When boarding students arrived on campus in October, nine students moved into Loomis Chaffee’s first all-gender living and learning community on the third floor of Flagg Hall.
In keeping with the school’s commitment to an inclusive and supportive on-campus experience for all students, Loomis offered the all-gender housing option this year in response to the changing needs of students and their families and after thoughtful discussion and planning by the school’s faculty and administration. Any boarding student, regardless of gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation, could request the all-gender housing option for the 2020–21 year.
Science teacher Emily Garvin, coordinator of all-gender housing at Loomis, lives on the floor and describes the resident students as a fantastic group of kids. She said the floor is a place for students of any gender that provides the same nurturing community found in traditionally boys and girls dorms, and she is excited to be a part of the initiative.
Despite the challenges of residential life amid COVID-19 safety restrictions, the spirit of camaraderie on the all-gender floor — and the rest of Flagg Hall — has helped make the experience better for everyone, reported seniors Tom Zhang and Olivia Zoga, who reside on the third floor as resident assistants.
“We often find ourselves … spontaneously and social-distantly gathered in the hallway discussing how the electoral college works, sharing each other's feelings on the election, and helping someone out for their college [application.] It has been a great experience for me, and I believe it has been for others as well,” Tom said.
Olivia worked with students and faculty to create an informational video for the school community that shows what residence life is like on Flagg’s all-gender floor. “Overall, the experience is a little different than traditional boarding life, but in a year where weird restrictions follow students everywhere … Flagg has been a great community,” she said.
Junior Class Dean Elliott Dial, who is Flagg dorm head, said he welcomed the opportunity for the all-gender floor to be part of the Flagg community. Elliot stressed the importance of including all-gender housing in a larger dorm family, rather than isolating it as a stand-alone entity. The inclusive approach “helps build understanding and community spirit” and helps to make Loomis “a place where all students can be comfortable,” Elliott said.
The all-gender residence option may suit students who identify as LGBTQIA+ or non-binary (not exclusively masculine or feminine,) but the choice is theirs to make, Elliott said. No one is required to live in all-gender housing, and there are no gender-related requirements — such as using gender-neutral pronouns — for living on the floor.
The decision to offer an all-gender boarding option is consistent with the school’s mission to provide a residential learning environment where all individuals are respected, supported, and valued, according to Courtney Jackson, assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
It’s important to consider gender in making Loomis an equitable and inclusive environment, Courtney said, because sorting students into only male or female dorms leaves out students who may feel more comfortable living where there is no gender specification and no one is excluded.