Coed housing approved for seniors

Students in the class of 2011 will have the option of living in mixed-gender suites next year as part of a pilot program, Yale College Dean Mary Miller and Council of Masters Chair Jonathan Holloway said Sunday in an e-mail to the News.

Rising seniors may choose to live in mixed-gender suites but not mixed-gender bedrooms, Miller and Holloway wrote, and no student will be forced to live in a mixed-gender suite. Miller and Holloway discouraged students in romantic relationships from rooming together in this configuration.

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While students who have advocated for gender-neutral housing said they appreciate the move, they said they hope the policy will be extended to sophomores and juniors. But Holloway said he doubted the likelihood of such a wide application.

“I’d be astonished if it were ever opened to sophomores,” Holloway said Sunday night, adding that the program is best-suited to older, more mature seniors.

University President Richard Levin and the Yale Corporation approved the pilot program over the weekend. The Corporation met with administrators and representatives from the Yale College Council to discuss gender-neutral housing options and settled on the seniors-only pilot program after Miller and the YCC presented research done over the last year.

Miller and Holloway said the gender-neutral option will be available to students in the rooming draw set to begin after spring break.

“This new housing policy will be evaluated during its first year; a committee of masters and deans will report to the [Yale College Dean’s Office], Council of Masters, and University Officers in January 2011,” Miller and Holloway wrote.

A proposal that would have allowed a gender-neutral housing option for juniors and seniors in the current academic year was tabled last spring in order to give administrators more time to study the issue, Miller and former Council of Masters Chair Judith Krauss announced in March 2009. Miller asked a committee of administrators to conduct further research about the possible implications of a mixed-gender housing policy, and presented this research to the Corporation this weekend. The complexity of the residential college system and consistent space limitations for juniors in housing draws were topics that needed to be addressed, she said.

But these concerns are no longer an issue, Miller said Sunday night, in light of the seniors-only program that applies across all 12 colleges.

“Any reservations I had in the past are completely dissolved by this proposal,” Miller said. She and Holloway added in the e-mail that the decision came after researching similar programs at peer institutions and consulting with residential college masters and deans, as well as student groups.

Yale College Council President Jon Wu ’11 said that while he hopes and believes the administration will consider a more widely inclusive program, he thinks the current iteration is an important first step. Sophia Shapiro ’11, a former Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Cooperative coordinator, said that while making mixed-gender housing available to sophomores, juniors and seniors is still the goal of housing equality advocates, further work on the issue is “out of students’ hands.”

“We made it very clear what we wanted and why it is important,” she said. “At this point, they’re going to need to see that it works this year.”

But not all students agree. Wu said that it will be the responsibility of both the current council and next year’s council to continue advocating for a broader mixed-gender housing program. Rachel Schiff ’10, former LGBT Co-op coordinator, said Yale Students for Housing Equality, of which she is a director, will remain active on the issue until sophomores and juniors have the option of living in mixed-gender suites.

Former YCC president Rich Tao ’10 said he is pleased that students in the YCC, the Co-op and other campus groups were able to affect change within the University and called the policy “a step in the right direction.” Still, the policy is narrow compared to those in place at peer institutions, Tao said.

“There is evidence that a broader policy could apply at Yale,” Tao said. “This is still a relatively conservative policy. We were also behind the times. How nice would it be if instead of being the last university to adopt something like gender-neutral housing, Yale would be the first.”

Yale is in fact the last Ivy League university to implement some form of gender-neutral housing. Many peer institutions implemented policies on smaller scales, designating one floor of a dormitory as gender-neutral, for instance, to accommodate transgender students. Administrators have said that to preserve equality among the residential colleges, a policy that designates certain residence halls as “gender-neutral” would not be possible at Yale.

Schiff said she is “thankful” to the administration.

“I look forward to further implementation to ensure the safety and comfort of all of our campus.”

But Matthew Gerken ’11, the founder of the “I Oppose Gender-Neutral Housing at Yale” Facebook group, said in an e-mail that the new policy would only lead to more marginalization. He added that he is not convinced by administrators’ claims that gender-neutral housing would not be forced on unwilling students.

“Our voluntary decisions do not take place in a vacuum,” Gerken said. “If gender-neutral housing becomes the norm, single-gender housing will become stigmatized and become the choice of fewer and fewer Yalies. Those with moral or religious objections will be marginalized.”

Alejandro Bustillos ’11, coordinator of the LGBT Co-op, said he expects the pilot program — which he said he sees as an expansion of informal gender-neutral housing already in place in freshman counselors’ suites and in hallways with fire doors — to appeal to straight students and LGBT students alike.

“I look at it this way — finally, I can live with some of my best friends, who are of the opposite gender,” Bustillos said.

Correction: Feb. 27, 2010

An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of Matthew Gerken ’11.


