Marin: A question of comfort

We can agree that Yale should be a safe and comfortable place for its students. Yale has opened her doors to women, racial minorities, those with disabilities and the LGBT community. While, of course, the University must keep working to make these groups feel comfortable here, by and large, it has already accomplished a lot. Today, we have many more applications from women than men, we have a sizeable population of racial minorities, and as Sophia Shapiro ’11 remarked in her column yesterday, “Let’s Make a Change,” we are known as “The Gay Ivy.”

Gender-neutral housing is not the next step in this narrative of integration. Instead, it threatens to reverse integration by further isolating those of traditional social habits.

Already, many accepted students turn Yale down because, compared to many colleges and much of the country, the social scene is filled with scandalous and libertine behavior. Some cannot even imagine being comfortable here, so they choose colleges such as Notre Dame over Yale. Those who choose to come to Yale are, from their very first day, confronted with bags of condoms hanging by the doors of college entryways and an isolating culture.

Students who don’t enjoy drinking, dark and loud parties — in crowded dorms or at Toad’s — or the hook-up culture, quickly realize that making friendships with those who do can be difficult. Friends who party together bond over long nights of partying and awkward experiences. Students who choose to stay in can feel their party-going friends becoming closer and closer while they are left out. Those that aren’t disgusted enough by the party scene at Yale to avoid it resort to tagging along and being the lone sober person, and are often the ones who drag their drunk friends home and clean up their mess. For these students, Yale is an uncomfortable place.

Implementing gender-neutral housing will aggravate this situation. I disagree with Shapiro’s claim that “gender-neutral housing will probably never be so widespread that a majority of suites are coed.” When deciding whom to live with, what reason would one have to turn down friends of the opposite gender? Those who do give reasons are likely to seem prudish and behind the times. Even students who wouldn’t actively seek suitemates of the opposite sex — but wouldn’t particularly mind it — will likely end up having them, since they won’t purposefully go out of their way to choose based on sex. In this way, a majority of the campus will eventually be gender-neutral. Yale will effectively be divided into a “progressive” cohort and “prudish” cohort, making those who find it uncomfortable to live with the opposite gender feel even more different and isolated from the community.

Yale suffers when students are uncomfortable on campus; dorms should not be made gender-neutral.

There was a time when Yale was admonished and called backwards for not implementing speech codes. Back then, they were the new, politically correct things to have, but Yale resisted. Today, the University is proud to have stood against the tide of politically correct change. Sometimes it is better to be the only Ivy never to implement a bad policy. Such a stance should make us proud.

isabel Marin is a sophomore in Trumbull College.

Comments

  • HDT

    This is ridiculous. First, the description of what it’s like for people who don’t drink is ridiculous. There are plenty of people who don’t drink (including me), and it’s certainly not like that for all of us. I spent most of my freshman weekends sitting in the common room talking, watching movies and laughing with my friends. I didn’t carry anyone home or clean up any vomit. If it’s like that for you, well, you chose to be friends with those people.

    Second, your main argument against implementing GNH is that you’re afraid people will think you’re “prudish”? That in itself is ridiculous–again, you chose suitemates who would judge you for that kind of thing–but you give no evidence that this scenario applies to anyone but you in terms of having friends who would ostracize you just for not wanting to live with people of the opposite sex. Even proponents of GNH don’t actually think it’s weird for people to want a single-sex suite–we just don’t think that preference should be forced on an entire campus as a norm when it’s not. With GNH everyone’s preferences are considered equal: Isabel, you could live with all girls, while another suite could have some girls and some guys.

    As for your statement “Yale suffers when people are uncomfortable on campus”, you yoinked that right from the argument the LGBTQ people have been using for years, but you completely disregard them as you use it. How considerate of you.

    There are some arguments to be made against GNH. This is not one of them. As someone who abstains from alcohol and drugs, I can testify that anyone who says, “Oh I don’t drink, poor me!” is really just looking for things to whine about. And that’s all this is–whining in the hopes that she can whine louder than those who have good reasons for wanting what they want.

