Univ. nears coed housing decision

When Gabe Murchison, a transgender high school senior from Sherborn, Mass., began openly identifying as male two years ago, he said it was a test to see who his real friends were. But during his transition from high school to Yale, he said, he wants to avoid the same social stigma.

So when he began thinking about visiting for Bulldog Days, he e-mailed the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, which agreed to allow him to stay with a suite of males in April.

But until University President Richard Levin makes a decision about mixed-gender housing, Murchison’s housing configuration when he arrives as a freshman in the fall is still up in the air.

Murchison’s Bulldog Days arrangement does not mean that a mixed-gender housing policy is imminent: Administrators said last year that they would decide by this spring whether to allow coed suites. A taskforce is currently gathering information on policies at other universities, Yale College Dean Mary Miller said, adding that she will meet with Levin about the issue soon. Maria Trumpler, director of the Office of LGBTQ Resources, said the transgender student’s Bulldog Days housing arrangement does not signify a campuswide policy change.

Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry and Dean of Freshman Affairs Raymond Ou deferred to Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel, who declined to comment.

“I’ve asked Deans Gentry and Meeske to acquire further comparative data from peer institutions this week,” Miller said Thursday. The final decision on mixed-gender housing will be Levin’s, Gentry said, and a conclusive decision is expected this spring.

Murchison said that while rooming with women does not make him personally uncomfortable, he does not want to be perceived as unusual.

“If people knew I was living in a women’s suite,” he said, “they would treat me differently.”

But though he does not know whether he will be able to live with males next year, Murchison said he did not apply to college anywhere else after getting into Yale.

“It was a little reckless to go ahead and accept admission without figuring this out,” Murchison said. “I don’t want to say that I’d try to get permission to live off campus. I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Trumpler, who is also a lecturer in the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, said she does not believe that allowing Murchison to live with males during Bulldog Days necessarily means administrators are planning to implement mixed-gender housing collegewide. She added that Yale has always supported and cooperated with transgender students to determine their living situation, whether on or off campus. She said while transgender Yalies have generally chosen to live off-campus in the past, mixed-gender housing will give students who want to remain on campus the option of living with members of the opposite sex, without having to declare their particular sexuality or situation. But she added that not all transgender students have necessarily wanted to live with the opposite sex.

“The nice thing is that if we have mixed-gender housing, you don’t have to ask that question,” Trumpler said.

After convening a committee to study mixed-gender housing in the fall of 2008, Miller and Silliman College Master Judith Krauss (then the head of the Council of Masters) announced in March that administrators would postpone a final decision in order to study potential obstacles to implementation.

Former Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Coop co-coordinator Rachel Schiff ’10 said she thinks the administration’s stalling on the mixed-gender housing decision ignores student needs.

“I believe the student body is extraordinarily supportive of mixed-gender housing,” Schiff said. “This isn’t about just transgender students; it’s about a diverse group of students on campus.”

In conjunction with the taskforce, the Yale College Council is also gauging student opinion to inform administrators, Yale College Council President Jon Wu ’11 said. Along with researching mixed-gender housing situations at other Ivy League universities, he said, the YCC has surveyed Saybrook seniors about how their Yale experience might have been affected had they had the option of living in a coed suite. Wu said they chose to study seniors in order to gather opinions from a section of the Yale community without a stake in the eventual decision about mixed-gender housing.

Yale is the only Ivy League school that has not made plans to introduce a mixed-gender housing program. Princeton University was the most recent to announce its decision, designating Spelman Hall, an apartment-style complex for upperclassmen, as gender-neutral last October.

Comments

  • Yale ’11

    Welcome to Yale, Gabe! I’m sure you’ll be a wonderful addition to our campus community. It’s so fun to hear from the YDN about all the awesome students who have been admitted this year who will hopefully (and it sounds like in your case definitely) be attending in the fall. Hopefully we’ll have the housing thing sorted out by the time you get here so that it’s not an issue.

  • Skinner

    “‘If people knew I was living in a women’s suite,’ he said, ‘they would treat me differently.’”

    Well, now the entirety of the Yale community knows that you staying a men’s suite. Contradictory, much?

    I also don’t understand why the YCC would only survey the seniors of one residential college who, as they say, have no stake in the process. Why not a college-wide survey of all classes?

  • Seth Weintraub

    Congrats on Yale, Gabe! We’re looking forward to having you!

  • Yale ’10

    Sad to be peacing out with the imminent arrival of a baller activist. It was awesome of you to speak out! Look forward to meeting you @ Bulldog days.

