Haverford College creates queer-designated housing

Haverford College will be offering “queer designated housing” starting in the Fall 2017 semester.

Qui Alexander, director of the Haverford Women’s Center, told The Haverford Clerk that “QHouse” will be a “refuge (home) for all LGBTQ students by its commitment to support, safety, intersectionality, joy, and interdependence,” noting that “many LGBTQ people struggle with the concept of being their whole selves at home.”

The effort to establish a community like QHouse has been underway since 2015. The original proposal was to turn another college-owned house into the QHouse, but there was an obstacle when the administration’s senior staff stated that the “official designation of [the house] couldn’t be changed without community-wide conversation and demonstrated support.”

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The requirement that QHouse meet with the general approval of the school community apparently did not sit well with advocates like Chelsea Richardson, who explained that there should not be a need to have community support “because if the community realized this was necessary, it wouldn’t be a problem in the first place.”

Supporters of the initiative are adamant that the new housing option is a necessity for LGBTQ students, whom they claim do not feel safe on campus, a feeling that is enhanced by the inability of “cis or straight people to understand this lack of safety.”

Members of one student group backing the initiative, the Haverford Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA), told the Clerk that LGBTQ students on campus encounter frequent “microaggressions” such as being “misgendered” by classmates.

Other students who campaigned for the new housing option focused on quality-of-life arguments, saying LGBTQ students have unique needs that cannot be met through the normal housing process.

“Many factors...acutely impact a queer or trans student’s quality of life—such as their neighbors, who they’re sharing a bathroom with, etc.,” explained Chris Bechen.

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Haverford has taken other steps to accommodate its LGBTQ population, as well, such as implementing a policy recently that “requires all new buildings and major renovations to include single-use gender-neutral restrooms,” according to the trans* inclusivity committee. Gender-neutral restrooms are already available in all upper-class housing at Haverford, and according to the same committee, the “administration will consider converting existing restrooms into gender-neutral restrooms where possible.”

In addition to being a living space, The Clerk notes that QHouse will also foster outreach to the school community by hosting weekly community meetings and campus-wide events.

QHouse will be located in a college-owned building that recently became available due to the upcoming retirement of a faculty member.

It is unclear how much money this will ultimately cost the college or whether there was any consideration of using the house for any other purpose, because neither the Women*s Center nor the Office of Residential Life responded to requests for comment from Campus Reform in time for publication.

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