No kinks reported so far for mixed-gender housing

Jon Wu ’11, Nava Rafati ’11 and Brian Douglass ’11 share a mixed-gender suite in Saybrook College.
Jon Wu ’11, Nava Rafati ’11 and Brian Douglass ’11 share a mixed-gender suite in Saybrook College. Photo by Murphy Temple.

One month into the pilot program, Yale’s experiment with mixed-gender housing seems to be as proponents predicted: not that big a deal.

Associate Dean for Student Organizations and Physical Planning John Meeske said administrators will discuss the living option — which allows seniors to live together on-campus, regardless of gender — throughout the year, but there has not yet been an official review. Students and administrators agreed that, one month into the program, it is too soon to know if there are significant kinks in the new mixed-gender housing system, which 37 students, in 10 suites across eight of the residential colleges, opted to try.

“I’m assuming it’s working just fine,” Meeske said. “To be honest, I haven’t heard a word about it since it was implemented.”

It hadn’t always looked so clear-cut. When members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Cooperative and the Yale College Council began lobbying for a mixed-gender housing option in 2007, some students and administrators said it might force people into uncomfortable living situations. A committee of administrators recommended a pilot program to begin in 2009-’10, but the Dean’s Office delayed a decision until last spring, sparking a “sleep-in” on Cross Campus and other protests.

But despite its controversial introduction, the program has gone smoothly so far. Meeske said members of the Yale College Dean’s Office will be in contact with residential college deans, who administer housing within their colleges, regarding any problems with mixed-gender housing, though no thorough time-table for reviewing the program has been set.

Yale College Dean Mary Miller declined to comment on the new living arrangements because the program is too young.

The final decision to create the program was made during a meeting between Yale University President Richard Levin and the Yale Corporation last spring. In the initial announcement, Miller said a committee of masters and deans would report to the Dean’s Office, Council of Masters, and University Officers regarding the program in January of next year.

Though it is still early in the semester, students living in mixed-gender suites said they are enjoying the new configurations and do not expect problems to arise. They agreed that they chose to live in the new configurations because it lets them live with the people to whom they feel close.

John Ela ’11, a Berkeley senior who lives in a sextet with five male students and one female student, said choosing the new rooming option was a spur-of-the-moment decision, but it is one that has turned out well.

“It’s not like it’s a big deal,” Ela said. “I don’t think there’s much difference between living on a floor with somebody and living in a suite with somebody.”

Seniors are allowed to live in the same suite, though not in the same room, as students of the opposite gender, so for now, students of opposite gender share no more than a common room.

One of the mixed-gender housing program’s strongest campaigner is experiencing first-hand the result of his advocacy; former YCC President Jon Wu ’11 said there have been “no problems” in his mixed-gender triple so far this year.

“I never expected to live in a gender-neutral suite when I was advocating for the program,” he said, adding that the suite feels similar to single-gender suite. “You’re just living with other students of the same age.”

Current Yale College Council President Jeff Gordon ’12 said he hopes the ease with which Yale has adopted the program for seniors will mean it can be made available to juniors as well. He said the YCC plans to research the state of mixed-gender housing towards the end of the semester, and will be lobbying to expand the program for the housing cycle in the spring.

“Once you establish the program, you’re expressing that it’s necessary,” Gordon said, adding that the YCC will compile a report for administrators that details mixed-gender housing’s initial successes and failures.

Though Gordon said he believes sophomores, who are not allowed to live off-campus, should also eventually be included in the gender-neutral housing program, the YCC will first focus on extending the option to juniors this year.

Yale was the last Ivy League school to enact some form of on-campus gender-neutral housing.

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