  • gay11er

    Wow, I’m really surprised that Gabe’s story has become to public. It’s really courageous of him to step up as a face of trans Yalies! I hope this step with Bulldog Days becomes a turning point for Yale and that gender neutral housing finally gets OKed! how can Yale be behind all the other Ivies? transphobia’s NOT why I chose Yale.

  • yale ’12

    Gabe! Welcome to Yale! I hope all this housing stuff is figured out soon. Can’t wait to see you on campus. xo

  • Y11

    Am I missing something? I had assumed the gender neutral policy would apply to upperclassmen and not freshmen. Although in Gabe’s situation, it makes sense, obviously the same exact policy cannot be in place for freshmen as it is for upperclassmen. I don’t think a truly “gender neutral” system could be in place for incoming freshmen, but instead a system that allowed for special cases.

    I also hope people are savvy enough to make good choices in terms of rooming with significant others. Yes, people do that in the real world, we’re “grown ups” etc, but by living on campus, you accept a certain level of supervision and support that most adults do not have, and your breakup becomes the Dean’s problem if you are living together and one person goes a little nuts…

  • @ #7

    You are correct. The GNH policy that has been proposed will only apply to upperclassmen (juniors and seniors). However, in the case of trans students, the university has always and will continue to make exceptions and accommodations for first years and sophomores.

    I think, however, the couples-living-together argument is a bit played out. If you’re a couple and you’re dumb enough to live together, you pay the consequences if you break up. GNH has nothing to do with that.

  • Welcome

    to Yale! And it’s great that you have the courage to speak out.

    One of the things I think people outside Yale often don’t understand is Yale’s suite system. When you have a single in a suite, as a certain number of lucky frosh every year do have, you just are not in nearly as close quarters with your suitemates as you would be with a roommate. This makes integrated, gender-neutral housing a much easier and simpler proposition, frankly, than it would be at a lot of other schools where everybody has roommates.

    That said, if Yale is NOT willing to go all the way to gender-neutral housing that extends to freshmen, I hope we get a policy of gender-neutral housing for sophomores, juniors, and seniors, combined with a policy that any freshman uncomfortable with being stuck in a suite of a particular gender can, at a minimum, get a non-suite single of their own so that they CERTAINLY do not have to move off campus. That would be a reasonable second-best policy in my view, since so many parents are probably still unfortunately afraid of gender-neutral housing for freshmen.

  • yale 2011

    Welcome to Yale, Gabe! I hope the university will implement gender neutral housing by next fall, so that all of Yale’s student feel as comfortable and welcomed on campus as possible. Kudos to you for speaking out and we’ll see you in September!

  • FailBoat

    It is shocking and truly and totally unexepcted that the LGBT activists at Yale would try to move the goalposts.

    Gender neutral housing was supposed to be about upper-classmen having the freedom to choose who they lived with. Will Gabe’s roomates during his freshman year get to choose if he lives with them?

  • Alexandra Stein

    Congrats on Yale, Gabe, and welcome! It will be lovely to have you on campus next year. Also, way to go on speaking up about this. And thanks YDN for a really nice article.

  • ’11

    By now, the administration’s stalling is just ridiculous. There’s an enormous consensus among the student body in favor of students having the option to choose mixed sex suites. Case in point – the facebook group in favor of GNH has 900+ people, and the group opposed has 40. We’re the last ivy league school not to have one. Come on Levin/Miller… stop dragging your heels and worrying about what crusty alumni think. We want this. We’re alienating students by not having this.

  • @Failboat

    Well… what would you do? You can’t neatly fit transsexual people into a sex segregated system. There’s not a tidy way to avoid issues all together, so why not let the student choose what *they* feel is appropriate?

    Trans students call attention to the fact that our housing system is antiquated.

  • @11

    Failboat, (approriate name, huh!)

    So you obviously are sympathetic to men who wouldn’t want a trans roommate (I think that’s transphobic, but I do understand it). But you don’t understand that gender-neutral options would ALWAYS be optional – for freshman, it’s just a good idea to have one dorm or building that is for people who identify as trans, queer or just happy to live in mixed housing. So don’t worry, we’re not going to “impose” trans and gay guys into your perfect little macho dorms.

    Gabe – welcome to Yale, we love you already! I super admire your bravery in putting yourself in the front line as a pre-frosh. Kudos!

