Elis brave cold for gender neutrality

As the icy wind whipped across campus on Tuesday evening, it promised to be a long, cold night for the students sleeping “in” on the frozen ground.

Despite the below-freezing temperatures — 18 degrees Fahrenheit at midnight, wind chill notwithstanding — over a dozen students gathered outside to sleep in orange and gray tents on Cross Campus in support of gender-neutral housing at Yale. The sleep-in — officially sponsored by Students for Housing Equality at Yale — comes after Yale officials announced Monday that Yale College juniors and seniors would not have gender-neutral housing options on campus for the 2009-’10 academic year.

Yalies gather on Cross Campus for a “sleep-in” Tuesday night to protest the delay of the University’s decision on gender-neutral housing.
Charlie Croom
Yalies gather on Cross Campus for a “sleep-in” Tuesday night to protest the delay of the University’s decision on gender-neutral housing.

“The sleep-in is meant to protest the type of metaphorical displacement we, and by we I mean the LBGT community and allies, are faced with by this decision,” Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Cooperative co-coordinator Rachel Schiff ’10 said.

At 11:15 p.m. Tuesday night, about 18 students had gathered outside on Cross Campus. They set up orange tents. They made signs out of cardboard boxes that read “Housing Equality” and “The Only Gender Neutral Housing at Yale.” Some sang songs like Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”

Schiff said at the beginning of the night that she expected 10 people to sleep outdoors and about 50 to show up throughout the night.

Harmain Khan ’11, who was planning to sleep outside, said he was nervous about the cold.

“But that’s part of the protest,” said Khan, who was bundled in six layers, including long johns, sweatpants and multiple pairs of socks.

Shapiro said she sent out information about how to keep warm and be safe in the cold to those considering attending.

Eli Bildner ’10, co-coordinator for the hiking and recreation group Yale Outdoors, said some students intending to take part in the sleep-in approached Yale Outdoors to see if they could borrow gear. Since Yale Outdoors is not a politically affiliated group, Bildner said Yale Outdoors told them they would rent the gear if the students became members of Yale Outdoors. As a result, Bildner said, many became members.

“It’s definitely not a perfectly safe thing to do,” Bildner said, in reference to sleeping in the sub-freezing temperatures.

The announcement that gender-neutral housing will not be available for the 2009-’10 academic year, which came from Yale College Dean Mary Miller and Council of Masters Chair Judith Krauss, said a task force will be formed to look into similar policies at other universities and to study issues surrounding a gender-neutral housing program.

LGBT Co-op co-coordinator Yoshi Shapiro ’11 said the sleep-in was meant to draw attention to the cause.

“You can articulate that you are angry all you want,” she said. “But nobody will really care that you are angry unless you get their attention first.”

Students will be on Cross Campus on Wednesday with posters, handing out flyers and educational materials about gender-neutral housing.

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