LGBTQA Living-Learning Community Celebrates One Year Of Operation

Zoe Swark

The LGBTQA Living-Learning Community in Korb Hall is celebrating its first anniversary in operation this fall semester.

The community started the Fall 2016 semester with 25 students living within Korb and ended the Spring semester with 20 students. However, the hall started this semester with 40 students living in the hall, something Ken Ditlevson, 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 had 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 has the support been great between students and staff, but Lauren Vachon, an assistant professor of LGBTQ Studies and the coordinator of the LGBTQ community, says 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 isolated incidents in Korb with non-LGBTQ students living on the same floor as the LGBTQ students.

“There have been a few instances of over-heard comments in hallways at Korb 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, recalls their first semester in the LLC 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 not the same, however.

“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 questions and disrespect continued even after the members of the LGBTQA hall community encouraged the non-members to be educated on these topics.

Vachon and the partners of the Living Learning Community are aware of these problems, 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 many different kinds of groups to help students understand and respect differences.

Despite the few problems the community in Korb has had, the students and faculty are ready to continue on with another year and look forward to the future of the LGBTQA Living Learning Community.

“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.

“I just have a lot more enthusiasm for what we can do together as an LLC,” Vachon continued. “I think what excites me the most is developing personal relationships with the students and getting to know them. 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 Swark is a reporter. Contact her at .