In the wake of Phillips Exeter Academy’s announcement earlier this year that it would pilot two “all-gender” housing options for regular-session students this fall, Exeter Summer’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) discussed the issue of all-gender housing and dorm regulations for the summer session at a meeting on Monday night.
The group, made up of mostly students attending the Academy this summer, as well as a few faculty advisors, debated the idea in its weekly gathering.
There are no plans currently in place to create any all-gender dorms for the summer session, according to Elena Gosalvez-Blanco, the director of Exeter Summer.
“First we have to see how it goes in the regular year,” she said. “Would we consider opening [an all-gender dorm], the answer is yes.”
In the fall, for regular session, Williams House and Kirtland House will both serve as the first all-gender dorms, housing approximately 20 students. In its announcement, Phillips Exeter wrote that it is directing this program to support students who are transgender or gender non-conforming. The school plans to provide faculty and staff affiliated with the dorms with special training, and hopes to engage residents in a new program
Planning for this project began a couple years ago, said Alex Myers, an English teacher at the Academy, in an interview with WGBH. As a student at PEA in the 1990s, Mr. Myers was the first openly transgender student at Exeter, and more recently helped foster conversation about the creation of these dorms.
“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.
Mr. Myers has hosted conversations with Exeter Summer students in the past, and will speak at Assembly on July 28.
All-gender dorms are a new concept in education. PEA and Phillips Andover, which will also be converting a few dorms to be all-gender, are among the first boarding schools to open a dorm of this kind, according to WGBH. The dorms will offer single rooms for the students, along with communal bathrooms providing more privacy.
So far, no requests have been made by an Exeter Summer student applying to be in an all-gender dorm, according to Ms. Gosalvez-Blanco. Deans from Exeter Summer are planning to meet with GSA next week for further conversation about all-gender housing.