After Princeton, Yale is last Ivy without gender-neutral housing

With Princeton’s decision last week to offer gender-neutral housing in the next academic year, Yale becomes the only remaining Ivy League school with no on-campus gender-neutral housing option.

The University officers’ postponement last March of a final decision on gender-neutral housing is still in effect. Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry and Yale Associate Dean for Physical Resources and Planning John Meeske, as well as the Yale College Council, are still gathering information on what a possible program would look like. Administrators said they would use this information to make a conclusive decision by the spring.

Harvard, Stanford, Brown, Penn, Cornell, Dartmouth and now Princeton all offer gender-neutral housing in some form. Columbia has no policy on gender-neutral housing, but the school’s dormitory situation allows mixed-gender suites because of the configuration of its singles.

Meeske said he is not worried that Yale would lag behind on this issue, adding that, because of Yale’s residential college system in which all colleges are treated equally, it would be impossible to create a pilot program on a small scale.

Gentry agreed, adding that differing from other Ivy Leagues’ policies will not tarnish Yale’s reputation because the residential college system, although it complicates implementation of gender-neutral housing, offers other benefits.

Gentry said he and Meeske were asked to study the housing issue further after the March decision from Yale administrators. Their report, due by the end of the semester, will go to Yale College Dean Mary Miller before review from the officers of the University. University President Richard Levin agreed in an interview Monday that there will be an affirmative or negative decision by spring.

Gentry and Meeske agreed, however, that a gender-neutral housing option would work at Yale. Meeske added that while studying the issue over summer, he found no examples of schools that had regretted their decision to create an alternate housing option.

“My recommendation is still the same — that we adopt gender-neutral housing,” Meeske added. “What [school officials] told us was that, ‘We did it, and nobody blinked an eye.’ ”

But when the decision was postponed last spring, Miller raised several complicating factors that make implementation of the policy at Yale particularly difficult. For example, housing for rising juniors is often sparse, forcing many groups of students to regroup quickly when they do not get an ideal suite configuration. Miller said in March she feared that students who would prefer a single-gender suite might be pushed into mixed gender housing. She said Tuesday that she has no further comment until she sees the report prepared by Gentry and Meeske.

Still, Yale College Council President Jon Wu ’11 agreed that a gender-neutral housing option is long overdue at Yale. A YCC project group is currently working to develop a report, which includes the opinions of students and residential college masters and deans, to submit to Levin.

“We think it fits within the current framework,” Wu said. “We want this to definitely be in place for the next housing cycle.”

Wu added that, according to YCC recommendations, though students would be able to choose whether they lived in gender-neutral housing, no student left over in the housing draw would be forced to live with a member of a sex with whom they were uncomfortable.

“You give your preferences, but you don’t necessarily get what you want,” he said. “There’s always the option of living off campus.”

Wu said YCC’s gender-neutral housing committee is the student government’s largest group.

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