  • ’10

    I don’t really have strong feelings about gender-neutral housing, I suppose that I support it provided that there are sufficient safeguards to prevent the small minority of people who will make shortsighted and immature decisions from adversely impacting everyone else’s quality of life.

    I’m not sure, however, how I feel about this argument that with GNH, students can live with their friends regardless of gender. Right now, I can’t live on campus with many of my friends because we’re all spread out among the residential colleges. Don’t get me wrong, the college system is great, and it definitely offered me a lot of support when I arrived here as a freshman. But however much a microcosm of Yale each college may be, it’s unlikely that most of us will find that our group of close friends coincides perfectly with our own college. For some people, switching colleges is a feasible solution–I’ve seen plenty of people switch so they could live with their core group of friends. But what if that core group is spread out?

    There is, of course, a simple solution to this problem–we move off campus. Our financial aid transfers, and oftentimes we can get rent that’s cheaper than on-campus. Combine this with being freed from the tyranny of the meal plan, and we can have better food for less money. It’s not too onerous for us to move off campus, and I’ve seen plenty of kids who are on hefty financial aid do it.

    The point is that there are some compelling arguments for GNH, but this line about being prevented from living with whoever you want to live with is just as applicable to the residential college system as it is to the current gender segregated housing system. Off campus is a great option for a lot of people, and I encourage 2012ers who want to live with whoever they want to consider it.

  • huh?

    I don’t understand Matthew Gerkin’s objections. Why would it ever be stigmatized to want a single sex suite? Also, why doesn’t he believe that nobody will be forced to live in a mixed sex suite? The administration has been reviewing this for three years, and they would not implement the policy if it were going to force people into mixed sex suites.

    Or is he opposed to other people having the option of a mixed sex suite?

  • C

    YDN, is it possible that there were no dissenting voices on this move? Nobody on campus advocating for more traditional sexual ethics?

    Either Yale has a major problem with ideological diversity, or the YDN struggles to capture the full range of opinion.

  • Also ’10

    @#1 I totally agree. I was really lost freshman year around this time when I realized that all the friends I had made in my semester and a half at Yale were either of the opposite gender or in other colleges. Yale loves to love itself for its residential colleges, but no one really points out the fact that our of an incoming class of 1320, it limits you to about 60 possible suitemates for the next year. Hopefully doubling that number will help some kids like me find housing with people they know and like, but you’re right. The residential colleges play a much larger role in creating undesirable housing situations. And there’s no quick fix for that. Especially sophomore year.

  • Stilesienne

    I’m a little confused as to what is so controversial about this. I live in Ezra Stiles, where we have hallways, not suites. Every year before housing draw, our dean designates which hallways will be for males and which for females (with exactly one hallway allowed to be coed). Since Stiles is almost entirely singles, this doesn’t affect who lives with whom, but it does keep the bathrooms single-sex.

    I thought that the rest of campus followed the same practice, designating entryways and landings such that bathrooms would be single-sex, but I was informed by my friends in Silliman that this isn’t in fact the case, and that when multiple suites share a bathroom, you’re as likely to end up with a suite of the opposite gender sharing your bathroom as one of the same.

    So, let me get this straight. The bathrooms, which I’d think would be the most contentious spaces, are already de facto coed. The bedrooms will remain single-sex. All that will be going coed then, really, are the common rooms.

    Why this should be controversial or upset anyone with conservative sexual mores, I’m unclear.

  • @C

    Did you read the full article? They got a comment from the founder of a FB group opposing the policy, which is as much of a formal opposition that i know of. It’s a pretty popular policy. The news poll last year showed 76% support

  • CC’78

    As an alum who lived in a co-ed suite starting as a sophmore in 1975, I’m not sure what is so controversial. We were among the first co-ed suites at Yale (there was even a small article in a special edition of LIFE magazine about us(in the fall of 1977). I don’t know when that option was eliminated.
    It was a wonderful experience for all of us and we are still friends to this day.
    While I certainly agree that no one should be forced to live in a co-ed arrangement, I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

  • benefits

    This will allow more people to engage to have friends with benefits. There are many advantages to having friends.

  • Tanner

    Is the YDN writting about two different subjects when “reporting” about Co-ed dorms and Gender-Nuetral Housing? If they are is this intentinal? Most colleges have “Co-Ed dorms ussually seperated by floors or wings with common areas for socializing. It seems only the Ivy league schools had shared bathrooms, Seems it is women who want more seperation, after all Smith College still thrives. As for the Gender Nutral the debae on that has not been inclussion its been “I’m special, make allowances for ME.” Look at the article in YDN about the vegan diet this is how Yale reacts to everything go overboard on everything,

  • Hilarity Clinton

    I hope couples do this and hilarity ensues.