With a 48-hour petition marathon this week, the leaders of the newly formed Alliance for Sensible College Housing at Yale will continue their nascent and Sisyphian push toward co-ed rooming in residential college suites. The group, the cause, even the acronym — everything about ASCHY, pronounced “Ask why?,” is intuitive, but common sense and the administration’s initial response show this will be an unnecessarily protracted and uphill campaign.
Administrators will furrow brows. Students will table tent dining halls to rally support. Parents, alumni and members of the Yale community will object on countless grounds to the relatively benign proposal. It will be sent to committee.
Meanwhile, cohabitation — the sterile-sounding name for a practice many fear will be quite the opposite — already exists in some form at Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia, Swarthmore, Haverford, Brandeis, Oberlin and Wesleyan, among other colleges and universities. And it already exists in some form at Yale: couples who want to live together do, and for everyone else, cohabitation requires little more than the clipping of male and female rooming groups during housing draw and the strategic deactivation of a fire door or two.
Alliance founders Andrew Allison ’04, president of the Yale College Council, and Cyd Cipolla ’04, a YCC representative, propose institutionalizing the practice by making cohabitation formally available by application to residential college rooming committees. They anticipate 5 percent of students will actually take advantage of the option.
Those who oppose cohabitation argue it will wreak moral and practical havoc on an already chaotic situation. Some fear it would encourage roommate dating — not implicitly bad on its own but complicated when relationships end and students want to move out. Others say Yale is just not ready for co-ed common rooms or that the prospect of living in on-campus suites with members of the opposite sex will drive away prospective freshman. Perhaps Yale’s current policy is puritanical, they say, but at least it is uncontroversial. And if only 5 percent of the population would take advantage of co-ed housing, why bother?
Because cohabitation is voluntary. For that small percentage of students, rooming with members of the opposite sex might make living in the colleges pleasant, comfortable or fun when it otherwise would not be. For everyone else, it is inoffensive and irrelevant. If the prohibitive concern is messy breakups, consider that Yale’s homosexual population has always been free to live with significant others and by and large has chosen not to. If the prohibitive concern is proximity alone, consider that we already have co-ed bathrooms, where students are exposed to more intimate contact than they would probably see in a common room.
The Alliance has mercifully abandoned its original plans for co-ed tents on Beinecke Plaza and a variety of other administration-agitating theatrics. We encourage students to sign the petition circulating this week: if not for yourself, then because it won’t affect you at all and will help others. We ask administrators to acknowledge what already exists, and actually work to facilitate comfortable living situations. Until then, students will be left to continue manipulating the system via the fire marshal and go on cohabiting unofficially and unnoticed.