Yale just can’t trust straight students. It’s the only plausible explanation for the recent decision to keep gender-neutral housing on hold.
One of the most frequently cited reasons to avoid gender-neutral housing is the possibility that mixed-gender couples will shack up. I leave aside the concerns of long-graduated alumni that this kind of arrangement might allow students to have sexual relations, or, worse, signify Yale’s approval of undergraduate sex. Those alumni haven’t seen the writing on the wall (or in this case, the condoms in the entryway). The real problem Yale wants to head off isn’t sex, it’s the cessation of sex. Yale just doesn’t think it can handle the repercussions of a couple cohabiting, breaking up and having to deal with still living in the same suite for the rest of the year.
But Yale, often dubbed the “gay Ivy,” is presumably already dealing with this issue. There are significant numbers of gay or bisexual students on campus (estimates range from one in eight to one in four undergraduates). These students have already been thrown headlong into the maelstrom of hormones, break-ups and room draw from which Yale is desperately trying to save straight students.
Yale doesn’t keep tabs on students’ sexual orientations, so college deans are clearly unable to check up on students to make sure that same-sex couples are not rooming in the same suites. That leaves two possibilities. Either Yale has a rapid-response team kept on constant alert to deal with the fallout of fallings-out between cohabiting couples or, by some miracle, the issues that inevitably arise are adequately dealt with by the existing counseling structure at Yale, in the same way that any kind of intra-suite problem is addressed.
So if Yale thinks the same solution won’t work for heterosexual couples, one must marvel at how destructive these couples potentially are to the Yale community. Their cohabitation poses such a threat that Yale believes it outweighs the dominant use of gender-neutral housing: the chance for students to live with their closest friends on campus, no matter their gender. Heterosexual couples’ fights are so pernicious that Yale is willing to ignore its own antidiscrimination policy, which states “Yale does not discriminate … on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.” Clearly, if we could only weaponize the apocalyptic power of mixed-gender fights, we could retire our nuclear arsenal.
What other explanation is there? That Yale is operating on heteronormative principles that are radically out of touch with reality? That Yale is really unaware that there are over 400 Yale students who openly identify as queer on Facebook? That this problem of cohabitating couples is not new, nor is it intractable? That, for some students, gender-neutral housing is not simply a matter of convenience or romance, but a necessary step to make Yale feel like a home for queer or transgendered students who are just as uncomfortable in their current situation as all students would be if, as some have mischaracterized the gender-neutral policy, Yale forced all students to live in mixed housing?
Nope. Clearly straight students just can’t be trusted to act like grown-ups, the way Yale expects queer students to behave. So I’ll be making sure to run at the first sight of a cohabiting couple, since Yale wouldn’t steer me wrong. What else am I to believe? That the dangers of gender-neutral housing have been radically exaggerated and that every year of delay hurts another class of transgender and queer students? Now you’re talking crazy.
Leah Anthony Libresco is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College.