I’m not surprised. The Yale administration, while well intentioned, works on a different timeline than we students do. Our four years spent at Yale as undergraduates go by in a flash. When we say we want a change, we need that change to happen immediately for us to see its benefits. Administrators, however, must view Yale through a different lens. For them Yale is a long-term or permanent home, and even a 10-year timeline for progress is a reasonable goal.
That is why I am not surprised that the Yale administration has pushed back its decision regarding gender-neutral housing for at least another year. Knowing the timeline of a Yale student, it seems impossible that anyone could need more than a year to conduct the research necessary to arrive at a consensus on the housing decision. After all, I needed only two weeks to research and write about the cause of the entire Civil War. But assessing the progress of the administration based on a student timeline is unfair. The longer the timeline, the longer a person will feel he or she needs to conduct research to make a sound decision.
So perhaps the administration really does need more time to arrive at an educated decision. Or perhaps the administration is simply dragging its feet.
Either way, the most important thing I learned in my year working closely with the Yale administration as treasurer of the YCC is that when we students want to see a change happen on our own timeline, we have to take action ourselves. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again: Direct action from students is the key to fast change at Yale.
At the end of the last academic year, I began a project to work on developing and purchasing a flatscreen LCD panel to be installed in the Commons Rotunda or the Thain Family Cafe. The project, spurred on by a small group of us students on last year’s YCC, was well on its way to completion by the time we left for summer. I returned to campus this year to find that the project had been passed off into the hands of Yale’s administration. Only recently, a full six months later, has the screen finally been installed. Administrative action takes a long time.
If students work hard and take the initiative, we can make change happen quickly. By channeling students’ own creativity and desires, the Student Development Directive I set up last year proved this point. The directive was able to transition from the initial idea of creating a DVD library to seeing that idea become a reality in under two months. Rather than asking for a DVD library and waiting for the results, we worked with the Bass Library directly, used student money and bought our own DVD library.
I was passionate about the Student Development Directive. Now I urge those students passionate about gender-neutral housing to operate within the system to fix the situation as much as they can.
Obviously, creating a physical installation is different from changing administrative policy, but gender-neutral housing doesn’t need to be entirely an administrative policy: It has aspects that we can change ourselves.
Spend more time in the suites of the people you’d like to live with, regardless of gender. Strategize about the housing draw with the people in your college to try to create a layout in which as many people as possible live near people with whom they’re comfortable. Essentially, make gender-neutral housing as much of a reality as you can by yourself.
Gender-neutral housing is, in fact, a perfect example of a policy change that can be enacted in large part by students.
We should all continue to organize sleep outs, sign petitions and write logical arguments to try to sway the administration. These actions are important, since institutional change should be an ultimate goal and will only occur, albeit slowly, if we continue to voice our concerns.
But while we wait for the administration to accept the housing change (and I believe they will one day), we should work to improve the system ourselves.
Harrison Marks is a junior in Timothy Dwight College.