Designing Spaces for LGBTQI+ Students on College Campuses
By CHAR ADAMS
“The room represents inclusivity and happiness.”
“The resource room means friendship, hope, and life.”
“It’s a sanctuary for the unicorns among the broncos.”
This is how Bronx Community College students described the LGBTQI+ Resource Room, a designated campus space that caters specifically to LGBTQI+ students. For nearly two years, queer students have been able to turn to the resource room for everything from support groups and educational programming to student clubs and social events.
Could the room be a model for similar spaces on other campuses? Bronx Community College Professor Emalinda McSpadden explores this question in an article published in the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services.
“While many community college campuses provide resources of some kind for students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or other sexual or gender-non-binary minorities (LGBTQI+), surprisingly few institutions have dedicated physical spaces designated for that purpose,” McSpadden writes.
McSpadden uses the LGBTQI+ Resource Room as a case study for determining a proposed template for campus leaders and students to create such designated spaces on campus that have never had such rooms or similar initiatives.
In order to create an adequate space for LGBTQI+ plus students, educational leaders would have to assess needs, identify stakeholders, and determine key strategies for both making and maintaining an LGBTQI+ resource room.
She focuses on two-year colleges in the article, and does not simply call for more of these designated spaces. Instead, the study considers the processes necessary to create such spaces.
McSpadden writes: “While outcomes described in this article are specific to one particular case, the procedures by which they were achieved were undertaken with the hopes that they might be replicable by other similar institutions, in light of the very few LGBTQI+ spaces in community college contexts.”
While use of the resource room is suspended amid the COVID-19 pandemic, students are invited to its Virtual Resource room space — even through the summer, McSpadden says.
“We still provide much of the same programming, and we still work to fulfill the mission of the physical room by continuing our educational workshops, social events, therapeutic support groups, and provision to information and connection to outside resources,” she tells SUM.