  • Alum

    Your argument that Yale’s environment proves “isolationist” is surely based on your personal experiences or what little you’ve witnessed about the people that closely surround you. I doubt it rings true for most people.

    Your argument that Yale is somehow “losing out” on students who would come if Yale didn’t offer *gasp* condoms assumes that Yale wants people like that. I’m sure Yale loses out on prospective students who don’t want to come to New Haven because there are a lot of black and hispanic people. Good riddance to them, and to anybody else who is “uncomfortable” with a culture of acceptance and tolerance.

  • WITCH!

    ISABEL HAS VIOLATED YALE TABOOS! TO THE STAKE!

  • sidelinedprof

    Thank you, Ms. Marin, for daring to be open. The degree to which Ms. Marin is correct about how unaccepting students are of those who are different is reflected in the tone of those who commented. (#1 and #2)

    I would like to add ways in which the campus endorses a particular lifestyle–the first being extremely relevant to the topic under consideration. Why is there no provision for substance free housing? Brown and Princeton and probably other Ivy League schools offer this option. Being comfortable on campus is presumably a concept applicable to all students, regardless of sexual orientation or lifestyle.

  • Y10

    I once had to help a friend deal with the aftermath of an awkward hookup with a suitemate. It wasn’t fun. She then had to live with her again the next year because of the way room draw went.

    Isabel, I imagine that the reason you don’t want to live with men is because of the potential for awkward sexual tension. People get that more than a lot of anti-GNH people realize. The queer students who don’t want to live with people they’re attracted to will understand better than anyone why you don’t want to, because they’ve been forced to be in that situation.

    The detractors’ position that with GNH, most people will immediately start forming co-ed suites except for a few “prudish” people doesn’t seem entirely substantiated to me. This article seems based more on fear of something that might happen rather than careful consideration of what is likely to happen.

  • Y11

    While I don’t agree with the rather self-righteous tone of Ms. Marin’s column, there is a point here that posters like #2 seem to miss entirely. “Tolerance” also includes tolerating people who yes, might be put off by the fact condoms are hung in all the entryways. Instead, many at Yale immediately equate this to social conservatism, and therefore intolerance, which then means that those people “aren’t the kind of people Yale wants anyway.”

    Personally, I don’t believe there are hordes choosing Notre Dame over Yale for this reason. That said, less liberal students are certainly intimidated by Yale exactly because liberals are so intolerant and dismissive of anyone not as fully “progressive,” and therein resides some serious hypocrisy. Does this mean we shouldn’t have gender-neutral housing? No. But for you to poke fun at those for whom such an openly sexual culture is NOT the norm demonstrates a real lack of self-awareness regarding “tolerance.”

  • T.

    I applaud you, Ms. Marin. You have made a great argument against one of the most disturbing issues I myself have had to deal with here at Yale: a lack of social conservatism. I was beginning to believe that I was the only one who felt this way about the Yale social scene. I too was confronted with the ominous bag of condoms, looming over my L-Dub entryway freshman year. They terrified me too, but what’s worse, they flew in the face of everything I had ever been taught. Safe sex is a sin against all things holy. Teen pregnancy is far more spiritually acceptable (though, alas, not here in this bottomless pit of debauchery), and far more in keeping with healthy conservative values.

    On drinking and the “hookup culture”: I completely agree with you. Drinking creates unhealthy social bonds, which only serve to isolate those of us more inclined to stay in on Friday night. As a matter of fact, I myself have seen proof that the party culture (exclusive only to Yale) was created by those whose sole purpose in life was to exclude their socially awkward roommates. I also agree that the biggest reason that those party animals want gender neutral housing is so that they can room with potential drunken hookups (they are incapable of having meaningful, sober relationships) and exclude those of us who, in their vulgar colloquial terms, “can’t get laid.” They misunderstand the fact that WE are the superior beings here, abstaining from these barbaric sexual practices because we are simply above them.

