I consider a few things when choosing a suitemate. Although I try to room with individuals I already know and like, as I imagine many of us do, I also imagine that you, as I, have found that a good friend does not always make a good suitemate. Good friends may like to meet up occasionally for Thai food. Conversely, they may not like to smell the Thai takeout container you lost in the common room and still might microwave later — to each his or her own, right? Good friends may marvel at the fact that you only need four hours of sleep to function, but might not care to listen to you and your fellow night owls “going gorilla” all night and desperately wondering, in their sleep-deprived state, what on earth is Margiela?
I live with some of my closest friends at Yale. Our suite is composed of two men and three women, including myself. I don’t mind living with men. Many of my closest friends are men, and to be frank, I’d rather room with all men in most cases than with all women. (Fellow women, even if you don’t agree with me, I’m sure you know what I’m saying.) I know many Yalies whose closest friend groups include variously gendered individuals, and I think it’s unfortunate when rules on gender prevent people from living with their closest friends as many of us have the chance to do.
Still, there are a host of arguments I’ve heard against expanding gender-neutral housing to underclassmen, and some of them I can understand. I can imagine, for example, having a friend who moves in sophomore year with the boyfriend she’s convinced is her soul mate but slowly slips away into a dark abyss of empty beer cans, X-Box and sexual innuendos, never to be seen again. There are surely many scenarios we could imagine as potentially nightmarish outcomes of the expansion of gender-neutral housing.
Ideally, gender-neutral housing could be available for all non-freshmen, and individuals would simply make wise and healthy decisions. Although I remain confident that countless underclassmen at Yale are more than mature enough to select appropriate suitemates without gender constraints, the ease with which I’ve found many upperclassmen (myself included) can look back and label their sophomore selves as blatantly insane makes me hesitant to support the extension of gender-neutral housing to all non-freshmen — at least not yet.
Although much of the focus on gender neutral housing at Yale has been on expanding it, what I find most interesting is the small number of people I know who partake in it. My suite is the only gender-neutral suite in Calhoun College this academic year, and to my knowledge, there are only six gender-neutral suites university-wide. Before, or at least in addition to, expanding gender-neutral housing, I think it is important to investigate why gender-neutral suites remain few and far between. It is plausible, for example, that those wanting to participate in on-campus gender-neutral housing have found the inability to do so problematic enough to make them move off campus before their senior years. In this case, the restriction of gender-neutral housing to the senior class may be stunting the potential to form the close residential bonds Yale so avidly seeks to foster.
We must also raise the question of whether restricting the choices for housing to those of one’s own gender prevents us from making awful housing choices anyway (as I’m sure many sophomores past and present could attest it does not). For me, the ability to live in a gender-neutral suite has led to only positive outcomes, and I imagine the same would be true for most Yalies who would be similarly inclined.
Still, it seems obvious that many important questions concerning the nature of the suitemate-picking process have yet to be answered. I believe that we must better understand what Yalies consider when choosing suitemates in any expansion of gender-neutral housing.
Sable Worthy is a senior in Calhoun College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.