For all the claims about Yale’s “one in four” student body, Yale lags behind its peer institutions in the institutional support it offers to queer students. Katie Trumpler, the first special adviser to the administration on LGBTQ students, was appointed only last year. A concerted lobbying effort by the undergraduate Queer Political Action Committee persuaded the Yale Corporation last semester to amend the University’s nondiscrimination policy to bar discrimination on the basis of “gender identity or expression” — 10 years after the University of Iowa became the first school to do so. And the queer student center is but one room — albeit a welcoming one — in 305 Crown St.
Trans Issues Week, sponsored by the LGBT Student Cooperative, is an opportunity to revive calls for change to another area in which institutional support for queer students lags: housing. The lack of coed campus housing reflects an insensitivity to the personal preferences and comfort of transgender students, gay students and straight students whose closest friends are of the opposite sex. Currently, the University does not officially acknowledge that a gay student could prefer a female roommate to a straight guy, or that a trans student might want to room with students of his or her chosen gender. Coed housing is available at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Wesleyan, Columbia, MIT and elsewhere. Apparently only Elis are not up to the challenge of coed common rooms, though, strangely, we are mature enough for coed bathrooms.
Students raise this issue almost annually, and the News has previously supported gender-neutral housing. Though the administration has historically resisted such lobbying, we firmly believe that the time has come for Yale to reconsider its stance again coed housing. The amendment to the nondiscrimination policy, the appointment of Trumpler — these changes indicate that the administration recognizes the proactive effort needed to create a welcoming, LGBT-friendly campus.
The arguments against coed housing are not new. Students will either be hook up with, or be uncomfortable with, their suitemates. Parents will fret. Administrators will worry if changing the status quo is worth the political and bureaucratic struggle to develop a policy that does not make any student uneasy in his or her campus home.
But the current policy does just that by denying queer students the option that, for many years, they have requested. Rooming arrangements after freshman year are a matter of individual preference. Adding another option to the available choices would help those dissatisfied with single-sex housing and would leave single-sex suites available to those who prefer them.
The need for coed housing has not diminished, and neither should student pressure for it. Trans Issues Week is an opportunity to reflect about how Yale could make itself a more welcoming community. Offering coed housing is one logical — and overdue — step. The status quo does not serve the needs of all those on campus, and we challenge students to advocate for a change that could make some of our peers feel more welcome.