The Coed Conundrum

May 21st, 2007 by bebersghost

I’ve been having a fascinating conversation with Tommy from Mid-America region. In his comment of May 17 he asks two questions, and I thought I’d respond to the second one first – the issue of “late night rooms” and revisit the whole co-ed housing question.

First, let me remind everyone that I only speak for myself here, so the following interpretation of BBYO policy is not “official” by any means.

So let’s get right down to business. The purpose of the no co-ed housing policy is NOT to prevent AZA’s and BBG’s from hooking up. As an advisor, I have no problems with that at all – to a significant degree that’s what conventions are for.

The purpose of the no co-ed housing policy is to, believe it or not, preserve fraternity and sisterhood. Surprised? Bear with me.


There is no subject that is more sensitive than sex, especially when it comes to teens. And there’s no subject with the potential to make a teen uncomfortable. This is especially true in an organization where our younger members are still very much “kids”, while our older members are very much adults.

So what happens if you are a younger member, and someone of the opposite sex sneaks in. Your first reaction might be “no problem” – but that may not be the case. Remember, your room at convention is your “home”. It should be a safe place, but to have someone of the other gender come in can be extremely uncomfortable.

But it gets worse. Because it is impossible for a younger member to speak out against it. Imagine you’re a 9th grade boy, and in come these junior or senior (or even other freshman girls). The other guys are all cool with it, but you’re very uncomfortable. Are you really going to tell the other guys that the girls should leave? Not a chance.

But then you might say, what if there are only older guys in the room? Sorry, that doesn’t work either. People mature at different rates. And a senior who is uncomfortable with the situation is even less likely to speak out against it for fear of being called a coward, or geek, or gay (and maybe he is gay, which only makes the situation more uncomfortable).

That’s the real purpose of the policy against co-ed housing. It’s not about sex at all! It’s about helping members feel safe. It’s about helping the most vulnerable members in the order to feel safe in the area that is possibly the most threatening there is.

To answer Tommy’s question about “late night rooms”, I’m sorry to say I can’t remember the details of what was done at regional conventions – it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it done. I do remember that the convention was at a camp or JCC setting – so people were all sleeping in big rooms anyway. However, I do remember details at one JCC or temple in a smaller multi-chapter convention. We ended up putting the girls on the stage in the multipurpose room, the guys down at the other end. And there was a small lounge/utility room where we just let people hang out, with the understanding that once they were ready to go to sleep they’d go directly to their area.

Keep in mind that there are other factors that come into play at regional conventions – namely, making sure people get enough sleep. Few things can destroy the next day’s programming better than to have people stay up most of the night. Which is a fancy way of saying that the reason for the curfew isn’t to spoil the fun either – it’s to help the convention to succeed.

These are all things that a really good regional director should be able to explain to advisors and members. That’s how it was explained to me (I’ve had a few really good regional directors along the way, and a few I don’t talk about 🙂 ). That many can’t or don’t explain it comes in part from the top – policies are often handed down (to them as well) as gospel without any discussion of the reasoning behind them, reasons that often (but not always) make a lot of sense.

Soon I’ll respond to the rest of Tommy’s comment. But for now let’s just say that when it comes to rules and policies, a member should always feel comfortable asking staff for the reasons behind that rule. And staff should always be willing to take the time to answer, explain and discuss these issues.

2 Responses to “The Coed Conundrum”

  1. Tommy Says:

    Interesting. Thank you for your informative response. I may just ask my director what exactly the precedent is set after, and what the director’s views are on the purpose(s) of convention. I look forward to reading your next response.

  2. Bryan Levy Says:

    Tommy, I’m an advisor for EGR, and all of our Major Conventions (JEC, JLC, EC) have an up all night room/program for seniors generally lightly supervised, but built on trust. Now we look at this as a perk for seniors as they deserve additional latitude for their leadership, and level of maturity and responsibility. Doing this for all ages does get to be a bit hazy, but can be done very easily in the style of an all night lock in (just make sure there are bathroom premises accessible).

    We also used to do a Junior Senior Camping retreat where there were no sleeping rules, but that retreat no longer happens.

    Good luck with molding your region to accept a more liberal stance.

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