  • KK10

    Rock on, Gabe! Keep speaking out and hopefully someday University policy will be as gender-bendy-friendly as we’d like it to be. Welcome to Yale.

  • Welcome, Gabe!

    Gabe, so excited to have you on campus next fall! And hopefully that’s where you’ll be: on campus living in a situation that makes you most comfortable!

  • Alum ’00

    Welcome to Yale, Gabe! Just wanted to join the list of voices welcoming you here.

    When I was at Yale (a decade ago), we were already talking about gender-neutral housing and trying to get the administration to adopt it. It’s now way, way past the time for dithering on this issue. Come on, Yale. You can do it!

  • ROFLCOPTER

    Apparently we’re NOT alienating trans students with our single-sex housing.

  • @11

    You said:
    “Gender neutral housing was supposed to be about upper-classmen having the freedom to choose who they lived with. Will Gabe’s roomates during his freshman year get to choose if he lives with them?”

    Actually, yes. If you’d attended the panel discussion on GNH during TransWeek, you’d have heard that in the case of trans students, the student’s potential roommates are contacted in the summer to make sure that they are okay with the situation.

    And the goal of GNH was not giving upperclassmen choice so much as it was about ending policies that tended to be anti-trans and anti-queer.

  • 2013

    Gabe, I really hope housing works out! It’ll be great to have you on campus next year, and I’m already excited to meet you! It would be glorious if you got to stay on old campus, and I hope Levin decides to take action.
    No matter what happens, Yale will be great and you’ll almost definately love it. Even if, sadly, there is no change that affects Freshmen, your year will still be great, and we can all help make change sure there is change next year.

    Congratulations again! So much respect

  • FYI

    People, there’s been a shift in terminology.

    Gender-neutral implies that you’re willing to be randomly placed with anyone regardless of gender.

    Mixed-gender implies that students are allowed to form suites (in which they choose their suitemates) of both men and women.

    The Yale administration is currently investigating a mixed-gender housing system, not a gender-neutral one. Clearly, this is an effort to assuage fears that people will be forced into uncomfortable rooming situations.

  • twenty-twelve

    i support gender neutral housing

    welcome, gabe!

  • @13

    Ah, the old “my facebook group has more people” argument.

    With evidenced-based reasoning like that, you must be a WGSS major.

  • πῦρ ῤωμαϊκὸν

    Can a Yale student publicly express anything other than support for this enterprise? The very natures of the posts on this article reveal the hollow, self-serving motivations of many LGBT supporters at Yale. They quickly jot down conspicuously animated response like “Gabe, so excited to have you on campus next fall!” to show just how pro GNH the campus is (gee… I don’t think that’s pro-GNH enough. Add some more exclamation points!!!!!) .

    With such an echo chamber for pro GNH, who would want to disagree? These posts appear to be a coordinated effort to make GNH look *really* cool and hip. Who wants to be uncool these days. Even worse, who wants to risk being called bigoted or small-minded by this human botnet? With a potential propaganda machine like this waiting in the wings to bring dissenters in line, is it any wonder that most Yalies keep their mouths shut?

    Well here is at one person, at least, in the opposition. The logic that created GNH will only lead its adherents to demand more changes. If there’s nothing wrong with GNH, why not place Freshmen in mixed suites just to give them a broader view of the world? Perhaps one day, blocking your own suite off for a single sex will be seen as uncool. Social pressure can be quite persuasive, and it’s obvious who’s doing all the pressuring right now. It’s only a matter of time before uncool becomes immoral and bigoted.

  • FailBoat

    I agree with Roman Fire.

  • @πῦρ ῤωμαϊκὸν

    Kevin, you know that slippery slope arguments are not rational. You’re playing off of fear to spread your personal biases. It’s clear from the article that our housing policy is not working for a very vulnerable group of people. To equate that with forcing people to live in mixed sex suites is just not valid. Nobody is proposing that. That wouldn’t be an appropriate policy for a lot of students.

    And… I *wish* there were an LGBT ‘propaganda machine,’ but the reality is that this is a popular policy, and you are in a tiny minority of people who don’t at least think we should have the *option* of mixed sex suites. I would think that, being in a tiny minority of sometimes alienated religious conservatives on campus, you’d have some sympathy for the alienation that trans people have to deal with.

  • @24

    That’s fair i suppose… so here’s better evidence. A YDN poll conducted in march found that 76% of students support a mixed sex housing option, and that 60% would consider taking advantage of it.

