News’ View: Implement gender-neutral housing

Yale administrators missed an opportunity to improve housing options when they tabled this week a proposal to allow gender-neutral housing. We hope the policy will be ultimately accepted later this year or next, and in place for the 2010-’11 school year.

Students have already voiced their support: 76 percent of respondents to a News poll last week said they hoped to see gender-neutral housing, and 60 percent said they would consider living in a gender-neutral suite. Those interested will value the new option, and those who eventually take advantage of it will find benefit in its application.

More passionate arguments have been made by and on behalf of a subset of the Yale community: LGBTQ students, for whom gender-neutral housing is more than a passing interest.

Some lesbian and gay students have advanced gender-neutral housing as a means to end currently unavoidable living situations that cause discomfort. And some students have argued on behalf of transgendered peers, who may find automatic assignments to living with students of one gender unfair and problematic. (No current undergraduates, it should be noted, are openly transgendered.)

Those worried about the implications of gender-neutral housing should remember that many of Yale’s residential spaces are already gender-neutral — including, in most colleges, bathrooms. Of course, many of the Yalies who live off-campus also live with people of both genders, largely without conflict. And the examples of Yale’s peer schools are important to recognize, too. None of the five Ivy League schools that have adopted gender-neutral housing have reverted to earlier housing policies.

So we support an option, implemented as simply as by checking one of two boxes — same-gender or gender-neutral — on housing forms, to allow students to live on campus with students of either gender. It is important to allow students the option to remain in single-gender suites, and similarly important to allow those who need it the option to live in gender-neutral suites.

At Yale, where the residential colleges present unique challenges to all housing issues, we must suggest a limitation on gender-neutral housing. Though it may distress strong supporters of the policy, we propose limiting the widespread availability of gender-neutral housing to juniors and seniors because of the practical realities of Yale’s residential options.

The nature of freshman and sophomore housing, on campus and in specially designated suites (for many, in relatively small buildings on Old Campus), means that allowing all students the option to live in gender-neutral suites may make successful room assignments within colleges impossible. Recognizing the importance of allowing certain students to live in gender-neutral spaces, we believe residential college deans and masters should allow gender-neutral housing to freshmen and sophomores on a individual basis, limiting it to those who strongly feel they need it.

Gender-neutral housing should come to Yale — or, really, to residential college suites, since it is already here in other contexts. It should not, and need not, make any student uncomfortable, as some are today. Nor need it negatively affect the residential colleges if implemented properly.


  • Recent Alum

    It is in times of deep economic troubles that we can most easily separate individuals and institutions between those who have meaningful priorities and those who have silly priorities. With this editorial, the YDN clearly falls into the later category.

  • TD '11

    I disagree with the YDN's decision to note that there are no openly trans students at Yale. "(No current undergraduates, it should be noted, are openly transgendered.)" For all they know, there could be. A trans student does not have to come out to the entire student body, and as student, it is reasonable to assume that there are trans students on this campus, some of whom are not out and some of whom are out to a select number of individuals. No one should be required to wear a neon sign branding them as "the trans student."

    Furthermore, that statement implies that in order to the trans argument for gender-neutral housing to be valid, trans students must exist at Yale. Over the years, the Co-op has been in touch with various prospective students who identified as trans. From what I know, almost all of these students opted to go to another school that did have gender-neutral housing. By not providing this housing option, Yale is actively discouraging trans students from attending by not providing them an open and welcoming environment where the basic necessity of housing is comfortable for them. The lack of gender-neutral housing creates a cycle where no openly trans students come to Yale, so people believe there are no trans students at Yale and do not feel the need to make the campus welcoming for them, which brings us back to why no out trans students come to Yale.

    Whether we have openly trans undergrads should not be an issue here. Gender identity is in Yale's non-discrimination statement. Trans students should feel welcome to attend.

  • Other Recent Alum

    Yo #1: As others have pointed out on the news threads, this is an easy way to improve student life that DOESN'T COST ANYTHING. And while I'm sure the editorial board has plenty of bank-nationalization and national-healthcare plans up its sleeve, this topic seems somewhat more applicable specifically to Yale, whose housing policy is surprisingly regressive and embarrassing.

  • Current Undergrad

    Way to go, #s 2 and 3. And also, thank you YDN - while I am with #2 that your statement that no openly trans students are currently in attendance seems both unfounded and extraneous, it's a very nice and well-argued piece.

    #1: I feel like #3 made the most important points, but I'd like to add to that a version of what someone else wrote to a recent alum (maybe even you!) on another comment board: In times of deep economic troubles, what is an alum who doesn't seem to care about gender neutral housing one way or the other doing writing on a comment board about an issue that will never effect him or her?

  • sophomores??

    The YDN's position that this policy should be limited to juniors and seniors makes absolutely no sense, and the YDN offers no serious argument for it.

    There are is a clear line in housing at Yale between freshman housing, which is assigned, and housing for the remaining three years, which is chosen. That would have been a reasonable place to draw the line in this case, holding that gender-neutral housing is something to which students should opt in, so that at the very least (given American culture at the present time) no frosh should arrive at Yale and be unexpectedly assigned to room with a student of a different gender.

