Kaitlyn Pohly, Contributing Photographer

“What do we want?” “Accommodations!” “When do we want them?” “Now!” On Wednesday, Feb. 22, these words could be heard from student protestors on Cross Campus.

Religious student groups — including the Muslim Students Association, the Southeast Asian Students Society and Ya’aleh — held the rally to protest the new streamlined housing system that does not formally guarantee religious housing accommodations. 

Speakers recounted challenges they faced without accommodations and encouraged passers-by to sign a petition to call on Yale to formalize requests for these religious accommodations, which had previously been left to the discretion of residential college deans and the Yale Chaplain’s Office. So far, the petition has over 350 individual student signatures as well as signatures from over 60 student organizations such as the Yale College Council and Yale College Democrats.

“We’re calling on Yale to recognize and guarantee religious housing accommodations in the new housing system by instituting a formal process for requesting these accommodations,” Inssia Ahmed ’25 said on the steps of Sterling Memorial Library to a crowd of assembled students.

Speakers recounted the challenges obtaining religious housing accommodations, which they said posed a unique burden to Muslim women even under the old housing system. Kadidia Sylla ’24 told the crowd about the “inconveniences” she faces as a hijabi who has shared a bathroom with men for the past two years. 

In all-gender bathrooms, Muslim women are prevented from practicing wudu, a cleansing ritual that is performed before worshiping. Wudu must be done without wearing the hijab, which can leave Muslim women in an all-gender bathroom “paranoid,” according to Sylla.

“I hope that no one else has to deal with these issues that I have had to deal with,” Sylla said. “I haven’t even been able to ask for religious accommodations because I don’t feel comfortable doing so knowing that it’s not something that Yale prioritizes.”

All-gender bathrooms also present challenges for those practicing Orthodox Judaism, which emphasizes modesty. 

Eytan Israel ’26 spoke to the crowd on the steps of Sterling Memorial Library, recounting his experience requesting an all-male bathroom for religious purposes. 

The new housing system also does not formally include accommodation requests for Shabbat-observant Jews, which prohibits using electronic devices of any kind like motion-sensored sinks or toilets and key swipe access into Yale buildings.

“I want to be part of the residential college community,” Israel told the crowd. “That’s why we’re working. We’re trying to work with the system to make it more accessible to all.”

The organizers of the protest, originating from a multitude of student organizations, emphasized that the rally was an “interfaith effort.” 

“The main point of today’s protest was to emphasize that there is a great deal of support for this initiative while also acknowledging that there are ways to work with the administration to bring this to reality,” MSA Student President Zahra Yarali ’24 told the News. 

Yarali told the News that she and other student organizers will be meeting with the Yale College Dean’s office in the near future to hopefully come to an agreement. 

The Yale housing room selection will begin on April 10. 

Kaitlyn Pohly is a junior in Silliman College. She serves as the News' Sports Editor. Previously, she reported on student life and student policy and affairs for the University Desk. Originally from New York City, Kaitlyn is a History major. Outside of the classroom and the newsroom, Kaitlyn dances with YaleDancers.
Tristan Hernandez is the 147th Editor in Chief and President of the Yale Daily News. He previously served as a copy editor and covered student policy & affairs and student life for the University desk. Originally from Austin, Texas, he is a junior in Pierson College majoring in political science.