BLACKMON: When home isn’t single-sex

It only took me a few months to find my home at Yale. As much as I appreciated the convenience of living literally next door to the laundry room in the basement of Farnam Hall (you can blame me for a few missing red crates), I found myself gravitating to a suite two floors up with six girls and six guys.

I say “suite” — singular — because though the University wouldn’t consider us a suite, our informal housing arrangement has become a home. By leaving the door open between our pair of sextets, we have created a single family for a number of Farnamites, regardless of gender. We study here. We relax here. We gossip here. This is home.

But when a mixed-gender group of us wanted to share a suite as sophomores, we hit a wall. Though Yale offers gender-neutral housing for both juniors and seniors, the University has so far refused to allow men and women to room together during their sophomore year.

It is time that this misguided, outdated policy ended.

Continuing to divide Yalies with artificial barriers like gender is counterproductive to the sense of community we seek to foster on campus and is an affront to students who feel just as, if not more, comfortable living with members of another sex.

After all, during freshman year, Yale goes to great lengths to ensure we can open ourselves up to find a solid and diverse group of friends, and for that, I’m grateful. Why, then, does Yale reverse its spirit of openness by mandating single-gender housing sophomore year?

Council of Masters Chair Jonathan Holloway has a clunky answer for that one. “There are a whole host of cognitive and social abilities sophomores are still forming, and I think many are not quite ready for the interesting complications that may arise from gender-neutral housing,” he told the News (“YCC works to bring sophomores mixed-gender housing,” Feb. 14).

But does Holloway seriously believe Yalies undergo a revolution in maturity between their sophomore and junior years? And if Holloway’s prevailing logic is that sophomores cannot handle living in close proximity to potential sexual partners, then he flatly ignores the scores of LGBTQ students on campus (I hear there are one or two) who already struggle with the “interesting complications” of single-sex housing.

LGBTQ students have lived with people of a gender to which they are attracted since Yale’s founding, and most have not been deeply traumatized by it. Surely straight students are mature enough to make decisions about housing in the same way LGBTQ students have for as long as Yale has existed.

Gender-neutral housing allows students to make adult decisions based on factors that make sense to them. For some, that choice might include living with members of a gender to which they’re not attracted. For others, it might mean living with people who like the same video games or have the same sleep schedule.

For the vast majority of students, a switch to gender-neutral housing would change nothing. Most men will continue to room with men, and women with women, as is the case with most juniors and seniors. But, for a select few, this new freedom will allow them to plan more natural rooming assignments and foster a more robust community at home.

When approached with the possibility of extending a gender-neutral option to sophomores, Yale administrators repeatedly ask for “time.” But how many more years of this antiquated policy must we live through before we bow to reality and join Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown and the University of Pennsylvania?

A stubborn administration has already denied my class the opportunity to create the more natural communities that gender-neutral housing allows. We should refuse to let it happen again.

Tyler Blackmon is a freshman in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact him at tyler.blackmon@yale.edu .

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