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Editorial: gender neutral housing

At the start of each April, freshmen, sophomores, and juniors eagerly make living arrangements for the following academic year through the room draw process. Since there is a considerable disparity in the quality of different housing arrangements, the rules for room draw enhance living choice for some students while restricting it for others. In the past, a limited number of rooms on campus had been designated “gender-inclusive” and thus were available to be selected by mixed gender draw groups. In January, the University lifted this restriction on the number of such rooms available, making all multiple occupancy rooms on campus gender-inclusive. The Board broadly supports this housing policy change; however, we believe careful implementation of the policy is necessary for the well-being of all students.

First, the Board, like Housing Services, strongly discourages couples in romantic relationships from drawing into the same rooms or suites. While it may be the case that a particular couple is confident they will not split during the coming year, it is also the case that Princeton is a high-stress institution and cohabitating with a partner for the first time is similarly, but independently, high-stress. Further, the Board has concerns related to partner cohabitation if one student in a relationship no longer wishes to live with their partner, irrespective of whether the relationship has ended. Discomfort living with a partner is significantly different than discomfort living with a roommate due to the emotional element of romantic relationships. A student may be more hesitant to seek alternate living arrangements mid-year, even in cases of discomfort, due to a perhaps heightened fear of retaliation from their current or former partner.


Second, the Board encourages Housing and Real Estate Services and Directors of Student Life in residential colleges to be particularly thoughtful when creating gender-inclusive living arrangements for freshmen. On the housing survey for incoming students, a student may check a box indicating interest in gender-inclusive housing; however, a student who expressly needs gender-inclusive housing must contact their DSL to indicate as such. Merely checking the box does little to reveal to a DSL a student’s gender identity, and it similarly does little to reveal to a DSL how a student’s gender identity shapes a student’s housing preferences. Accordingly, the Board encourages DSLs to place students who express need for gender-inclusive housing in single dorm rooms for their first year at the University. In instances where it is not possible to place a student expressing a need for gender-inclusive housing in a single, the student should receive written notice that expressing the preference or need for such housing may result in sharing a multiple occupancy room with men, women, trans-men, trans-women, or any other students of any other gender identities.

Third, the Board acknowledges that a gender-inclusive housing policy confers special treatment to a particular group of students, albeit benevolently, on the basis of gender. The Board cautions the University from expanding its housing inclusivity policy on the basis of other mutable and immutable personal characteristics such as race, ethnicity, and religion. We believe gender is distinct from these categories because it is intimately related to housing-specific concerns, such as comfort showering, dressing, and sleeping in the vicinity of other students. Broadly, living in a diverse community with peers who share different backgrounds from one’s own is an important hallmark of the University experience; accordingly, the University should not adopt any form of affinity housing following successful implementation of a gender-inclusive housing policy.

Finally, the Board encourages Housing and Real Estate Services to keep intact the current single-sex housing options in the residential colleges, such as the affectionately termed Forbes “Nunnery” and Butler “Monastery.” The Board believes these options strike the correct balance. They are not an overly restrictive barrier to the promotion of diversity in the dormitories, but they do provide an excellent option for students from perhaps a more religious or socially conservative background who may be uncomfortable, for example, walking in a towel through a co-ed hallway. We do not believe these preferences typically erode during a student’s college years; accordingly, we encourage Housing and Real Estate Services to extend single-sex housing options to upperclass dormitories, which currently lack single-sex housing areas.

In conclusion, the Board is optimistic that a broader gender-inclusive housing policy will better serve the needs of all undergraduates at the University; however, we hope that students and administrators alike will exercise caution when implementing the policy this year and considering similar policies in subsequent years.

Cydney Kim ’17, Jack Whelan ’19, Paul Draper ’18, Caden McLaughlin ’20, and Rachel Glenn ‘19 abstained from the writing of this editorial.

The Editorial Board is an independent body and decides its opinions separately from the regular staff and editors of The Daily Princetonian. The Board answers only to its Co-Chairs, the Opinion Editor, and the Editor-in-Chief. It can be reached at editorialboard@dailyprincetonian.com.