Gender-neutral housing explored

In response to student demand, an “ad-hoc committee” of administrators is investigating the possibility of gender-neutral housing on campus, Dean of Administrative Affairs John Meeske said this week.

The committee, which was convened late last semester around the same time the Yale College Council formed a gender-neutral housing committee of its own, will spend the 2008-’09 academic year drafting a recommendation about the housing option, committee chair Meeske said.

Regardless of the group’s findings, he said the University will hold off on implementing any changes next year, even as the University’s Ivy League peers embrace gender-neutral housing options one by one. While Meeske said the committee cannot yet gauge demand for gender-neutral housing, students involved with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community at Yale said additional housing options are badly needed — particularly to make the University more welcoming for transgender students.

Meeske said the administration began exploring the issue after attending Ivy League housing conferences over the past two years and discovering that gender-neutral housing was “an ‘in’ thing at other schools.” Still, given the distinctiveness of Yale’s residential college system, all decisions will be made with Yale specifically in mind, he said.

“We do not want to do something just because others are doing it,” Meeske said.

Since last fall, student groups have drafted two separate proposals in favor of gender-neutral housing. In November, the Council of Masters rejected a proposal for a gender-neutral housing option for upperclassmen presented by Edward Chang ’10, queer resources coordinator for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Cooperative at Yale. Then, in January, the YCC’s gender-neutral housing committee presented another proposal favoring gender-neutral housing to the administration, Katrina Landeta ’10 said.

Meeske said before any changes can be made to Yale’s current housing system, the committee — which also includes Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry, Council of Masters Chair Judith Krauss and Maria Trumpler, Special Assistant to the Deans on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Issues — must collect data assessing student interest, through interviews beginning next week, to determine whether “there is a need” for gender-neutral housing.

“The answer is: We’re not sure,” he said.

But LGBT Co-op student coordinator Benjamin Gonzalez ’09 said Yale’s current housing policy ignores the needs of transgender students. Gonzalez said he knows of no openly transgender students currently at Yale, which he said is the result of the University’s policies — policies that do not promote a comfortable environment for such individuals.

“Yale,” Gonzalez said, “is failing in its basic mission not to discriminate on gender identity and expression.”

While the committee is taking into account the needs of transgender students, Meeske said since they remain a small population at the University — if they have any presence at all — the committee must also consider the needs of the other students who would be affected by a new housing option. This, Meeske said, brings up an important question for the group to consider: “Do we have an obligation to that transgender student, and is that obligation the same that we have for a gay student, or a heterosexual couple who wants to live together?”

Regardless of whether official gender-neutral housing exists, students have always found ways to skirt the current rules, creating mixed-gender accommodations by moving off campus or simply switching rooms with classmates, Gonzalez and other students interviewed said.

Committee members, who also acknowledged these practices, said they do not think that cohabitation among heterosexual couples should result from gender-neutral housing, because it undermines the purpose of the housing option.

“For lesbian and gay students, some prefer to live with people they’re not potentially attracted to,” Trumpler said. “We just want that option to be available if it’s an option that is needed.”

Some form of gender-neutral housing is available at more than 30 colleges and universities nationwide, according to the nonprofit Gender Public Advocacy Coalition, including the majority of the eight Ivy League universities as well as nearby schools like Wesleyan University and the University of Connecticut.

Comments

  • Thanks

    It took this long for the administration to realize this! What year is it 1979? No it's freaking 2008.

  • anonymouse

    there is tortured logic at play here.

    1) Transgender is a catch-all term that can describe anything from cross-dressing behavior to a more deeply ingrained conflict of identity
    2) Transgenders make up only 1-2% of the population of the US.
    3) Transgenders find it hard to 'pass' in society as other members of the LGBT community can often do.
    4) Transgender tendencies often manifest themselves later than young adulthood
    5) An absence of transgenders does not imply hostility towards transgenders any more so than a relative paucity of Republicans at Yale implies a hostility towards Republicans.

  • De-genitalled Housing

    Gender neutral? You mean male gay eyes can't be falsely accused of sexual harassment if they linger too long on the female body approaching them in the same dormitory hallway?
    At Dartmouth, a male employee is told that if his eyes linger on a female's body longer than X-seconds,he will be fired. (Yes:True!)
    Gender-neutral anything is ridiculous.
    Consider this proposed gender neutral revision suggested by the Inclusive Language Committee at the Divinity School: "Our PARENT who art in heaven."
    Mary Baker Eddy and Joseph Smith (founders of the only American religions) referred to "Mother/Father" God.
    I prefer "Higher Power" a degenitalled God installed by 12-Step programs.
    There is however absolutely no chance whatsoever that Yale will be able to create a degenitalled dorm.

  • Anonymous

    @#3

    So much for being a forward-thinking university then.

