LGBTQA Living Learning Community celebrates first anniversary

Korb+Hall+was+built+in+1964.+It+is+now+residence+to+Kent+State%E2%80%99s+LGBTQA+Living+Learning+Community.

Korb Hall was built in 1964. It is now residence to Kent State’s LGBTQA Living Learning Community.

Zoe Swartz

The LGBTQA Living Learning Community in Korb Hall is celebrating one year of operation this fall semester. 

The community started in the Fall 2016 semester with 25 students living in Korb Hall. This semester, 40 students are living in the hall, something Ken Ditlevson, the director of the LGBTQ Student Center, is excited about. 

“When we started this one, they (partners) were like, ‘Let’s start with 25 (students), that would be a really strong program,’ because other living learning communities that have been established for multiple years that actually only have five, 10 or 15 members, so it’s exciting to see ours start off so strong and get stronger,” Ditlevson said. 

Partners in developing the community in Korb Hall include the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, the LGBTQ Student Center and Residence Services.

Not only have students and staff shown support, but Lauren Vachon, an assistant professor of LGBTQ studies and the coordinator of the LGBTQ community, said it goes further than that.

“From Residence Services to higher-up administration, there is a lot of support and willingness to help this living learning community succeed,” Vachon said. 

However, despite support from the greater community, there have been incidents in Korb Hall with non-LGBTQ students living on the same floor as the LGBTQ students. 

“There have been a few instances of overheard comments in hallways at Korb Hall or slurs that have been heard. There have been issues, even this semester,” Vachon said. “So that exists on this campus, and I think it’s wrong to pretend it doesn’t.” 

One student who experienced this harassment in their second semester in the LGBTQA community was Riley Braun, a demisexual non-binary person. 

Braun, a junior anthropology major, recalled their first semester in the living learning community as exciting and welcoming.  

“I was excited to be in a space with queer people around me, and I wanted it to be a community, a family and for the first semester it was really fun, and there were little to no problems on the floor,” Braun said. “As we all got to know each other, we got to be really close.” 

The second semester was so easy.

“Over winter break, a lot of people had to leave, so that sense of community was diminishing; it was almost gone,” Braun said. “There were a lot of rooms vacant for the next semester. They basically throw people in wherever, so they did that. Some of them weren’t the nicest people. They didn’t respect our space, because it was our safe space.” 

Braun said the whole floor didn’t feel the same, and it wasn’t as comfortable as it was their first semester.

“They didn’t respect us,” Braun said. “They didn’t respect any rules of the space. They didn’t respect pronouns, or questions that aren’t supposed to be asked, like ‘What’s your birth name?’ or they would ask why you were transgender.”  

The comments continued even after members of the LGBTQA hall community encouraged the non-members to be more educated.

Vachon and the partners of the living learning community are aware of these issues, and are taking steps to address the harassment and future problems. 

“We’ve had meetings, we’ve pulled people together to try and talk about how to prevent things before they happen,” Vachon said. “We’ve just begun the process of involving students, and asking them what they think will be the best way to solve a problem like this.”

The students and faculty came up with many ideas including safe space training, ally training and a diversity fair, which would include different groups to help students understand and respect the LGBTQ community.

Despite the few complications in Korb Hall, students and faculty are ready to continue on and grow in the next year.

“Last year was a huge learning experience for myself as new faculty, and starting the LLC was brand new to everybody,” Vachon said. “It’s really unique to have this identity-based LLC; most of them are related to majors or schools on campus.”

Vachon said she feels enthusiastic about what is to come for the living learning community.

“I think what excites me the most is developing personal relationships with the students and getting to know them,” Vachon said. “They’re such a great group, and they already are full of ideas. I guess that’s where my excitement is: channeling their excitement into programs we can do for them.”

Zoe Swartz is the room and board reporter. Contact her at [email protected]