As a freshman, I would have chosen to live in a mixed gender suite next year, had the option been available to me — as a result of a recent decision from the Yale College Dean’s Office, it won’t be. But it’s not too late to open up that possibility for the class of 2018.
To all those in the administration who put considerable emphasis on Yale’s performance in relation to our peer institutions, I would like to point out that we are behind every other Ivy League university with regard to gender-neutral housing. The only other institution similarly trailing is Harvard — which at least has some gender-neutral housing options open to sophomores, through an ad-hoc process.
Even on our diverse and opinionated campus, student views on gender-neutral housing are fairly cohesive. According to a recent Yale College Council survey, a substantial majority of freshmen and sophomores support the extension of gender-neutral housing to all sophomores. Moreover, 70 percent of upperclassmen living in gender-neutral suites would have chosen that option in their sophomore year had it been offered. Over 90 percent of the upperclassmen asked state that the policy has had a positive impact on their residential experience. This data is accompanied by an explanation of contradictions within the present housing policies. How can one justify preventing students of different genders from sharing common rooms while permitting them to share bathrooms, for example?
Among the philosophical arguments against extending gender-neutral housing to sophomores, I have heard only one brought up repeatedly: the claim that rising sophomores are not mature enough to commit to living in a gender-neutral setting. This is nonsense. No data suggests that rising sophomores act less mature in their housing decisions. On the contrary, 62 percent of upperclassmen living in gender-neutral suites have said they believe sophomores are mature enough to do the same. Only 14 percent believe the opposite is true.
All students should have the right to live with peers of a gender to which they don’t feel sexually attracted. Under the current policy, we deny LGBTQ students an option guaranteed for their heterosexual counterparts: the most basic sense of comfort of living in a desexualized living space. That sense of comfort can also extend beyond individual suites, bettering the sexual climate across campus. Current policy seems to neglect the needs of students who identify as gender queer.
The Yale College Dean’s Office explains that gender-neutral housing could not be implemented for next year’s sophomores because of logistical concerns. If Yale College decides to offer gender-neutral housing to sophomores, all residential colleges will be forced to accommodate a greater number of housing constellations. A task force has been assembled to evaluate the feasibility of such a policy. As of today, students are awaiting the results of this decision.
But it’s important to note that Dean Mary Miller would have been able to implement an ad-hoc gender-neutral housing policy this year without facing logistical obstacles. Under this policy, all rising sophomores would be able to petition for a gender-neutral suite. YCC suggests that the dean or master of the respective college could make the final decision using criteria like maturity, relationships between the requesting students and potential ramifications of a rejection. Clearly, this policy is not ideal. It could create feelings of discomfort for students forced to elaborate on their desire to live in a gender-neutral suite. However, if the alternative is another year without gender-neutral housing for sophomores, then the ad-hoc policy is definitely preferable.
I — along with many others I have spoken to — would have loved to live in a mixed gender suite next year and I deeply regret the administration’s unwillingness to implement an ad-hoc policy for our year. While the past cannot be undone, Dean Miller now has the chance to make the right decision for the class of 2018. The new dean of Yale College will also have to deal with this issue, especially if we students continue pressing for change.
Dean Miller’s commitment to suggest to her successor the implementation of extended gender-neutral housing if it is feasible is not enough. We do not know when and if this suggestion will be fulfilled. Instead, Dean Miller should recommend the implementation of an ad-hoc policy for the next class. Students should be included in crafting the logistics of this approach.
Students should press the Deans Search Advisory Committee to select a successor to Dean Miller who prioritizes gender-neutral housing by mentioning the issue in the YCC’s online form regarding the search. The Freshman Class Council has repeatedly discussed the issue of gender-neutral housing and many members of the Council feel strongly about the extension to sophomores.
I hope the student body as a whole will place pressure on the administration to grant the class of 2018 something my class was denied: The right to live together with students of any gender.
Nils Metter is a freshman in Ezra Stiles College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .