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Yale University administrators ruled on Monday to approve gender-neutral suites for seniors, making it the last Ivy League school to implement some form of mixed-gender housing.
“Having a gender-blind housing option for the senior class is not just an LGBT issue, but is much broader, and I certainly applaud the university’s decision to follow the lead of every other Ivy League school in having some kind of gender-blind option,” said Yale junior Benjamin S. Bernard, a board member of Yale’s LGBT Cooperative.
The new policy stipulates that only people of the same gender may share a bedroom within a mixed-gender suite and ensures that no one will be forced to live in a mixed-gender suite. Additionally, couples are “discouraged” from choosing to live in the same suite.
“One of the major concerns against [the policy] was that opposite-sex couples would cohabitate on campus, but if there isn’t such a policy, it means the administration is presupposing that there aren’t same-sex relationships,” Bernard said.
Yale junior Abigail H. Cheung, vice president of the Yale College Council, said that students felt that the former housing guidelines did not accommodate all students’ needs.
“Yale’s housing policies were discriminatory and often resulted in pushing members of the LGBTQ community off campus,” she said.
Student activism initiated by several Yale undergraduate groups—including the Yale College Council and the LGBT Cooperative—played a significant role in pushing for the changes. Their work included holding a sleep-in in the middle of campus last year, meeting with the administration, and conducting a survey to gauge student support of the changes.
“The student movement had a lot to do with the adoption of the policy,” said John R. Meeske, Yale’s associate dean for physical resources and planning. “The university wanted to be responsive to student concerns and interests.”
Meeske said that input from other universities—including Harvard—factored into the policy decision.
Harvard College’s housing policy currently permits mixed-gender suites, but with the condition that each bedroom has a door with a lock.
“We’re still working on [gender-neutral housing], and fairness throughout the process is the most important thing,” said Daniel V. Kroop ’10, a former Undergraduate Council member who has been involved with lobbying for gender-neutral housing privileges.
Students and several Yale administrators said they hope the option for mixed-gender housing will be extended to students other than seniors.
“I think anything is possible,” said Meeske, who attended Yale as an undergrad. “I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years, and I’m pleased to see how the university has moved forward. It’s an even better place now than it was when I was a student.”
—Staff writer Alice E.M. Underwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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