Letter: A question of equality

I was interested and challenged by Isabel Marin’s column raising concerns about gender-neutral housing (“A question of comfort,” Oct. 20). I’m sure these concerns are well-intentioned and carefully considered, but I feel her reasoning was troubling at best, or fallacious and myopic at worst.

Marin begins by positing, “We can agree that Yale should be a safe and comfortable place for its students.” The vast majority of those with whom I discussed this article do agree with her. I do not. Safety is a universal right and one that we should enjoy. But the idea that everyone should be “comfortable” is not one with which I can so readily accede. This unfounded sanctification of comfort is the false premise that makes Marin’s conclusion so specious.

Discomfort is one of Yale’s greatest gifts. It is uncomfortable to confront the reasons behind our faiths and values. But without at least some discomfort, we won’t create understanding.

Marin describes students who feel alienated from friends with different belief systems or who enjoy different activities to argue the need for comfort. She is correct. But the underlying principle is that friendship is exclusionary. The people we hold dear are separate from the people we greet in the dining halls. It is this separation between friend and acquaintance that answers Marin’s question, “How do you turn down an opposite-gendered friend without seeming prudish?” You do so the same way you turn down friends of the same gender during suitemate-picking season — with a kind heart and understanding that there are different levels of friendship.

Lastly, Marin draws a comparison between gender-neutral housing and other “new, politically correct things,” insinuating that gender-neutral housing is an attempt of its proponents to keep Yale ahead of its time. This unjustly presumes that equality can come with a timeline. There is no “right time” or acceptable cultural climate for gender-neutral housing. There is only equality and inequality. It is time for Yale to choose.

Kyle Skinner

Oct. 21

The writer is a junior in Saybrook College.


  • rbk

    Isn’t gender neutral housing meant to make people more comfortable?

    Should you only be friends with those who agree with you on everything?

  • MJG

    A universal right to safety? Really? Next thing you know, someone will be claiming a universal right to health care…oh wait…

  • sidelinedprof

    I sincerely hope the YDN will publish (or actually reprint in full) the following thoughtful and articulate letter, which appeared in a Princeton University publication, addressing the existence on campuses of students who could use support for being different (ideologically and socially).

    (this version significantly edited)

    Confronting the Hook-Up Culture
    by Robert P. George and John B. Londregan
    March 17, 2009
    Culture influences conduct. Students want to be—and want to appear to be—normal. So it is hardly surprising that many will be swayed by whatever happens to be regarded as the norm. Our students are bright, enthusiastic, and eager to learn. Most did not come to college bent on boozing and hooking up. Many feel deeply ambivalent about these aspects of campus life. Yet, they find little support on campus for the “alternative lifestyle” of living by traditional moral virtues. How hospitable are colleges and universities to these students? What can be done?
    Most universities have established non-academic centers of various kinds that provide educational, social, and counseling support. We have the Women’s Center, the International Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Center, and the Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding, representing the University’s effort to meet what are perceived as the needs of certain segments of our student body.
    Conspicuously absent, however, are centers or programs offering meaningful support for students who desire to live chastely. This is not fair to students who see things differently. Nor is it fair to students, especially women, who experience pressure to make themselves sexually available as the price of being treated as normal and feeling accepted. Some universities, including Princeton, have student-run societies for students who oppose the hook up culture and wish to support each other in resisting it. The emergence of these societies is encouraging, but they are only part of the solution. Students are strapped for time and don’t have the experience or professional skills to provide the level of guidance and support that their peers need when it comes to important questions of sexuality and morality. Universities know this—that’s why at Princeton, for example, in addition to the student gay Pride Alliance, the Queer Graduate Caucus, LGBT Task Force, and the LGBT Staff and Faculty Group, there is the University’s LGBT Center, with a full-time paid University staff member committed to LGBT support and activities. For the same reasons, there needs to be university support for students who want to live and conduct their relationships according to their own consciences in the face of the hook-up culture.


    Well, there goes the major argument for GNH. If comfort is not a right, then the gay and transsexual yalies can just deal w/ feeling a little out of place.

    Works for me.


    There’s a gigantic and obvious difference between a person being uncomfortable because they disagree with the choices people around them are making (even if those choices affect them in negligible ways, or not at all) and someone being uncomfortable because they are not being provided with choices that could improve their personal physical and emotional well-being.

    By definition, it’s impossible to create a campus (or a society) in which everybody is comfortable with what everybody else is doing. And, even if one could create such a world, I don’t think anybody would want to. However, Yale should feel a responsibility to dispel that second kind of discomfort, and to promote ways in which people’s lives may be improved.

  • TD ’10

    You had me until the end. There are perfectly valid reasons for non-gender-neutral housing that have nothing to do with equality.


    Ah, so the real question is what we should do to accommodate “True Comfort”.

    Spoken like a True Yalie (as opposed to undesirables like Ms. Marin)


    Yup, that’s about right.