In an effort to establish more inclusive housing options for queer and trans students, Residential Life has introduced a new housing option for the 2017-2018 Fall semester called QHouse. QHouse, which will be located in 773, will be an intentional living space for LGBTQ students and allies, and marks what some community members believe will be an important step toward institutional recognition of the needs of queer students.
Advocacy for queer-designated housing began in October 2015, with meetings involving representatives from Sexuality and Gender Alliance, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Women*s Center, and Residential Life. Initially, 710 was considered as the primary option; however, a faculty retirement at the end of the Spring 2017 semester will make 773 Railroad available, which will be the turned into QHouse for Fall 2018.
“QHouse community aims to reclaim and reimagine ideas of home, with the understanding that many LGBTQ people struggle with the concept of being their whole selves at home,” wrote Qui Alexander, Director of the Women*s Center and an advocate for the new housing option, via email. “The community seeks to be a refuge (home) for all LGBTQ students by its commitment to support, safety, intersectionality, joy and interdependence.”
Alexander said that, over the course of the year, residents will create opportunities for engagement of the legacies and creation of positive futures for the LGBTQ community at Haverford and at large.
QHouse will serve as both a reserved living space for queer students and LGBTQ allies, as well as an intentional community space to foster inclusivity and community engagement with queer issues. Residence in QHouse will entail attending weekly community meetings, planning and hosting events which involve the Haverford community as a whole, and adhering to housing guidelines and community agreements established by the collective group. A meeting was held in January to begin drafting a mission statement for QHouse.
Students who helped advocate for the initiative, such as Chelsea Richardson ‘18, said that they believe that QHouse will help promote feelings of safety and comfort among queer-identifying students who may feel uncomfortable during room draw processes.
“The house provides an option for queer individuals who feel as though their needs cannot be met through the regular room draw process,” said Chris Bechen ‘18, who was one of the students campaigning for the establishment of QHouse. “This is related to the fact that many factors that acutely impact a queer or trans student’s quality of life– such as their neighbors, who they’re sharing a bathroom with, etc. – are often taken out of their hands during the draw, especially in the case of those with low priority numbers or few connections to accommodating housing groups.”
Miranda Johnson ‘19 echoed this sentiment.
“I think it’s just really hard to participate in Haverford student life if you don’t have that basic feeling of being safe and comfortable in your living space,” Johnson said. “I think queer and trans students often have different privacy needs for feeling comfortable. Things like being loud and open with your friends or bringing someone back to your room–those are all things that you’re living environment has a huge impact on.”
Bechen stated that there’s an important distinction between QHouse and other queer student organizations on campus, such as SAGA, and that they hope that the establishment of QHouse will function as an inclusive space for all queer-identifying students.
“I see QHouse as a chance to be a space that embraces diversity, intersectionality, and inclusivity in a way that SAGA, in many ways, has failed to,” Bechen said.
Bechen views QHouse as the first step toward the establishment of codified institutional support for queer students on campus and the development of a more inclusive culture overall.
“By having residential life and the administration establish a queer affinity housing option, it’s the one of the first steps in providing an increasing amount of institutional support and action for LGBT individuals– recognizing that significant progress can be made in other areas of the college, including CAPS, the Health Center, and first-year housing.”