Mark Montgomery, expert educational consultant and vetted admissions counselor, reviews Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Before attending, it’s good to mull over whether “gender-neutral” bathrooms strike a chord with you.
I’m here on the campus of Vassar College today, and Vassar’s located in Poughkeepsie, New York, Upstate New York, sort of between New York City and Albany. Beautiful, absolutely gorgeous campus, and always fun to come learn about it, a particular campus.
Vassar has a reputation for being extremely liberal, left-wing, pretty progressive in terms of its ethos. And I did ask the tour guide about that, and she said, “Yep, pretty much, it is true to its reputation.” But I’m always looking for independent indicators of that understanding. So we’re in the dormitory taking a look around and it’s very beautiful, these really old, stately buildings, it’s gorgeous. And every parlor in the buildings has a Steinway piano. It’s really attractive.
So we’re talking and parents are asking questions about dormitories — it’s usually the parents that ask the questions, right? And one of the questions that parents have, “Is it co-ed by floor, co-ed by room, co-ed by hall, how’s that work?” And so the tour guide dutifully explained and went on about the living arrangements, there’s one dorm that’s all women. And then at the very end, she said, “And all the bathrooms are gender-neutral. So let’s move on to the next place.” And the parents, of course, many of them, their eyes lit up, “Gender-neutral? Bathrooms, gender-neutral? That means that anybody can use the bathroom?”
Of course, this is not a particularly new thing, that there have been campuses since the 1960s that have had gender-neutral living arrangements, but at a place like Vassar and a few others, that is the norm. So you walk into the bathroom and the toilet stalls, the shower stalls, are first-come first-serve, doesn’t matter which gender you are or how you identify, everyone has equal access to those facilities. Now if they’re co-ed by floor, co-ed by hallway, there are some practicalities that would suggest that the majority of people using this particular bathroom are going to be man and this one is going to be woman, but there’s no rule, right? There’s no indication on the door that this is the men’s room and this is the women’s room.
So that’s just one indicator that Vassar, by its very — the heart of the place tends to be very tolerant, very progressive, and very, sort of, cutting edge, shall we say, about the ideas of gender and sexuality. It’s just not an issue. They don’t think of that as an issue. Of course, if you care about that, and you don’t want to be in a place where the bathrooms are mixed by gender, well, then you should think twice about coming to a place like Vassar because that’ really the norm. But it’s always fun to visit the campuses and sort of get an independent view of the reputation of a particular school. Vassar is a very liberal place.