Dorms and Their Distinctive Identities
by Christina Lin on Friday, June 5th, 2015
Stereotypes permeate every aspect of our lives. Every day, we see stereotypes based on gender, race, sexual orientation, and class. There are certainly stereotypes regarding private and public school students. At Milton, there are even stereotypes of boarders in each dorm, some of which are insensitive and simply not true, incorrectly forcing students into boxes they do not fit in.
Fortunately, the stereotypes that once existed are either slowly changing or disappearing. According to Ellen Askey (I), a boarder in Hathaway, “each dorm has much less of a stereotypical identity than they did [her] freshman year.” These changes occur naturally due to shifting groups of students in the dorms. Ellen again said, “I think the reason why [the dorms] seem, to me, to have less stereotyped identities is that the seniors heavily dictate the stereotypes.” Because the seniors of each dorm vary from year to year, the environment in the dorms inevitably fluctuates.
The identity of the dorm is fluid, and it changes from year to year. As different people live in a house, different identities arise. Mariah Redfern (I), a boarder in Robbins, also states that the images of dorms have changed; “We have a stereotype of being the ‘mean girls’ apparently, and I don’t think Robbins really fits that anymore,” she says. What’s more, students at Milton are now more conscious of the fact that the identities of the dorms are changing. Jessica Wang (IV) said, “People generally know that not everyone in the dorm conforms to [one] stereotype.”
Milton students know that the stereotypes do not truly define each dorm and their environments. So, why do we still judge each dorm by its stereotypes? In an environment where we are often taught to not judge a book by its cover, why do these stereotypes still exist at all? It seems that limited dorm-to-dorm interaction is one of the main causes. Since inter-dorm interactions are often limited to activities like dodgeball, we get these generalizations based on the actions of a few members. In reality, dorms are complex microcosms, and everyone contributes to a dorm’s campus-wide reputation, some more than others.
Stereotypes still exist because each dorm’s reputation is impressed upon new students at the beginning of each year. As Jessica explains, “Even though [these stereotypes] may not be as true anymore, the dorm stereotypes are passed down by upperclassmen to the freshman when they are first told about the various dorms on campus”. Students are told the specific stereotypes of each dorm the minute they arrive on campus. No wonder it is so hard to eliminate these perceptions from the front of our brains.
Not all stereotypes have negative connotations, though. For example, I have heard that my dorm, Hathaway, has the reputation of being the “nice dorm.” This stereotype, in my opinion, is not a bad one. However, regardless of whether a stereotype is elevating or harmful, it should not exist at all. Automatically grouping numerous students into one category is insensitive.
To change or eliminate stereotypes, we must get to know the students in each dorm. Ellen says that she does not associate stereotypes with dorms because she “personally know[s] seniors in each dorm.” Rather, she sees dorms as a diverse group of “individual people, and not as old stereotypes.” Like every boarder, Annabell Asare (II) can describe her love for her dorm. She says that Robbins House is “the best place [she] could spend her four years at Milton.” Although it is wonderful that dorm stereotypes continue to change for the better, it would be best if they vanished altogether.
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