    Popular and relevant.

    http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/university-news/2009/03/03/gender-neutral-housing-on-hold/

  • Concerned Stakeholder

    If only I could go back 3 years and refuse to let my child apply to Yale! She nearly disintegrated under the shock of all-night orgies and drunken parties in her suite seven days a week during that first semester. I don’t recall that she was given the option to have a quiet, peaceful, conservative atmosphere in which to live. When she requested a change in living arrangements, the only option was a housing appeal system that a Yale Law Grad couldn’t navigate. Her roommates’ boyfriends had free rein to live in the suite with her. They didn’t need a policy to allow it. There wasn’t one to disallow it. She had to suck it up and deal with it. So tell me, what is the difference? Why shouldn’t students with extremely liberal lifestyles be required to do the same?

    This is not an attempt to judge any student for the lifestyle he or she chooses to live. But shouldn’t a more traditional lifestyle be afforded the same respect? I can only have compassion on the freshmen, and their parents, coming into this proposed environment; a change which from my perspective appears to simply be a way of avoiding the ‘intolerant’ label. What difference does it make what Princeton has done? If Yale truly wants to have a diverse student body, try leaving a few conservative policies in place, like that “antiquated” housing system. If not, admissions might just find their job of attracting those highly sought after, rural, and more conservative applicants a difficult sell. Or do they care anymore?

  • @25

    You see a conspiracy to make homophobia ‘uncool.’ I see a historically tenuous position of arguing why we shouldn’t be more inclusive of marginalized people. If you don’t understand why your peers are more inclined to embrace progressive policies than you are, maybe it will help to consider that a lot of people consider it an objectively good thing to try to understand and help and accommodate people who are often excluded. I hope you don’t want to exclude people from yale who would rather not live in sexually dichotomized space, but when you vocally oppose a mixed sex housing *option*, it kind of sounds like you do.

  • @19

    One person matriculating doesn’t mean that there aren’t others who choose not to apply or matriculate because Yale’s housing policies have fallen behind our peer schools.

    Also, failure to apply/matriculate isn’t the only sign of alienation. Students can be alienated even when they’re living here, because they are underserved by our housing policies.

  • @ “πῦρ ῤωμαϊκὸν”

    “Coordinated effort?” So in your fantasy world, all the people who disagree with you must have gotten together and organized, because we couldn’t possibly all be happy a student like Gabe is showing up at Yale?

    Sorry if this is hard for you to believe, but the overwhelming majority of us at Yale actually want to welcome all students — especially those who haven’t always been so welcome in the past.

    Welcome, Gabe!

  • G.W.F.H.

    Something really creepy is going on with most of these posts.

  • Reginald

    Great point, 25. I’ve often noted how fearful conservatives are to speak up on YDN message boards. All the anonymous posters above you are clearly just in it to score a lot of (anonymous) social points.

  • @#29

    I completely agree with you. As a Yalies who doesn’t drink or find frat parties remotely amusing, Yale dorms can be a very alienating place to live in. I am uncomfortable with walking past a puddle of vomit to get to my room. I am uncomfortable with waking up at 5:00am to someone’s drunken screams down the hallway when I’m resting for a game the next day. I am livid that I have to pay part of the clean-up tab just because some drunken student decided to play with the fire extinguisher in my entryway.

    If Yale is going to reform housing policies, it has to remember that there’s another population of students (propably larger than the LGBT community) who also feel neglected and unwelcomed. Princeton does offer co-ed housing, but it also offers substance-free housing. I’d like to see that implemented.

  • πῦρ ῤωμαϊκὸν

    @ 32: I know the some people were asking Facebook friends to welcome Gabe hours ago. Not that there’s anything wrong with welcoming a student, but let’s not pretend this is a spontaneous outpouring of emotion.

    @30: You see opposing GNH as homophobic? You just proved my point. I make an argument against an option, that in a blindly progessive place like Yale, will evolve into a norm and suddenly I’m homophobic? Unless I embrace your gender spectrum, I’m some sort of bigoted monster? To counter your point, if it’s a good thing to accommodate people who are excluded, would you support more socially conservative policies on campus to make social conservatives feel more at home. I’d venture to guess no. Does that make you a bigot or a hypocrite?

  • Y’11

    If this is truly about making members of the LGBT community comfortable and meeting their needs, why can’t we just implement a system that reviews applications on a case-by-case basis?

    Other colleges offering co-ed housing can afford to set aside a dorm building for that purpose; however, it’s more complicated with the Yale residential college system.

