Undergraduates can choose to live in mixed-gender bedrooms in addition to mixed-gender suites effective this upcoming housing draw, according to a college-wide email from Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarribar on Wednesday.
The announcement came after the Yale College Council LGBTQ Task Force submitted a report to the administration last year advocating for the availability of mixed gender suites and rooms. Proponents of the change said it marks as a step forward in making Yale a more accommodating place for students of all gender and sexual identities.
Max Goldberg ’17, an Office of LGBTQ Resources Spectrum Fellows Program Coordinator who also spearheaded the YCC task force, said he was pleased with the announcement, adding that student advocacy has played a central role in bringing about the change.
“This was a long time coming,” Goldberg told the News shortly after the announcement. “I don’t think the administration would have taken these concerns as seriously or would have put as much of a boost behind them if it hadn’t been for the great student activism that happened last year. That was really a galvanizing experience for us, and I feel like this change happened because students cared about it and because students made their voices heard.”
Both Goldberg and Maria Trumpler, the director of the University’s Office of LGBTQ Resources, said the previous restriction on mixed-gender rooming put some students who identify as gay, lesbian or nonbinary in difficult situations.
Current YCC Vice President Christopher Bowman ’18 echoed those sentiments.
“On a more important symbolic level, the pre-existing arrangement for mixed-gender rooming imposed an antiquated heteronormativity on undergraduate housing,” he said. “The policy implied that Yale feared any sort of romantic attraction between males and females in the same room while simultaneously denying that that could happen between individuals of the same gender.”
Bowman said that the YCC has been advocating for coed housing for freshmen alongside its advocacy for mixed gender rooming, but added that the latter took priority this year because coed housing for freshmen has stood “on little to no solid ground.” He added that every Ivy League school except Columbia and Yale offers mixed gender housing to students of all years.
Trumpler said the change is an important acknowledgement that straight men and women can be roommates without a sexual component.
Students interviewed welcomed the change.
Bianca Li ’19, who currently lives in a coed suite, said she was unsure of the reasoning behind the restrictions on mixed gender rooming, but speculated that it may have been rooted in heteronormative norms.
Li added that one of the largest obstacles her suite faced was deciding who among the two male and two female students would room in the double if they were assigned one.
Lauren Lee ’20, a transgender student, dispelled the concerns that the new policy might encourage “immoral behaviors.”
“It’s really a matter of friends getting to live with friends,” Lee said. “In the world outside of college, people of different genders room together all the time, and to assume that there can be no healthy forms of cohabitation with the other gender beyond being in a romantic relationship strikes me as dangerous.”
Since the housing system for freshmen operates on a single-gender basis, Li questioned where a transgender freshman fits in.
Lee said she wished she had the option for coed suites when coming to Yale.
“I do think that freshmen should be able to enjoy the same privilege as upperclassmen now do in having mixed-gender suites,” Lee said. “The housing committee does a generally good job in matching students, but especially when so many other factors can cause uncertainty when first arriving, having this small option of comfort goes a long way.”
Bowman, meanwhile, pointed out that housing is complicated as is, and it makes “no sense” to throw unnecessary barriers in students’ way.