    You mention Notre Dame, your model of conservative perfection. Shockingly, when I researched the night life at Notre Dame, I found a college ranking site giving them a B- as their “night life grade.” Criteria for this grade includes availability of alcohol, coolness of clubs, how late the bars are open. What a shock! Well, if this is what passes for night life criteria, surely Yale gets an A+…oh. We got a B-. This indicates that they have the same amount of drunken debauchery as we do! As a matter of fact, almost all Ivies received high marks in this area. What a waste of America’s youth. College is about getting good grades. In no way are we supposed to expand our social ideals or experiment with new concepts. That would be absurd.

    I’m also glad that you managed to skirt around that pesky little argument about transgender students at Yale needing a safe haven…because after all, it’s not about them! Gender neutral housing would make people like us feel awkward because it would force us to live with men who want to will pour alcohol down our throats in our sleep and take advantage of us sexually. I don’t know about you, but that’s certainly not why I came to college.

    You managed to make all of these scintillating points without in any way making yourself seem like a bitter and sad social leper of your own making-a tricky thing to do with this kind of journalistic rant. Kudos to you. Maybe we can get together sometime and watch The 700 Club?

  • good job

    Great job. You have stood up against the special interest groups that are trying to (and probably have already done so, if my perception of campus is correct) take over campus in their vision. Yes, you will get sneers from these special interests, but you have done something special, standing up for your rights. All the time, I felt oppressed on campus, having to watch my language or actions for fear of retribution by groups like the GLBT. If I dared mention that I felt uncomfortable around gay students, I would be shunned.

    But Isabel brings up the good point that there are many of us who feel marginalized at this school. Yes, diversity is good, but I feel that Yale is becoming less and less diverse. While yes, we have more lower-income kids, and more racial minorities, true diversity, the diversity of opinion, is disappearing. Those with opinions that are not politically correct at Yale (but have views that may represent the view of the majority of the nation or world) are having to now “stay in the closet” with their beliefs because of the special interests. This is not right: Yale is for the free-flow of ideas. These groups are not. They are the problem at Yale, not the people who will not accept the special interest groups.

    Yale is a place of tradition. It is a place that should be proud of its tradition, because much of the time, it is what makes Yale great. It should not bend to the whims of an ever changing society without considering how this will impact the enduring legacy of this fine institution. Honestly, when I am around non-Yalies, or even Yalies, we talk about how in many peoples minds, our institution’s reputation has been tarnished; now it is the gay ivy, the home of flag burners, the home of Schvartz, the location of Annie Lee’s unfortunate death. For once, can Yale be in the news for a positive event?

    Personally, I do enjoy drinking and socializing in that sphere, but have respect for people who do not. I feel that it must be a hard life, however. A previous commenter mentioned substance free housing; I am sorry, but I just don’t think there is a large enough special interest group to get that. For me, though, I think it is a more worthwhile cause: booze and drugs can be a traumatic experience and while you can currently choose to live on a single-sex floor or a mixed-sex floor, there is no “substance-free” floor.

    I have felt uncomfortable at Yale. I would have considered transferring if I were forced to live with a mixed sex room or a gay roommate after freshman year. While I may have chosen to live with one, it is not something that should be forced It is not something that we should be forced into; I still believe you should have the option of choosing to not live with homosexuals on the housing form for freshmen year; we are supposed to feel comfortable here, and for some people, that may make them feel uncomfortable.

    I used to fear free speech was dead at Yale. No longer.

  • agreed

    #6 is right on target. everyone should read it again.

  • 0y8

    Isabel-

    Great column. While I personally don’t really care one way or the other about gender neutral housing, and I did spend significant time at toads during my time at Yale, you make an incredibly important point about cultural intolerance at Yale against more conservative students.

    I have found that conservative people really do shy away from Yale (and, after graduation, people ask you questions like “how did you survive”). People picking Notre Dame (or the Naval Academy, or just a good southern state school– read UVA or UNC)due to perceptions of Yale’s politics is not a myth, but a reality. If Yale really wants to get the best and the brightest, it needs to seek out all of them, but right now makes about 50% of the country (or, lets be honest, more like the intense 20%) feel very uncomfortable.

    Of course this is always the pitfall of political correctness… it only applies for free speech from groups liberals like, not for the other side.