  • @29

    i call bs. if your kid’s suitemates drinking bothers her, she should turn them in. no 21, no alcohol.

  • @#38

    Oh please… as if the masters don’t know that their students are drinking. They don’t get involved unless you end up at DUH every weekend. Not that I blame them; they do have a life after all.

  • try again

    Well, I, for one, didn’t get any facebook message, bat signal, or other sign. I just saw this story at the top of the YDN home page, clicked on the comments, and wanted to add a comment welcoming Gabe!

    But I’m sure there’s a dark conspiracy of tolerance at work somewhere…

  • Old Blue ’73

    @ 29
    “all-night orgies and drunken parties in her suite seven days a week during that first semester.”
    I find that very hard to believe. Not 7 days a week for an entire semester freshman year. Unless, of course, her roommates flunked out at the end of the semester. Freshman counselors and college deans are supposed to help corral excessive behavior of those with new-found freedoms and to mediate life-style differences among involuntary suite mates.

    The only difficult issue with mixed or gender neutral housing should be the freshmen, whose rooms are chosen by administrators. The upperclassmen should be making their own, voluntary decisions about whom to live with. Aren’t the residential room draws run by student committees? Is there a ban on mixed gender suites that is enforced? I had a mixed gender suite in Branford senior year and no one cared. We didn’t have romantic attachments to each other nor did we interfere with our suitemates’ romantic attachments to others. What’s the BFD?

  • ROFLCOPTER

    40 people never show up in a YDN comment thread at one time. Either this is just 2-3 people posting under different aliases or someone did a FWD: LETS CELEBRATE BEING TRANS WITH OTHER TRANS PPL email

  • Farge

    “40 people never show up in a YDN comment thread at one time. Either this is just 2-3 people posting under different aliases or someone did a FWD: LETS CELEBRATE BEING TRANS WITH OTHER TRANS PPL email”

    The villainy!

  • @36

    Our housing system already accommodates socially conservative students. Nobody is forcing you to live in a mixed sex suite. I suspect that single sex suites will remain the norm by and large. I support having a mixed sex housing option, but i personally wouldn’t take advantage of it.

    I never said that opposing GNH is homophobic. I said that you see a conspiracy to make homophobia uncool in the support expressed in this thread. I don’t think opposition to GNH is explicitly homophobic, although i do think for obvious reasons that it’s not very queer-positive (and lets be frank, the tiny minority of students who oppose GNH aren’t a very queer positive bunch – i apologize if i’ve unfairly stereotyped you, and prove me wrong if i have, but opposition to GNH seems pretty insensitive to the needs of queer people). I would clearly articulate that a mixed sex housing option does not impinge upon the housing liberties of people who would prefer to live in a single sex suite. At all. Even a little. If by ‘what about socially conservative students…’ you mean that your ability to live in a single sex suite will be threatened… that’s not true. And if you mean that the idea of other people living in mixed sex suites is so offensive that you can’t handle it, i would say it’s not really your right to say what housing situations other people should have.

  • @ concerned stakeholder

    The university already is respecting conservative students (or students who just don’t want a mixed sex suite) by making sure that a single sex housing option is always available. Housing policy would be incredibly easy to change if we completely disregarded the desire of many students to live in a single sex suite. But nobody is suggesting that because that would create an even bigger problem. The reason why the change in policy is taking so long and has to be careful is because they have to figure out a way to accommodate the possibility of mixed sex suites while otherwise leaving the housing system as it is.

  • Alabaster9

    I’m pretty queer-positive (not that the phrase means much of anything) and I think that Gender Neutral Housing is a bad idea. Most schools don’t have the suite-style living that Yale does.

    Sexual assault is going to increase. Housing drama is going to be through the roof. Students who don’t want to live in a coed environment will be ridiculed as prudes beneath the behemoth which is the faux-progressivism that most Yalies affect with much self-congratulatory zeal.

    Also, you sound like an idiot when you talk about the “tiny minority of students who oppose GNH”. Trans students at Yale are a tiny minority themselves. Appeal to strength of numbers is not “queer-positive” at all.

  • @46

    Polling does support that mixed sex housing has a very broad appeal (see citation above). But I think you’re right if you’re suggesting that a policy shouldn’t have to be popular to be right and justifiable. I’m not sure how you’d justify that housing drama would increase or that people who don’t want to live in mixed sex housing would be ‘ridiculed as prudes,’ or how that’s a legitimate justification for not having a mixed sex housing option.