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College Closer to Co-ed Suites

By Pedro V. Moura, Crimson Staff Writer

The Committee on House Life (CHL) took a step toward a standardized College-wide policy giving upperclassmen the choice to live in mixed-sex rooms yesterday. The committee of students, faculty, and administrators endorsed plans for a task force to establish guidelines that would—in principle—permit co-ed rooming in all 12 Houses, according to members.

CHL members said they hope the task force will make it easier for male and female undergraduates to live in suites together by the fall of 2007.

According to the Harvard College Handbook for Students, “Harvard does not ordinarily permit coeducational rooming groups.” Since 1993, a College policy has allowed for limited exceptions—though to date, these exceptions have been granted only when House masters approve, when bedroom doors have locks, and when there is more than one bathroom in the suite, according to the handbook.

The Undergraduate Council (UC) voted 31-1-2 earlier this month to back a five-page position paper outlining the arguments for co-ed rooming. The council called for an end to “burdensome and arbitrary constraints upon the formation of coeducational rooming arrangements.”

UC members presented the position paper to House masters and College administrators at the CHL meeting yesterday morning, and the paper’s sponsor, Currier House representative Eric I. Kouskalis ’07, said he was “very pleased” with the committee’s positive reception of the UC proposal.

“I’m glad that we unanimously agreed on the principle” of co-ed rooming, Kouskalis said.

But logistical hurdles remain.

Leverett House Master Howard Georgi ’67 said crowding in the houses would make implementing the proposals difficult.

“I think it would be a mistake to make the housing lottery more complicated at this point,” he said.

But most other masters supported co-ed rooming as long as clearer guidelines are established.

Adams House Co-Master John G. “Sean” Palfrey ’67 summed up these masters’ sentiments when he said that he is “in favor” of co-ed rooming but that “there need to be uniform guidelines.”

Palfrey’s logistical concerns stemmed from the disparity in room types in Adams and other houses. Some suites have walk-through bathrooms, which would present a problem for co-ed arrangements.

In Leverett Towers, for example, all eight or so residents on a “half-floor” would need to consent to the co-ed rooming agreement, according to Georgi.

And Cambridge Historical Commission guidelines restrict the extent to which Dunster House, built in 1930, could conduct internal renovations to accommodate co-ed arrangements, according to Co-Master Ann Porter.

“We agree on the principle, but there’s a lot to work out,” Associate Dean for Residential Life Suzy M. Nelson said, according to minutes of the meeting transcribed by the UC’s Benjamin W. Milder ’08.

The soon-to-be-formed task force will include House officials, College administrators, and students, according to Kouskalis.

—Staff writer Pedro V. Moura can be reached at pmoura@fas.harvard.edu.

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