas of a residence hall of the opposite sex and only during specified open house hours. These open house hours, depending on the residence hall’s lifestyle, lasted from 12noon till 12 midnight Monday through Thursday, Friday 12noon till 2:00am, Saturday 9:00am till 2:00am, and Sunday 9:00am till 12 midnight. However in 1973 Freshmen were not allowed to have seven day per week visitation, this privilege was only for upperclassmen.
In 1973 Madison College made a progressive step in the residence life and housing. Shorts Hall became the college’s first, as well as one of all Virginia colleges, to open a residence hall to coeducational living. During the coeducational transition Shorts had a seven day per week visitation policy, one of the several different lifestyles available to residents, which did not differ from many other residence halls. One resident, Ray Laroche, in favor of the shift to coed said, “It’s different and I like it better. I think it keeps people quieter and the guys keep their rooms cleaner”(Breeze, Vol. 51 Is. 2). Mike Tesla of Shorts hall mentioned, “The girls are easier to get to, there’s no hassle like calling to get an escourt; you can just go on up to her room” (Breeze, Vol. 51 Is. 2). With three floors of male residents and two floors of females, the visitation policy became easier to break. Instead of sneaking across campus to visit a girl after visitation hours, a male resident only had to climb one to three floors. Although the September 11, 1973, Breeze article, Coed Dorm a Reality, notes that Shorts faced no other issues besides the ones other residence halls faced.
Chandler Hall followed suit after Shorts and became the campus’s second coed residence hall after its completion in 1974. Neither of these residence halls housed freshmen, as freshmen were not allowed choose the coed living lifestyle when selecting a residence hall. However in the spring semester of 1974 the freshmen were allowed to choose coed residence halls as long as he or she provided parental permission. Despite some of the positive feedback from students, RA’s, and Head Residents living in the coed dorms, the coed lifestyle was not widely popular.
In 1973 Shorts Hall initially offered 210 open spaces for students to choose coeducational living, but less than 100 chose this new lifestyle. The option for freshmen to live in coed residence halls was eliminated in 1975 by lack of demand. Byron Wills, the Director of Student Life, commented in the January 31, 1975 issue of The Breeze “the lack of interest in co- ed dorms can be attributed to the availability of Showalter apartments, seven day visitation in a variety of dorms and the other lifestyle options available to the students.” In 1978 the Health Education and Welfare (HEW) charged JMU admissions with violating Title IX claiming the university gave preference to men in the admissions process. HEW suggested all dorms on campus shift to coeducational. However this was not consistent with the university’s policy requiring different residence hall lifestyles be available for the interests of the students. HEW dropped the charges, but JMU afterwards changed one residence hall to coeducational. Hoffman Hall converted to coed living in 1979. This was only the third residence hall to make the shift to coed.
name, name, “Coed Dorm a Reality,” The Breeze, September 11, 1973.
Jerry, Splendore, “Coed Living on Way Out,” The Breeze, January 28, 1975.
name, name, “HEW Drops Sex Bias Charges,” The Breeze, September 5, 1978.
Jerry, Splendore, “Coed Living on Way Out,” The Breeze, January 31, 1975.
Dr. Mark Warner, Interview by Nicholas Spinner, 16 April 2013, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Sandra Lacks, Interview by Nicholas Spinner, 18 April 2013, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia.