Ronda Kaysen: When Karin Venable Morin found out that her daughter had been assigned to a co-ed dorm room at Stanford University (yes, the room is co-ed), she went into a tailspin. She called the university and demanded that the situation be rectified, she pleaded her case with the university president, and she threatened to stop paying tuition. Then she took her grievances public and wrote about the new policy in the National Review.
In the article, Morin expresses outrage that her daughter -- a senior in her final term -- was sharing a room with not one, but two male students. It was part of a pilot "gender-neutral housing" program and somehow her daughter ended up in the middle of it.
She wrote that her daughter was unaware of the new policy and assigned to a co-ed room because she missed a critical housing meeting. Rather than cause an upheaval, her daughter opted to sleep on a futon in another room as a solution.
This all sounds like a terrible situation, right? Not so fast. This isn't a story about a school disregarding a student's needs. This is a story about a mother losing control over her child's life.
Her daughter, it turns out, was perfectly happy with the housing arrangement. Daisy Morin, a 22-year-old senior, was fully aware of the school's housing policies and saw no problem with them.
The New York Times picked up Morin's National Review article, and among the reader responses was one from Daisy, telling her side of the story.
"This conflict has very little to do with Stanford and gender-neutral housing. Is has everything to do with my parents having a hard time adjusting to the fact that I'm out of the house (I'm the oldest), I'm 3,000 miles away, and -- especially -- that I'm a liberal agnostic while they are conservative Catholics. The NR really should have looked into this situation a little bit before publishing that article," she wrote. "I can't believe I'm having to write this in the NYT blog. This is ridiculous."
According to Daisy, her mother cut her off financially for her final term. In the National Review, the elder Morin explained her logic this way: "We told our daughter that we would not pay for her final quarter -- if she wanted to stay at Stanford, she would have to take out a loan. When she protested that we were changing the terms of her attendance at the university, we told her that as far as we were concerned, it was Stanford that had changed the deal. Our morality is not for sale."
The drama doesn't end there. Karin Morin responded to her daughter's New York Times post with an online comment of her own. In it, she clarified why she made her private family fight a very public one.
"I take no particular pleasure in putting my family situation into the public eye. I do think it's important for other parents to know what they are buying. Some people like to call this concept 'transparency,'" she wrote. "We do not believe in giving anyone a carte blanche with our money, even our adult children. Unfortunately, dependents tend to avoid conflict (and that includes college students). That's why parents rely on institutional transparency. For me, the point of writing about what happened to our family is to help other parents know what questions to ask and what discussions to initiate."
Whew. I wish I could be a fly on the wall at that family's Christmas dinner.
|Ronda Kaysen is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, BusinessWeek.com, Architectural Record, Huffington Post, New York Observer and AM New York. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.|