Underclassmen navigate mixed-gender restrictions

Yale was the last Ivy League school to implement a gender-neutral housing option. After numerous panel discussions and committee meetings, the University approved gender-neutral housing in February 2010.
Yale was the last Ivy League school to implement a gender-neutral housing option. After numerous panel discussions and committee meetings, the University approved gender-neutral housing in February 2010. Photo by Joseph Breen.

While administrators have not yet decided whether to extend mixed-gender housing privileges to juniors, some underclassmen have still found ways to live with the opposite sex within the current system.

Seniors were first permitted to live with members of the opposite sex in the 2010-’11 school year, and administrators are currently reviewing a Yale College Council proposal that would give the option to juniors as well. But some underclassmen have created unofficial mixed-gender suites by opening fire doors between suites or sharing communal spaces. Marichal Gentry, dean of student affairs, said although current undergraduate housing regulations prohibit juniors from living in mixed-gender suites, residential college deans ultimately designate room assignments, adding that administrators cannot control where students spend their time after rooms are assigned.

“There’s no way for us to tell who is living with who,” Gentry said, adding that he supports the extension of mixed-gender housing to juniors.

Brendan Harrington ’13, a Berkeley junior who called his suite mixed-gender, said the arrangement arose because the vacant octet could not be filled entirely with one gender. Harrington said he, five other males and two females asked Berkeley College Dean Mia Genoni if the group could fill the octet. The dean agreed, and the octet was converted into a male sextet and a female double, which has doors to both the common room of the sextet and the hallway, he said.

Genoni did not respond to requests for comment.

Berkeley Master Marvin Chun said in an email that the junior suite is designed as a “flexible configuration,” such that it can either be an octet or a sextet and a double, depending on the housing needs of a particular year.

Harrington, who said he considers the two girls “suitemates,” said the living arrangement has been “fantastic” so far.

“It takes a certain type of person to be okay living with the opposite gender, and I understand why people wouldn’t be comfortable with it,” he said, “but we are all very comfortable with one another.”

In Morse College, junior Jennifer Friedmann ’13 technically has a single, but lives with a group of mixed-gender seniors in seven stand-alone singles on the eleventh floor of the Morse tower — in what she called a “conveniently gender-neutral suite.”

Because most of her former suitemates were going abroad in the fall, Friedmann said, she found a group of six seniors with whom she could enter the housing draw, two of whom are male. She said she thinks her case shows a compelling reason to extend mixed-gender housing to juniors, because her predicament almost led her to move off campus.

“It’s not fair given the four year housing promise that Yale gives to all of its undergraduates that juniors are forced to live off campus because they want to live with people they’re not allowed to,” she said.

The YCC proposal is awaiting consideration by the Yale Corporation, which cited a need for more time to analyze experiences of mixed-gender seniors when it considered extending the option to juniors last spring. Yale College Dean Mary Miller said residential college deans have reported only positive experiences with senior mixed-gender suites.

“I think gender-neutral housing has by and large been a success,” Miller said.

There are currently 29 seniors living in mixed-gender suites.

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