While juniors interviewed largely supported the new policy allowing them to live in mixed-gender suites next year, most said they would not take advantage of it.
Twenty of 22 rising seniors interviewed Monday said they were not considering living in a mixed-gender suite next year. Still, a majority of students interviewed said they were happy that a pilot program for gender-neutral housing — which Yale College Dean Mary Miller and Council of Masters Chair Jonathan Holloway announced in an e-mail to students Sunday — will be adopted.
Dean of Physical Resources and Planning John Meeske, who Miller asked to evaluate the current housing policy at Yale with a task force this year, said opening up gender-neutral housing to seniors is an important step forward and believes the new program will not be problematic next year.
“I think it’s a pretty simple system,” he said, adding that mixed-gender housing groups will navigate the housing draw, in which there is always a possibility that students will not get their first choice configuration, in the same way that single-sex groups do. “That’s really just identical to the way it works now.”
But Holloway said that the administration was worried about logistics when first approaching the possibility of adopting a gender-neutral housing program last year. The Council of Masters endorsed a mixed-gender scheme that included seniors and juniors last February, but Miller and then-Council of Masters Chair Judith Krauss announced in March 2009 that the administration would postpone a decision until further studies could be done to address these logistical concerns; Meeske and Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry were appointed to a task force to review gender-neutral housing policies at peer institutions, for example.
Holloway noted that Yale students have already faced some gender-neutral living situations even before this policy.
“We have the ironic position of already having gender neutral bathrooms,” Holloway said in an interview Sunday evening, adding that administrators took the maturity of students into account when making this decision. “It was always a question of both philosophy and pragmatics.”
Of the 22 juniors interviewed for this article, none were opposed to the new program, though only two students said they were considering living with the opposite gender next year.
“I’m considering it because a lot my friends are girls,” Endre Hudy ’11 said.
Students agreed that the change would not affect too many people. Yoshi Shapiro ’11, former Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Cooperative coordinator, said that while it is an important change for a certain group of people, namely sexual minorities uncomfortable living with a certain gender, she believes the Yale community will look back on the decision and wonder why this was “such a big deal.”
“It’s just going to sort of pass with a whisper,” she said. “But it will mean the world to those who are most closely affected.”
Of the 22 juniors interviewed, six said that they did not have an opinion or did not care about the mixed-gender housing decision.
Baobao Zhang contributed reporting.