Recently, a reader told us her school had refused to let her serve as a resident assistant in an all-male dorm. Was this fair hiring practice, she asked, or discrimination? We decided to throw the question open for debate.
Here's Would-Be RA's letter:
I am a rising sophomore in college. This spring, I applied to become an RA for the upcoming year (2010-2011). They did not get back to me until three weeks later when I called them to see if I had gotten the job or not. I talked to one of the people who interviewed me and he told me that I didn't get the job, because they were actually looking for a male RA for a floor of an all-male dorm. This person also told me that they were hoping or expecting other RAs to quit, thus maybe opening up a spot for me. I have yet to receive an official letter in writing.
I am very heartbroken that my gender plays a role in whether I get a job or not. As a feminist, I believe that gender shouldn't play a role in a job search. Why should I, a woman, get punished because few men or no men applied for the same job? If college is a place where people learn and share experiences, why can't a woman be the RA for an all-male dorm? I have a friend (male) who was fired mid-year from his job because he was assigned to be an RA of an all-female dorm. Is this fair or just another case of gender discrimination?
Do colleges have an interest in maintaining single-sex dorms, down to the staff — possibly to mollified worried parents? Do young men need a male RA? Is Would-Be RA's school guilty of discrimination? And how would the situation be different if the sexes were reversed (as they were in Would-Be RA's friend's case)? Cast your votes, dear readers, and explain in the comments.