  • Dave-O

    I don't get it. I had to share a bathroom with women 2 out of four years. In fact you had to make a special request in order to not have the chance to have mixed sex bathrooms. In my opinion the bathroom is the second most intimate place in my home. is there really a need to make changes, don't most people self select after freshman year, move off campus etc. If an incoming freshman is transgendered There are likely greater emotional problems at play that having special housing accommodations isn't likely to alleviate. and before you attack my position that being transgendered is an emotional or psychological problem, think about dealing with that issue yourself as you start college, which is an emotional experience for those of us who are in the majority of sexual identity.

  • Stellewriter

    Let us not confuse by unfair association those who have medical issues…
    Every ten minutes a child is born, 1/2500, in which the doctor cannot determine the sex, or gender. This is not talking about homosexuality, but tragically a congenital condition of birth which can be caused by endocrine agents and chemicals. These children are Intersex; they are born into a life of not male or female. Likewise in similar fashion the Transsexual is identified with a Bioneurological congenital condition, and they too are locked into something not quite so clearly defined as male, or female. The best we can do is live as close to what we seem to believe we are. That may preclude the wants, and often ignorant and bigoted beliefs of others. In what case do we ignore this issue and abandon the children who now cannot hide? How can anyone continue in hate and prejudice so as to deny simple equality and justice? Not an easy thing to resolve, but one that is present and will not go away. I can appreciate social opinion, and the freedom to express same, but I would hope our culture and ethos would be with regard to the children, teens, and emerging adults, and all who are not so fortunate to have been born by someone’s idea of “normal.”

    Stellewriter – Conservative Christian, Parent, and Transsexual.

  • Hieronymus

    While generally my views are (often mistakenly) interpreted as "conservative," in the case of housing, I have long favored what is now oh-so-trendily referred to as the "gender neutral" stance (although crying about Yale's "discrimination against gender expression" or whatever seems a bit over-wrought).

    I look at it as a basic issue of individual choice and fairness: room draw should not be hindered by gender specificity (and rooms--except those in certain specified areas--should not be available to one gender or the other, e.g., the sometime practice of reserving first-floor rooms for females).

    Certain sections of certain colleges are reserved for certain constituents, whether it be single-sex floors (for religious or other reasons) or racial groups or what have you. Having some sections designated "sexual free for all" or whatever PC term is in vogue seems consistent with that policy.

    [Also, why does Yale have omnisexual bathroooms in the colleges but not in the classroom buildings?]

    All that said--the REAL irony (and weakness) is that, honestly, one can "engineer" any situation one wants, sometimes with the tacit approval of an understanding Master or Dean.

    To whine about the need for official approval of something that can be accomplished by other means (and we all know it) says more about the speaker and the speaker's need to hear his, her, or its own cries. In other words, it's more "Me! Me! Me!" than anything else.

    [BTW: isn't it ALREADY the case that some colleges have an all-but-official policy of leaving roommate decisions to the involved participants?]

    [Also, with regard to "Our Mother/Father G-d," I long ago adopted the non-gender, non-belief specific (and atheist and agnostic inclusive) "What Powers That Be," which should be inoffensive to all. But that's just me...]

  • Anonymous

    I know some other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community like the one BiLoves.

  • PP, Pierson '90

    This whole article demonstrates the stupidity and silliness that has infected what once was a great institution of higher learning.

    "[S]tudents have always found ways to skirt the current rules, creating mixed-gender accommodations by moving off campus …, Gonzalez and other students interviewed said."

    Horrors!

    If students are clamoring for "gender neutral" housing, let them pay for it - off campus.

  • Anonymous

    Gramsci's long march through the culture has indeed turned the very institutions of reason, the prestigious Ivy's, on their head embracing nonsense like this. Western Civ was nice while it lasted. I guess the educated elites prefer - well no real alternative has been offered in place of cultural devastation.

    Tocquevillians of Yale, where are you???

  • yuetu652

    Amen (opps! I hope no one is offended by that word!) to #7 and #9.
    Another fine example of the PCNazis trying to (paraphrase Churchill) "having so much energy expended by so many for so few (if any)."
    Set some priorities for crying out loud. This has got to be way far near the bottom.

  • Anonymous

    @10: What kind of culture is so easily "devastated" by some college kids wanting to live with people of different genders? American culture, if that's the fragile one you're coddling, has withstood all sorts of movements and changes for better or worse. Something like, say, our disaster in Iraq probably poses a much bigger cultural threat than the fact that I can share a bathroom with people of different genders than my own.

  • John C. Calhoun

    “For lesbian and gay students, some prefer to live with people they’re not potentially attracted to,” Trumpler said.

    Isn't that possible now, at least after the freshman year (when students are free to choose their own suitemates)? Or are lesbian and gay students helplessly attracted to the straights with whom they must now live?

    I worry about the ramifications of an argument for mixed-gender options made on this basis.

  • anonymous

    I don't see any problem with gender-neutral housing. No one's forcing males and females to live together - after freshman year, we CHOOSE who we live with. This change would be very welcome for students who are LGB and T, and it wouldn't 'hurt' anyone else.