All-Gender Housing Creates Inclusive Environment

This week, the Features Editors explored the creation of the school’s first all-gender housing option. Andover, Exeter, Northfield Mount Hermon, and now Hotchkiss, are leading the charge in the New England prep school world, becoming some of the first secondary-school campuses in the nation to offer inclusive alternatives to traditional binary “male” and “female” housing.

What if you felt uncomfortable where you lived? Last September, school administrators began actively researching the possibility of opening a more inclusive housing option on campus. Students who felt uncomfortable living in dorms assigned by sex brought their concerns about housing options to the attention of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, who began researching the possibility of an all-gender dorm. In a survey of the student body conducted last spring, 38% of students indicated they either needed to, wanted to, or were willing to live in a more inclusive dorm. Many factors led the committee to consider this dorm, one of which is to maintain a comfortable living situation for students with any gender identity. Dr. Rachel Myers, director of diversity and inclusion initiatives, said, “Something as simple as where you get to go to sleep at night should be something that’s an easy fix because everybody needs to feel at home in their dorm.”

A range of administrators and faculty turned the idea of an all-gender dorm into a reality. The group primarily considered an all-gender housing option to support the mission of the school. A faculty committee then submitted the rationale and a detailed proposal for the dorm to Mr. Craig Bradley, head of school, and the Board of Trustees. The Board concluded that an all-gender housing option would support the school’s mission to create  “a healthy and inclusive learning community,” as well as offer equal access to students of all genders and gender identities as required by Connectucut state law.

As a member of the queer community, I find myself far more comfortable expressing myself in this dorm.

— Serena Zhou ’20

This year, Watson dorm has been transformed into the first all-gender dorm at Hotchkiss. In Watson, six proctors and four faculty live with Lower Mids, Upper Mids, and Seniors. Anyone is welcome to live in the dorm. Gill Duquette ’19, Watson proctor, said, “The dorm is just like any other dorm, but we’re more of a family. When you step into the dorm you feel like you’re coming home, whereas in my other dorms, I didn’t feel at home until I was in my room.”

While everyone else was arriving at school, the Mazzoni Center, a non-profit providing healthcare to and education on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community, led training for all proctors and dorm faculty. The Mazzoni Center will continue to be involved in the progress of all-gender housing on campus as the school looks to become a mentor for other schools interested in establishing more inclusive living options for their communities. In doing so, the school will continue to talk with schools like Andover, Exeter, and Northfield Mount Hermon, who have already established similar housing options.

While students were off campus for summer break, new artwork was installed in the common room, staircases, and hallways of Watson. All of the work is student-created. Ms. Lisa Brown, director of events and special projects, Ms. Joan Baldwin, curator of special collections, and proctors initiated this addition. They aimed to create a space that was a better representation of the students and hoped student artwork would aid in creating a sense of belonging.

Artwork by Daniel Lee ’17 and Yujin Lee ’05