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ODU Offers Dedicated Housing for LGBTQ Community Next Fall

For the first time, in September 2012, there will be housing at Old Dominion University dedicated to its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community and supporters.

Called Lavender House, the residence community will be housed within one of the ODU residence halls. The dedicated living quarters will meet a need identified by LGBTQ students in a survey last spring by Nicole Zelazny, then-chair of the campus's Safe Space Committee.

"The survey found that one of the things LGBTQ students and their supporters wanted was more visible resources on campus," said Kate Griffin, ODU's assistant director of new student and parent programs, and the current Safe Space Committee chair.

Without a center for LGBTQ students on campus, and without the funding to create one, ODU's Safe Space Committee appealed to the university's Office of Housing and Residence Life for a dedicated section in a residence hall where lesbian and gay students could feel safer and more accepted.

Other groups have appealed to the Office Housing and Residence Life for dedicated housing spaces, and the Army ROTC will have a reserved space next fall as well.

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.

But he and Griffin added that having special living quarters doesn't meant certain groups of students are seeking to close themselves off from the rest of campus. Rather, the creation of dedicated housing for LGBTQ students - something done previously only at George Mason University and the University of Richmond in the state, and only at Duke University in the rest of the Southeast - will convey the message that the ODU community is open, welcoming and diverse.

"Any conversation we can start about this is helpful. Our goal is for ODU to be a leader in diversity in the Southeast," Griffin said.

So far, 18 students have signed up to live in Lavender House next fall. Students who are interested in applying for a room, or would like more information about Lavender House and the Safe Space Committee, can email safespace@odu.edu.

The Safe Space Committee strives to reduce homophobia, transphobia and heterosexism in the ODU community. Composed of university faculty, staff and students, the committee is dedicated to a vision of a community that is open, safe and accepting to all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning people and allies.

This article was posted on: February 23, 2012

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Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.