LGBT Housing Coming to UCI

Gender-neutral and LGBT housing will be offered to students at UC Irvine beginning Fall 2010. These new housing options are inclusive to all students and may be a big step towards equality in our community.

For first-years, the “Open House” dorm will be located in Isengard in Middle Earth. The Open House will be a non-judgmental space where the diversity of identities and gender expressions are celebrated. It will provide opportunities for personal development to flourish in a gender-free and transgender-friendly living environment. This gender-neutral hall allows for both same and opposite gender roommate pairings.

For continuing students, the “Spectrum House” in Arroyo Vista will also be available this upcoming school year. The community welcomes the cultural experiences for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning students and their allies.

The Spectrum House will promote understanding about sexual orientation, gender and other aspects of diversity to enhance leadership skills, multicultural awareness and personal development.

“I’m excited about the option. I appreciate the partnership between the Dean of Students Office and Student Housing,” said Lisa Cornish, Senior Executive Director of Student Housing. “I believe this programmatic experience will be a model for success for our campus and students.”

Cornish also emphasized that these new housing options are  meant to be all-inclusive to any students.

The LGBT Resource Center and Student Housing plan to collaborate on providing programs that will foster community and encourage self-expression. For example, residents who choose to live in the Spectrum House will be asked to complete “Safe Zone” training and attend at least one LGBTRC/Spectrum program each quarter, as well as be a positive, active member of the house.

“The bisexual and transgender community is generally less understood,” said David Bishop, Director of the LGBT Resource Center. “One of our goals is to say that there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

It is apparent that the campus of UCI is somewhat a bubble. Two years ago, “NO on Prop 8” signs and voices defending equality were visible all around campus. By contrast, however, the areas and neighborhoods outside school grounds were laden with “YES on Prop 8” and voices reverberated with messages about “protecting the sanctity of marriage.”
Genice Sarcedo, Program Coordinator of the LGBT Resource Center, brought up not only the importance of tolerance but also understanding.

“We want to continue to meet student needs, which will come up over and over again,” Sarcedo said. “Awareness is becoming more positive in society now.”

Furthermore, the recent hate-crimes incident and acts of violence on other UC campuses have proven to be a warning sign for many community planners.

“What I hope for is open and honest discourse with the opposition. We’re moving forward, but preventing hatred caused by misunderstanding is important, especially here at UCI, where diversity is a premiere value,” Bishop said.
Possible budget cuts threaten to set struggling departments such as the LGBT Resource Center back. With budgets close to nothing already, funds are desperately needed to support the growing movement to further equality for the LGBT community.

Only a few decades ago, institutions deemed it inappropriate for male and female students to live in the same dorm buildings. Today, a changing trend and movement is seen as an increasing number of colleges and universities throughout the country are offering alternative choices for LGBT students.

In the midst of all the talk about change at the start of the new decade, the Open House and Spectrum House serve as examples that action is being taken and a progressive change is to be anticipated here at UCI.