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.


  • jonah

    having the option to room with someone of the opposite gender seems like a no-brainer to me. most people will still room with same-gender people, so nothing huge will change. and the few who want to (i.e. because their best friends are of the opposite gender) would be able to. i don't foresee this causing any problems. if anything, it will improve the viability and vibrancy of the residential colleges because then less students would have incentives to move off-campus.

  • yale11

    i agree on the surface it seems like an easy decision, but i think the problem of implementation. juniors are often forced during the draw to recombine suites, break up suites, be annexed. this could create potentially huge problems between same-sex suites and mixed-suites. Or maybe someone feels comfortable with one person of the opposite sex, but not someone they would potentially have to add to the room. I don't think Yale is being evil in continuing the study. They are, after all, not definitely saying no in any way.

  • Anonymous

    …and if you get sick because of this are you all of a sudden going to decide to hold Yale accountable?

  • Rachel Schiff

    @ Yale 11 We are definitely not protesting the idea that there are logistical concerns. There are clearly issues with implementation. Our concern is why, when this policy proposal was put on the University's desk over a year ago, there wasn't adequate investigation of those concerns. The University's "procrastination" reflects the low priority LGBT students have on the administration's to do list.

    @3 - Um, Clearly.

  • "study"?

    It's not entirely clear to me what more there is to "study" at this point. The current policy of disallowing some rooming combinations on the basis of sex is unfair, and sexist.

    If Yale really wants to "study" this issue, then it should create something to study: it should have gender-neural housing as a trial run in three or four colleges, and then we all will see if any scary bad nightmare scenarios actually come to pass.