Friday, February 24, 2012

Follow-up: The Right Fit: LGBT Housing

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the considerations for LGBT students applying for college is finding a school at which they feel safe and secure being out and expressing their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Here in Virginia, Old Dominion University just announced that they will be creating "Lavender House," a dedicated portion of campus housing for LGBT students and their supporters:
"Charles Lowman, assistant director for housing and residence life and a Safe Space Committee member himself, said Lavender House will build on current housing office efforts to match LGBTQ students with roommates less likely to be uncomfortable. 'Having a dedicated residence space will make that matching easier, because Lavender House will be self-selecting to the LGBTQ community and its allies,' Lowman said. (source: www.odu.edu)
There are only two other universities in Virginia who offer LGBT housing options: George Mason University in Fairfax and the University of Richmond.  These housing options are meant to help students feel included in the campus and develop a community of support, and can certainly be an enticement for LGBT high-school students as they make choices for post-secondary options.  LGBT students should look for housing options, including dedicated LGBT housing and/or roommate matching, as they are searching for schools that are the right-fit.  Click here for the full-article on ODU and the creation of "Lavender House."

4 comments:

  1. While I understand the need for a feeling of security and acceptance, I have to ask: is this not a form of segregation? LGBT students are separate, but equal in their housing? I have read the article, and seen that there was a perceived need for such housing, and I understand the difference it could make to have roommates who are accepting and supportive of LGBT students. But could this not be done in a dorm with many other oriented people? And further, what about the divisions within the LGBT community?
    I would be leery of the separate housing status for any reason realated to personal differences.

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    1. You are absolutley correct. the students will be housed in a building with many other students.

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  2. These are all good questions and very valid. This concern comes up regularly in these instances when the LGBT population seeks to separate themselves from a larger group. For example, when the Harvey Milk School opened in New York City, there was backlash from within even liberal fronts because it was seen as "self-segregation" and back-sliding into a time before Brown v. Board of Education. (see http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/features/10970/index3.html and http://jonathanturley.org/2007/09/09/americas-separate-but-equal-school-system/).
    I see both sides of the equation. However, is it important for LGBT students to be able to go to college and be in a supportive environment where they don't feel victimized or in danger? Absolutely. One needs only to look at the Tyler Clementi incident at Rutgers to see the extreme end of what can happen when an LGBT student and a non-friendly roommate mix. Further, if we look at the data about how, in high-school, LGBT students are less likely to graduate, are bullied at a much higher rate, have lower GPA's, and lower attendance, I think that solutions such as Harvey Milk and LGBT focused dorms in college are a way to help these students move forward and achieve. I would much, much rather see LGBT students successfully graduate from college having accessed friendly housing and other university services than not attend college, not graduate from college, or worse. Would it be better if LGBT students could co-exist in harmony with their college peers, helping to, at a minimum, expose them to people and personalities that they may have never come across before? Again, absolutely. Ultimately, though, I think that at many schools and for many LGBT students, the climate does not yet exist for that to happen without dangers to both physical and mental safety. My hope is that will continue to change. Until then, there is campus housing specifically designated for honors' students, for international students, and for various other clubs, fraternities, and organizations at colleges and universities across the country--I feel that LGBT students have the same right to share their college experience with other like-minded students.

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  3. I'm an ODU student and I think there is a lot of miscommunication in regards to the Lavender House. A lot of people think that the LGBTQ community is going to be housed in a separate building altogether. It is important to note that, just like learning communities at CNU and other schools, students seeking to be matched will be designated to a hall within a dorm. They will not be housed in a separate building that is only for LGBTQ students but will be on designated floors. This will not keep LGBTQ students from interacting with the rest of the campus community or others in their dormitory halls. Safe Space seeks to create just that; a safe space for LGBTQ and heterosexual allies.

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