  • ROFLCOPTER

    I know several people who shied away from even /applying/ to Yale because it has a reputation for being incredibly socially liberal.

    I’m sure the liberals love it that way; I do not.

    While I don’t agree with everything Isabel wrote, I think the tone of some of these comments reveals a lot about what is wrong with Yalies today.

  • BR’10

    The problem is limitation. If Mrs. Marin got her way, people would be limited in the choices they could make.

    If those ‘PC’ed liberals’ get their way, it is the expansion of choice.

    If Mrs. Marin can’t handle other kinds of people openly choosing to drink, be homosexual and live in co-ed rooms, then she is correct, Yale is not for her.

  • Alum

    To #6 and others:

    “Progressive” has (for better or worse) become a political term associated with left-wing politics and, therefore something to be opposed by people with “conservative values”. But progressive just means to be in favor of progress, “progress” being a word associated with improving, moving forward, advancing, developing. Having condoms on a door is “progress(ive)” because it helps curb the spread of STDs and unwanted pregnancies. So, yes, forgive me if I think that someone who is offended by something that, regardless of whatever culture wars connotations it has, actually HELPS PEOPLE isn’t a great person to have at Yale, anyway.

    I certainly hope that Yale will continue to be “progressive” and give students the CHOICE (as #12 points out) of living with whoever they want. While I understand the concern of the “couples deciding to live together only to break up later and be stuck with each other” situation, it isn’t Yale’s job to save students from themselves.

    Oh, and can we please drop the “no free speech for conservatives” and “intolerance for the other side” thing? Nobody is claiming that Isabel didn’t have the right to write what she did, or even that she shouldn’t have. Those of us who disagree with her are just explaining why we do. I get that it’s frustrating being a minority on campus, but nobody is trying to muzzle anybody, and claiming otherwise when someone’s ideas are simply challenged is just a lazy response.

  • Y10

    Can you honestly make an argument against gender neutral housing based on “comfort” when we already have coed bathrooms?

  • Branford ’10

    Basically the author states that she is opposed to gender neutral housing because she feels that her choice to remain in a single-gender suite would be an unpopular one and she would be judged for it. Her solution is to limit everyone’s choices so that they are forced to make the same decision she would make.

    There are people who want to live with suitemates of only their own gender and there are others who would like the opportunity to live with suitemates of either gender. Under gender-neutral housing, both groups of people would be able to form suites that they are comfortable in.

    I seriously doubt that single-gender suites would be so uncommon if we adopted gender neutral housing. But even if that is a less popular option, that doesn’t mean the author’s values should be forced upon everyone else. No matter what, she will still have the option to find a group of girls to live with. Would some people judge her as prudish because of it? I highly doubt it, but I suppose it’s possible. But I’m sure she’s judging everyone who is in favor of mixed-gender suites

  • 0y8

    @#13 alum: “Nobody is claiming that Isabel didn’t have the right to write what she did, or even that she shouldn’t have.”

    Yet many people are claiming that if she espouses the views she has and feels uncomfortable at things she feels uncomfortable with, she doesn’t belong at Yale… that seems worse?

  • ROFLCOPTER

    My parents were appalled that Yale was sponsoring the screening of hardcore pornography on campus.

    My younger sister was applying that year — she got into both Yale and Harvard and went to Harvard instead, largely due to that incident.

  • a junior

    @ #14: actually, we should never have had gender-neutral bathrooms in the first place. I hope Miss Marin would agree. They are incredibly awkward and uncomfortable, and I would be happy to see the end of them.

  • @Alum, #13

    Doesn’t it seem logical to you that conservatives don’t want progress because they favor tradition? The first line of the Wikipedia article should tell you in clear-cut terms why “progressive” is just as viable an opposite to “conservative” as “liberal.”

    I for one favor progress. In fact, I view progress as the main goal of scholarship, and don’t see how any academic institution of merit could be anything but progressive.

  • BR ’10

    Again – what I’m confused by what the options here are. If ROFLCOPTER’s parents made such a choice, more power to them.

    Yale isn’t for everyone. The one thing that is available here – choice to engage in as many actions as you wish – matters to us.

