This was originally published by the student-run Yale Daily News.
If the newest Yale College Council effort is successful, juniors will be eligible for gender-neutral housing beginning next fall.
In a 13-page report to the administration, made available to members of the Yale community in a Monday email, the Yale College Council asserted that gender-neutral suites foster a more comfortable social environment and incentivize students to remain on campus. Though the Yale Corporation turned down a similar proposal by the YCC in February 2011, the new report includes more data and was written in consultation with members of the Yale College Dean’s Office — giving it a better chance to succeed, YCC President Brandon Levin ’13 said. University President Richard Levin and Yale College Dean Mary Miller will present the latest report to the Yale Corporation in February, according to the YCC email.
The proposal cites positive feedback from students who have participated in gender-neutral housing and includes data from a survey the YCC conducted in November with the classes of 2013 and 2014. Last year’s YCC proposal made similar arguments, but was based on just one year of data, which Brandon Levin said the Yale Corporation determined was inadequate for assessing the initiative.
“That’s precisely [the role] the report aims to play, providing more qualitative and quantitative data suggesting that this is indeed a good move,” Brandon Levin said Monday.
Joseph Yagoda ’14, co-chair of the Gender-Neutral Housing committee, said that 445 juniors and 443 sophomores responded to the survey the YCC conducted. Of those students, 92.7 percent said they either supported or were indifferent to gender-neutral housing and 67.1 percent said they would considering living in a mixed-gender suite.
Last year’s report was not made public, and only surveyed students already involved with gender-neutral housing rather than entire classes of students, Brandon Levin said.
The Yale Corporation first approved gender-neutral suites for seniors in February 2010, and the class of 2011 became the first in Yale’s history to have the housing option.
In a February 2011 interview, Richard Levin told the News that he did not think the Corporation would approve gender-neutral housing for juniors in the 2011-’12 academic year because administrators wanted to “run the experiment” of senior gender-neutral housing for more time. He declined to comment on the latest YCC proposal Monday night, since he had not yet read it.
Brandon Levin said the YCC only asked that the University extend gender-neutral housing to juniors to encourage them to remain on campus: Unlike freshman and sophomores, juniors can opt to move off campus and live with the opposite sex.
Melanie Boyd, assistant dean of student affairs, wrote in a letter attached to the report that several respondents to the YCC survey expressed concern that gender-neutral housing would increase the risk of sexual harassment or assault. But Boyd said in the letter that these concerns misunderstood the nature of sexual misconduct.
“The assault of a suitemate would be a very risky act, legally as well as disciplinarily,” Boyd wrote. “What we know of sexual offenders suggests that they are more likely to seek out other, less risky targets.”
In fact, the YCC report claims that gender-neutral housing would improve sexual climate on campus by reducing the sexual implications of male and female students socializing in a suite.
Christina Marmol ’12, a senior who currently lives in a gender-neutral suite, said she supports the YCC proposal and would have liked to move in with members of the opposite sex during her junior year. She said her senior year experience in gender-neutral housing has been a positive one.
“I think you’re mature enough as a junior to make a decision about whether or not you want to do it,” Marmol said.
The Yale Corporation meets next on Feb. 24 and 25.