Momentum builds for mixed-gender housing

The Yale College Council is renewing its push to extend mixed-gender housing to sophomores.

Mixed-gender housing was first introduced to seniors in 2010 and extended to juniors in 2012. In Dec. 2013, the YCC published a report advocating that it be available to sophomores as well, but no changes materialized. This fall, the YCC has reopened the conversation — both the YCC and Freshman College Council voted to approve the initiative — and it was also discussed at the Nov. 7 Council of Masters meeting. In the wake of these advancements, YCC Vice President Maia Eliscovich Sigal ’16 said she is hopeful that sophomore mixed-gender housing may be an option as soon as next year.

“I’m optimistic, but I also know that we do not have to just sit and wait,” she said. “The more we talk about it and insist and follow up with the administration, the more likely it is that it will happen.”

The 2013 YCC report found that 90 percent of the class of 2016 were in support of or indifferent to extending mixed-gender housing to sophomores. In addition to vast student support for the idea, the report also cited sexual climate and respect for queer and gender-queer students as additional benefits of such an extension. Several female students interviewed in the report said they would feel safer during in-suite social situations if they had male suitemates. Other female students contacted for the report said a mixed-gender suite can create a healthier sexual climate because in the suite, there would be “no male or female dominance.”

The YCC originally presented the recommendation to then-Yale College Dean Mary Miller, but because Miller was leaving her position, she recommended to her successor, Jonathan Holloway, that he implement the initiative, Eliscovich Sigal said.

Holloway said the proposal was submitted too late last year to consider it for this school year. Still, he said it is under assessment this year, and if approved, could go into effect for the 2015–16 school year. He added that while it is too early to make a final declaration about any outcome, the national mindset on gender issues has changed radically in recent years.

Eliscovich Sigal said that society is moving toward a much less black-and-white definition of gender.

“We have to recognize that [Yale] is a dynamic community where we have to be able to admit these changes,” she said. Implementing mixed-gender housing for sophomores would be consistent with these changing definitions, Eliscovich Sigal said.

In addition to creating a more inclusive environment for gender-queer students, the report argued that some students simply might be more comfortable living with friends of the opposite sex.

That sentiment was echoed by Emmy Reinwald ’17. On paper, Reinwald lives in a suite with two other girls, but in practice, one of those girls switched rooms with a male friend. Reinwald said she and her suitemates created this arrangement because mixed-gender housing was not an option.

“Your suite is supposed to be the one place on campus where you are totally comfortable,” Reinwald said. “For me, that means living with my best friends, one of which is a guy. At the end of the day, the people I want to see are my best friends, regardless of gender.”

Five freshmen interviewed said they would be in support of mixed-gender housing for sophomores, but none said they would personally be interested in utilizing the potential initiative.

Historically, the argument against offering mixed gender housing to sophomores has been that they are not mature enough, Eliscovich Sigal said. But, she argued, sophomores have already experienced one year of college life and should be able to decide for themselves.

“It might be true that some sophomores are not mature enough for [mixed gender] housing,” Reinwald said. “But at least give us the chance to determine for ourselves if we are or not. Isn’t that what college is about?”

Council of Masters chair and Silliman College Master Judith Krauss said that the Council is only one group reviewing the proposed change in policy, but declined to comment further.

Five other Ivy League institutions offer some form of mixed-gender housing to sophomores.

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