Challenging the Housing Binary

Harvard administrators must be more proactive in making sure all students, especially freshmen, are comfortable with the housing they receive.

After long days running back and forth from classes to libraries, work, extracurriculars, and more, students should be able to return to a dorm room in which their identities don’t continue to be challenged. The transition to college often comes with more freedom to explore and express one’s own identity. Students should be supported by Harvard in the difficult process of finding housing that best meets their needs.

Although a push for gender-neutral housing is not a recent development, there is still a long way to go. While gender-neutral housing options are available in upperclassmen housing, this is an issue that affects the daily lives of first-year students as well. The College should ensure there is a well-rounded approach to supporting non-binary students on campus, as well as to making well-trained students accessible and approachable.

We do not believe that we have an answer for the best solution in terms of gender-neutral housing. However, we advise the administration to take proactive measures to reach out to students who are questioning gender or students who identify as transgender to offer housing options that would be best for them personally. We ask that they take into account that comfort level in housing can mean different things for different people. Instead of lumping people who request gender-neutral housing into just one category or one physical space, Harvard should make better efforts to offer many options to fit the requests of individual students.

We recognize that the housing questionnaire has limitations and non-binary students may be reluctant to share that on the questionnaire. It might be difficult for students to talk about gender identity so we ask that the administrative process to get the housing they need be less bureaucratic.

Nevertheless, we’re glad to see that Harvard has been grappling with these issues by having Yard Deans reach out to students and encourage them to look for solutions that specifically address the potential for student’s gender identity to change after that initial conversation takes place. Flexibility for housing should be available in such cases.

Lastly, we commend programs such as the First-Year Urban Program that give people a platform to discuss these ideas, bring them to the surface, and then allow the College to take them into consideration. Gender-neutral housing is made available through this pre-orientation program—even for freshmen. We would like to see Harvard as a whole taking initiative to do the same.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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