I love my roommate. He gave me the back room of our walk-through double this year. He always dispenses good advice. He taught me to appreciate opera. He even tolerates my off-pitch singing.
Unfortunately, each year a few students are told they cannot live with their ideal roommates, those people with whom they relate best and feel most comfortable. Why? Because they’re not of the same sex, and Yale prohibits co-ed housing. This policy is unreasonable, and the administration should change it.
Co-ed housing is not the project of a couple of radical schools. Columbia, Wesleyan, Swarthmore, Amherst and Haverford already allow students of different sexes to live together. Similar co-ed housing movements are underway at Tufts and NYU. Students and administrators at colleges across the country are beginning to realize that current restrictions on cohabitation just don’t make sense.
For the past few months, I’ve conducted some informal research on student sentiment towards co-ed housing. When asked their opinion, most students’ first response is “co-ed housing? Don’t we already have that?” When I explain that I’m not talking about residential colleges but rather cohabitation within suites, their eyes widen. A stream of questions follows the initial surprise.
Do we really want to encourage couples to live together? Won’t that trigger havoc ?
But cohabitation is not the impending catastrophe some portray it as. Rather, it will accommodate those few students who happen to feel more comfortable living with friends of the opposite sex.
The mission of university housing should be to amplify students’ intellectual and emotional growth and to provide them with a comfortable atmosphere in which to experience all that Yale has to offer. For a small number of students, a co-ed option would best fulfill that goal.
Before I go further, I realize I left some earlier questions unanswered.
Do we want to encourage couples to live together? No, of course not. This option would be available to students, but I don’t need to go on about why this is generally a bad idea. Keep in mind, though, that because of our unique housing system, only couples within the same class and college could do this. Moreover, at most schools with cohabitation policies, few of those who take advantage of the policy are romantically involved with each other. Co-ed housing attracts people who want to live with friends of the opposite sex, not couples that want to share a suite. Also, homosexual couples at Yale already have the option to live together, and few, if any, do.
As a check on the system, the University could mandate that students who apply for co-ed suites meet with their college deans to ensure that they are confident in their decision. I emphasize co-ed housing is a voluntary decision. Only sophomores through seniors would be eligible, and because of the prevalence of co-ed bathrooms on campus, nonparticipants would not perceive a difference.
At other schools that permit co-ed housing, fewer than five percent of students reside with the opposite sex. So why bother if so few people participate? Because the minimal difficulty of implementing co-ed housing will be worth the substantial increase in comfort enjoyed by those Yalies that do participate.
Next week, I will introduce a resolution in the Yale College Council to ask the administration to adopt a cohabitation policy. The YCC would like to know what you think of co-ed housing. Please visit YaleStation online and take the Co-Ed Housing Poll, and talk to your YCC representatives.
My roommate is wonderful. It’s a good thing he’s a guy — otherwise, Yale wouldn’t let me live with him. Let’s hope the University changes this policy, so students are allowed to live with the people of their choice.
Andrew Allison is a junior in Timothy Dwight College. He is president of the Yale College Council.