Cohabitation already exists in principle. Everyone knows someone who lives, or might as well live, in the suite of a member of the opposite sex. Some students share bathrooms with the other gender. Ezra Stiles has six singles in a suite that can be made co-ed. In Morse, suites of eight or 10 students can be co-ed. While cohabitation is already going on right in front of most students’ eyes, the Alliance for Sensible College Housing at Yale wants to eliminate the clause that forbids it from the Yale Undergraduate Regulations manual.
The Alliance for Sensible College Housing at Yale, or ASCHY — a group started by Yale College Council President Andrew Allison ’04 and Cyd Cipolla ’04 — had its first meeting last night, kicking off a campaign for cohabitation. During the meeting, Cipolla outlined an intensive plan, which will culminate with a presentation to the Yale College housing council on Feb. 24.
Allison and Cipolla said the current policy is heteronormative and discriminates against queer students.
“The policy only stops people from living with friends, not people who are dating from living together,” Cipolla said.
Beginning Feb. 10, ASCHY will go to residential college dining halls and other major mealtime traffic routes for two days, asking students to sign the organization’s petition. On Feb. 14, ASCHY will release a study ranking the residential colleges by their cohabitation policies. As a symbolic publicity stunt, ASCHY members will try to get students to transfer into the top-ranked residential college before the Feb. 21 deadline.
Allison said he has not been able to get the Council of Masters to consider the proposal. He said the residential college masters have shown little interest in changing the current housing policy.
Yale College Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said she was not an advocate of cohabitation.
“Personally speaking, it is not a proposal that makes me shout with joy,” Trachtenberg said. “It’s not something I’d support right off the bat.”
Trachtenberg said she consulted with colleagues at other schools that had implemented co-ed housing.
“There have been problems with sexual harassment, problems with sexual assault, and problems with how students change their minds between when they choose their own housing and [when they begin] living with them,” she said. “Problems compounded by difference in gender.”
Allison said he also talked to administrators in schools that permit cohabitation. But Allison said he received mostly positive feedback.
Trachtenberg said she believes there is pressure on students to say they agree with the idea of cohabitation.
“[People have] more problems with sharing bathrooms than they would publicly allow,” she said.
Trachtenberg said an official, Yale-supported cohabitation policy may strongly offend some student groups.
“The long and short of it is, in the end, I don’t like it,” Trachtenberg said.
Allison said ASCHY will not stop if rebuffed at the Feb. 24 meeting. As a last resort, ASCHY members said they will start the 13th college Yale has considered for 34 years — ASCHY and cohabitation supporters will camp out on Cross Campus until their demands are met.