Transgender student input had led to a reaction from students and alumni that’s “100 percent positive”
In a powerful statement to boarding schools everywhere, Phillips Exeter Academy and Phillips Academy Andover have announced that this fall will bring about the conversion of several single-sex dorms into gender neutral housing. The move is meant to accommodate transgender and nonbinary students and breaks a long-standing academic tradition of segregating student housing according to sex.
The announcement came just this week, but the conversion has been in the works for two years, according to NPR. The conversation which led to the progressive decision came when Alex Myers, an Exeter teacher, met with transgender students to discuss their experiences in all aspects of campus life, academic and otherwise.
Williams House at Exeter will soon be home to gender neutral students.
Myers recalls that the biggest issue was within the realm of dorm segregation. “Consistently, what came up as ‘What needs work’ was housing. If you don't understand yourself to be a girl or a boy, living in a space that's designated just for boys or just for girls feels really uncomfortable,” he said.
Exeter’s all-gender dorms will house between 20 and 30 students, giving each their own rooms and maintaining the standard shared bathrooms, albeit renovated ones to provide more privacy.
Alex Myers was not only an Exeter student before he was a teacher, but he was the first openly transgender student in the school’s history. The long incubation period prior to this fall’s implementation wasn’t a result of controversy or persuasion, but rather of the time required to determine how to implement such dorms in a fashion that still bred inclusion among all students in all housing accommodations.
To the first point, John Palfrey, the head of school at Exeter, said that this practice, rather than breaking tradition, continues it. “Our idea is to bring young people from all over the world, from all walks of life, from all backgrounds—and, frankly, from all gender and sexuality backgrounds. So I see this as entirely in keeping with our long tradition.”
Palfrey maintains there’s been no controversy at all over the decision, stating, “The reaction to this announcement has been 100 percent positive.”