In his Friday column “This Man and this Woman,” Cole Aronson ’18 claims to speak for a group of Yalies whose religious beliefs are so conservative that they not only wish to live in a single-gender environment, but cannot even share a college with those living in mixed-gender suites. He supports his argument with the most conservative interpretations of Abrahamic religion in addition to his own observations, which he labels as “social science.”
Yale is not a place where even a majority, let alone a minority, of students may impose their views on others. Students hold a great diversity of beliefs about the proper way to act toward people of other genders and sexes. Given Yale’s culture of pluralism and intellectualism, the Yale community accepts those differences, seeks to learn from them and respects the beliefs of others. For instance, we expect that Yale students would consider it perfectly acceptable that a small group chooses to believe that interactions between cisgender men and women should be limited. Even though the majority of Yale students said that they would consider living in mixed-gender housing if they had the chance, especially conservative students ought to be given a single-gender space to live in accordance with their beliefs.
It follows that the minority Aronson describes already has such a space. By default, every Yale student is placed in a suite populated solely by members of their biological sex. For upperclassmen, living in mixed-gender housing on campus requires painstaking arrangements, despite the fact that according to the YCC fall survey, an overwhelming majority of students have considered it. Freshmen have no choice but to live in same-sex housing, even though nearly a third would prefer not to.
While Yale’s housing policy repeatedly asserts, “No student will be assigned to a mixed-gender suite against his or her will,” students who request mixed-gender housing are frequently assigned to a single-gender suite against their will. In contrast, Yale is already extremely accommodating of students’ religious needs in housing, and regularly provides devout students with arrangements that do not require them to share any living facilities with members of the opposite sex.
Ultimately, the deepest problem with Aronson’s argument is that it generalizes his own experience as a straight, cisgender man to all of Yale, denying the existence of trans and non-heterosexual students. Aronson is arguing that based on his own religious beliefs, the University should systematically exclude students from certain residential colleges.
Aronson is free to believe that the people who live in mixed-gender arrangements do so in “outright impropriety.” We agree that he shouldn’t be forced to share a living space or bathroom with members of the other sex. But if Aronson’s point is that Yale ought to respect the values and beliefs of every student with regard to their living situation, then he should join us to push the University to move quickly in expanding the gender-neutral housing system so that all students may live in accordance with their identity.
Adam Michalowski and Max Goldberg
The writers are a freshman in Berkeley College and a junior in Pierson College and members of the YCC task force on LGBTQ Resources