After soliciting student feedback over the past year, the Yale College Council is calling on the University to improve campus resources and policies for LGBTQ students.
After releasing a report recommending new LGBTQ-related policies to high-ranking administrators on Sunday, the YCC published its findings to the student body in a 28-page report Monday night. The report recommends that Yale focuses on improving three main areas: LGBTQ resources — many of which stem from the Office of LGBTQ Resources — gender-neutral housing and identity competence. The report says that while the turn of the century brought some significant changes to campus, Yale has recently fallen behind peer institutions in implementing and updating policies that LGBTQ students need in order to flourish on a college campus.
“Yale prides itself in being a leader, a trailblazer, in higher education, not just in academia but also in student life, and this is one of those chances,” YCC President Joe English ’17 said. “In the past we’ve had the reputation of being a ‘gay ivy,’ but that was due to student efforts and almost nothing with administrative support. I hope in the coming years we’re able to match student support with administrative support.”
Max Goldberg ’17, one of the authors of the report and leader of the YCC’s LGBTQ Resources Task Force, said one of the report’s main focuses was on identity issues, such as pronoun use for those who do not follow the traditional gender binary. While the Office of LGBTQ Resources provides a number of services to queer and transgender students, including pronoun notification to faculty members and staff, these services are not listed on the office’s official website. The University also does not provide teaching faculty with training on personal pronouns.
Yale College currently provides sophomores, juniors and seniors the option of living in gender-neutral housing. However, the policy only applies when students are forming suites, as undergraduates do not have the option of choosing a roommate of the opposite sex. Goldberg said allowing students to live in the same room as someone of the opposite sex would solve logistical rooming difficulties and increase the number of possible suite combinations.
“There’s compelling peer institution research that shows gender-neutral housing does not lead to any issues at all,” Goldberg said. “Brown for example, has a fully gender-neutral rooming policy and since its three-year history, they haven’t had a single report, complaint, let alone an actual incident happening.”
Other recommendations include extending Yale College’s current policy to include freshmen in gender-neutral housing arrangements. Gender-neutral housing is already available to all undergraduates at fellow Ivy League institutions like the University of Pennsylvania, Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell and some houses at Harvard, according to the report.
The report includes information compiled from a survey administered by the YCC last fall to gauge student sentiment on LGBTQ issues and solicit policy recommendations. In the survey, students reported being frustrated by the lack of resources available to the LGBTQ community, adding that the Office of LGBTQ Resources should be better integrated with the rest of campus. The Office of LGBTQ Resources is located in an annex dorm behind Payne Whitney Gymnasium. Of 1,457 undergraduates surveyed, only 32 percent of LGBTQ students said they had been to the office and only 44 percent of those approved of its location. In addition, 74 percent of all respondents and 85 percent of LGBTQ respondents believe the office should be funded at a level comparable to the cultural centers on a per-student basis, according to the report.
“The result of our peer institution research was rather simply that Yale has a lot of catching up to do,” said Adam Michalowski ’19, another author of the report. “We are the only Ivy League university other than Columbia without an LGBTQ student center, our funding of student groups is far behind schools like Penn and we simply lack a lot of administrative infrastructure with regard to resources for LGBTQ student groups.”
Michalowski said having no fixed gathering place for LGBTQ students impedes community development and limits the work student organizations can do. The major obstacle to the creation of a student center is securing a suitable space, he added, and the most important next step in doing so is gaining administrative support.
The report also notes that the absence of these resources has implications even before students come to Yale. In last year’s Yale undergraduate admissions application, there was no option for students to indicate LGBTQ status. Goldberg said the inability for LGBTQ applicants to specify their identity preferences could deter them from matriculating. He added that prospective students may choose to attend other institutions because they feel they are not allowed to be who they are here. While Yale currently does not provide an option for applicants to identify LGBTQ status, peer institutions like MIT and Dartmouth allow students to describe their gender identity on their college application.
“It’s interesting to think Yale is the ‘gay ivy,’ but it’s emphatically not the ‘queer ivy,’” Goldberg said. “This is the place where they accept the part of the LGBTQ community that doesn’t stray far from the social norm.”
Yale College approved gender-neutral housing for seniors in 2010.