    However, there is no earthly reason to deny SOPHOMORES the opportunity to live with whom they want. In fact, it is especially cruel to draw the line here, since sophomores are not allowed to move off campus as juniors and seniors are.

    The YDN should offer a rationale for the strange insistence on blocking sophomores from exercising freedom of choice in their roommates -- or should change its position.

    To my mind, as a onetime YDN staffer, this aspect of the editorial smacks of one of those annoying, unprincipled compromises that gets in there to placate somebody on the YDN board who is against gender-neutral housing in the first place. It's simply not a coherent position.

  • TD '11

    To #5:

    I'd just like to explain what I'm believe was the reasoning behind the YDN's limitation of gender-neutral housing to juniors and seniors.

    The gender-neutral housing policy that was recommended by the Ad Hoc Committee was to apply only to juniors and seniors, so the YDN's position was undoubtably influenced by this. The reasons for the Committee's limited recommendation were probably related to the fact that, since juniors and seniors can already live with other genders off-campus, adding that option on campus would be less drastic and controversial than adding it for sophomores, therefore it makes the policy easier to pass. Yale also likes to pretend to parent underclassmen, hence the distinction between sophomores and juniors/seniors. Furthermore, apparently sophomore housing configurations in some colleges are harder to arrange than others, which could present problems until the details of gender-neutral housing are worked out.

    Though obviously I too hope that sophomores (and maybe freshman) will someday get gender-neutral housing, I just wanted to explain the YDN's reasoning and show that they did not come up with the junior/senior only part of the policy themselves.

  • Slow down

    Think of that person in your college class who, as a freshman, was socially awkward, disruptive, and possibly a little crazy. Now, imagine them having requested gender neutral housing for that year. Would it have helped them? Would it have helped the people around them? And what if the people who had said "yes" to the arrangement initially (by checking a box on a form?) realized only too late that they meant to say "yes" to a very different sort of person?

  • Ha!

    Overblown rhetoric from #3.

    While I have no position on GNH, to call Yale's housing policy "regressive" is to deny its historical context (co-ed dorms and floors WAY before other colleges) as well as its staying power. Of the thousands of US colleges, how many, do you think, have the level of housing freedom that Yale does?

  • Stiles '11

    I don't know if you can call the RC system "Housing Freedom." If Yale's housing were truly progressive, they'd stop the "Colleges are equal rhetoric," do a Quality of Life study and adjust housing rates accordingly. There is no reason that us Stilesians should be paying as much as students in Berkeley, Pierson, Silliman…screw it, all the other colleges. We currently have incredibly limited facilities, and while our rooms may be bigger, they suffer from mediocre maintenance and bitter rodents. Until the renovation, Yale should cut Stiles housing cost.

    Is it any surprise to the administration that between 20-25 Stiles freshman attempted to transfer this year, and currently 50% of seniors and 25% of Juniors live off-campus?

    Other schools charge different rates for housing…adopt this policy here.

  • Anonymous

    No. 9, i understand it's frustrating that there are discrepancies between the colleges in terms of facilities and suites. But your policy wouldn't work. If certain colleges cost less (and you couldn't just cut the cost of Stiles, you'd have to implement a gradated scale across the board for fairness), the result would be unjust -- why should certain students (or their parents) have to pay a higher bill due to a random assignment?

    And guys, wouldn't it be AWESOME if yale was the first college to put in place a truly sweeping, progressive housing policy? i'd love to be that proud of my school.

  • pity from a non-Stiles alum


    I feel bad for you. It is too bad your college is in such bad shape (if indeed it is as bad as you say). But the solution is for Yale to upgrade facilities at Morse & Stiles -- or offer additional amenities of some kind to the students there. There are all kinds of possibilities, not all of them terribly expensive for Yale.

    That's a better way to go than creating housing cost differentials that would undermine the whole random-college-assignment system and create a system of wealth-sorting, with the best and most expensive college slots going to those with the richest parents.

    Differential pricing and random assignment are in too much tension for your proposal to work. So: better facilities or amenities for Stiles, please!

  • ?!

    @ #7: I don't understand how this is relevant… Gender neutral housing should be implemented to fairly accommodate students who want and need to live in mixed sex suites for any number of reasons… how does it matter if someone in a mixed sex suite is an awkward lunatic? Is that inherently more difficult than if they were in a same sex suite? If freshmen could live in mixed sex suites (which your comment implies), are they at any greater risk of having a difficult roommate? I fail to see how gender neutral housing exacerbates the situation.

  • Anonymous

    Is it just me, or could a reason for not going gender neutral be attempting to avoid couples living together in dorms? It could work out great, but then what happens if they decide to break up halfway through the semester? This would be a HUGE strain on any dean and any other room mates who would be caught in the cross fire.

  • Joe

    I wanted to send my kids to Yale, but after seeing forced gender integration,
    many perverted news articles and the crime statistics, I wouldn't touch the place with a 10 foor pole.