Living Learning Community gives home to LGBTQA students in need

Students+walk+outside+of+New+Residence+Hall+West+Sunday.+New+Residence+Hall+West+will+be+adding+a+new+LGBTQA+floor+that+will+be+apart+of+a+segment+of+the+Living+Learning+Community.

Students walk outside of New Residence Hall West Sunday. New Residence Hall West will be adding a new LGBTQA floor that will be apart of a segment of the Living Learning Community.

By Keith Hernandez

Students will now be able to sign up this fall for the first LGBTQA Living Learning Community at NIU, as part of a project that began last spring.

Living Learning Communities are programs sponsored by Housing and Dining and program-specific academic units, that offer educational programs and activities that living in a regular residence hall floor may not, according to the NIU website. The LGBTQA program will be located in a single cluster in New Residence Hall West.

Former NIU student Seana Winner, who will graduate this September from National Louis University with a bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science , developed the idea while interning last semester at the LGBT Resource Center, now known as the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.

“Apparently, students had been talking about it for a few years, just nothing was ever set in motion,” Winner said. “Also, I was listening in the hallways and a lot of students were afraid to be with their roommate because their roommate found out they were gay and it caused a lot of backlash.”

Winners said because there was no specific LGBTQA friendly place to live on campus, many former and prospective students have looked for other universities to attend. Winners said she especially chose New Hall to accommodate transgender students who would otherwise have to use custodian/handicap bathrooms for privacy in other residential halls.

“NIU doesn’t really have a set program that has gender-neutral bathrooms, or if they go into the bathroom they’re identified to, they get bullied,” Winners said. “So having a bathroom in New Hall, where they only share it with one person and that person’s okay with it, will get rid of the bullying entirely.”

Although the establishment of the Living Learning Community marked the conclusion of Winner’s project, Molly Holmes, director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, said it is only the beginning.

“We wanted to start off small so that we can use this year as a year for the students who are on the floor to have a lot of input in what is going to happen next,” Holmes said. “We want to grow from there.”

Jeff Eychaner, junior Operations Management and Information Systems major, said the LGBTQA Living Learning Community is a great way for LGBTQA students from different backgrounds to get to know each other.

“I come from a small town where there are very few LGBTQA people and even fewer whom are out,” Eychaner said. “I would have jumped at the opportunity to live in this kind of housing when I transferred here if only to meet people that could understand me on that level.”

Holmes said the floor is a good option for anybody, whether they are LGBTQA identified or an ally of that community.

“It’s really cool for NIU having this floor as an option because NIU already has a strong commitment for a diverse student body and this is just another example of that,” Holmes said.

Any student interested in living in the community can contact Molly Holmes at 815-753-5428 or mbholmes@niu.edu.