Gender Neutral Housing at Yale University

Posted on April 2, 2013 by

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Gender NeutralOne of the great fallacies of our age is the malleability of human nature. There are some constants that persist regardless of our best efforts. As the College Fix‘s Alec Torres points out in a current story, Yale University, like other leading institutions, now offers “gender neutral” housing that allows male and females to room together. Just to be clear, we are not talking about co-educational dorms or halls, but rooms.

Torres argues that more than anything, this is Yale’s decision to put politics ahead of student safety and, I might add, common sense. Segregating students on the basis of sex makes sense because it reduces the possibility of sexual aggression that ranges from unwanted attention to outright rape. Males are stronger and larger, on average, than females. Allowing students to live in such proximity only serves to exacerbate what has been a historic concern.

The politics of these choices interest me. First, Yale arrives at this juncture out of an exaggerated view of equality. Gone are the days of in loco parentis, when institutions were expected to act in place of the parents, in a continuing effort to encourage standards and good behavior out of students. Now we are beyond the point of pretending that students are at all in a state of unequal development when compared to full-fledged adults. While students are physically adults, and some are in every capacity, Yale no longer assumes students are in the kind of development that necessitates boundaries. In fact, development is often defined in this context as the destruction of boundaries. Students are morally culpable beings, entrusted with decisions that may be far beyond their capacities, at least that is the assumption that drives gender-neutral housing. (Granted, it is possible that many parents are comfortable with these arrangements. If that is the case, Yale may simply be confirming the morality of those who send their students to be educated there. Then, they would be acting in loco parentis, especially if their objective is to further sexualize their children.)

Second, Yale’s decision, and that of other schools like it, is driven by the belief that sexuality fundamentally forms our identities. While it is true that humans are sexual creatures, we are so much more than that. Our continued discussion of gay rights, gay marriage, and even abortion, all carry on with the assumption that our sexual choices define us. Of course, through Sex Week and “gender neutral” housing, Yale determines that education consists of a moral reformation conditioned by the Ivy League, our new creator of norms and mores.

Nathan Harden, in his book Sex and God at Yale, tackles these themes and more.

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Posted in: Social Policy