Mixed Gender Housing: A History 

By Anna Paikert ‘13

Hamilton’s gender-neutral housing option has been in the forefront of many students’ minds as of late. The option intertwines the institution’s desire to protect tradition with its enthusiasm for progress. Gender-neutral housing first began before Hamilton became coed— students returning from the military during the Second World War lived in Carnegie and later North Village with their wives and children. Although North Village was abandoned in 1952, gender-neutral housing once again became an option for students at the beginning of last year.

As soon as married GIs returned to Hamilton to complete their college education, they had the option to move into ‘Married Student Housing.’ This meant that they could enjoy the luxury of both academic and family life. Initially, these students lived in apartment-style housing in Carnegie with their families. By 1946, Carnegie grew too crowded, and Hamilton began building individual houses for married students. These houses occupied North Village, coined “GI Village,” located near Minor Theater.

Students’ wives played an active role in Hamilton life. Although they could not officially enroll in the College, they were allowed to sit in on classes. A letter written in June of 1947 from Susan Richardson, the wife of John Richardson ’45, explains: “The lectures and the showing of old classic movies are well attended by the wives who do not need to worry about studying for a quiz the next day.”

Additionally, these wives held on-campus jobs at the college store, library, and switchboard. They also regularly attended athletic games and fraternity parties and often threw their own dinner parties. Mrs. Richardson used these parties to “testify to the fact that [the married couples] took to heart the word from the college that they wanted to make Carnegie [and North Village] as much like a home as possible for the young couples.”

Although the last house in North Village was torn down in 1957, Hamilton has kept its promise to ensure that on-campus housing becomes home for all students—including those who now wish to share a room with students of the opposite biological sex. Beginning in the fall of 2010, Residential Life established campus-wide gender-neutral housing.

Although Residential Life considered gender-neutral housing long before 2010, they officially approved the policy to accommodate pressing student needs. One of the first pairs of students to live in a gender-neutral double, Alexander De Moulin ’12 and Alexandra Nasto ’13, chose to do so because they were close friends. Note that they were not a couple, as Residential Life urges couples not to live together, though it is not prohibited. Alexandra explains that she loved this living situation. In an effort to remove herself from an emotionally damaging housing situation, she moved into Alexander’s Millbank double in September of 2010. She explained that they established a smooth dynamic, perhaps smoother than one she may have had with a female roommate, and chose to live next to each other in a suite this year.

Other students opt for gender-neutral housing because they identify as transgender or genderqueer. A transgender student, who wishes to remain anonymous, explains that he can be more open about his identity through gender-neutral housing. Although he explains that this policy is a great first step towards a gender-neutral campus, he argues that certain policies inhibit this goal. One of which includes specifying one’s biological sex during the housing lottery. Still, he looks forward to future progress and is excited that this option attracts transgender or genderqueer high school students to Hamilton.

Travis Hill echoes this sentiment, explaining that he is “hopeful that prospective students of any gender identity will consider Hamilton an opportunity to express themselves.” Although Hill urges students to think very carefully about this option, he has received very positive feedback about the policy.
Gender-neutral housing certainly helps support and increase Hamilton’s uniquely diverse community, while harkening back to its older traditions.