    If you wish to restrict the choice of others that don’t directly affect you, such as banning pornography screenings that you won’t be going to, you are looking for a different kind of collegiate experience.

    I am proud that I go to a university that allows its students to engage in a wide array of actions that don’t harm others without repurcussions.

    The choice here is between creating an environment where Mrs. Marin is comfortable, which by definition entails restriction, or letting individuals choose their associations and activities, which by definition, entails choice.

    I prefer the choice option.

  • Alum

    What he (BR ’10) said.

  • Bonnie Green

    What Br ’10 and others fail to see (or are simply extremely happy about and don’t care about diversity) is how a policy of “everyone is free to choose” is not a neutral moral policy.

    In fact, this is not Yale’s policy at all. Yale prefers safety and health over students freedom to play bladderball, take 10 classes a semester, wear blackface, etc. Another example is how Yale decides freshmen suites should not be segregated by race (which is a social construct unlike gender – although if gender starts being considered as simply a moral construct then freshmen will also be forced to live in suites with members of the opposite sex).

    Yale’s policies express specific moral claims and can never be neutral. If Yale wants to allow diversity to flourish on campus then Yale’s moral claims must be neutral enough to accommodate a diverse student body.

    If Yale allows gender-neutral housing, this is expressing the moral sentiment that freedom to choose is more highly valued here than safety or what many traditional families and religious communities (Islam, Christianity, Judaism) would consider appropriate moral behavior. Basically, it is not the neutral policy that is friendly to all points of view as many liberals would make it out to be.

    Of course we can argue about which moral sentiment is more correct. But, we at least must acknowledge that Yale will be making a moral claim by choosing whether or not to allow gender-neutral housing. It seems as if those whose moral sentiments urge them to choose gender-neutral housing already have a pretty safe space at Yale, but those whose moral sentiments make them balk at the idea are being pushed away.

    If Yale wants to remain diverse, the moral sentiments she expresses in policy shouldn’t lean too far left or too far to the right and risk alienating either side.

    @BR ’10: The author of this column is not married, therefore you should refer to her as “Miss Marin.” If you are ever unsure about a woman’s marital status, or simply wish to be politically correct, you should use “Ms.”

  • Point of Order

    @22: You confuse sex and gender. Gender is in fact defined as a social construct (i.e., do you behave in a way that society judges to be ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’), whereas sex (are you anatomically male or female) is not.

    You are right in assessing this policy decision as a moral decision. To think, however, that there is such a broad difference in saying “you can only room with people born with the same color of skin” and “you can only room with people born with the same set of chromosomes” is wrong.

    I welcome people who prefer more “traditional” social behavior to Yale. To disallow the ability to choose different gendered or sexed suitemates because it makes someone else uncomfortable, however, is imposing a backwards and outdated belief on me.

    I’m sorry, but if you can’t deal with the fact that there are condoms around campus, I don’t want you here. Please, feel free to disagree with them. Argue about their presence. Feel uncomfortable. But just because you are uncomfortable and, forgive me, ignorant, does not mean we should change policies that make good sense just to make you comfortable. Likewise, Yale must make a moral choice about whether it is right or wrong to disallow homosexuals to room with people of the opposite sex, or transsexuals to live with people of the gender they identify with, or black people from living with white people if they so choose, or a homogenous group of all white women to live together. Choice, when not posing a direct to someone else, is always the best option.

  • HDT

    @23- Gender identity being a social construct was a popular theory in the 70′s, but research since then indicates that humans have an innate sense of gender identity. Yes, on rare occasions it doesn’t match up with sex for reasons we don’t understand yet, but there’s more to it than just how you choose to behave or how your parents raised you to think of yourself. The tragic case of David Reimer is particularly compelling on this subject. Gender roles are certainly a social construct, but gender identity is innate. And perhaps that is what you meant, but in discussions like this, it is particularly important to distinguish between the two.

    I do agree with you, though, that gender-neutral housing is the most egalitarian form of housing available to us, particularly since transgender people are treated in our society as though they are what their sex organs indicate rather than who they actually are, which is unfortunate. And that is only one reason out of many.