Council hears new house proposal

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Author: Patrick Jobson

Members of the Middlebury Open Queer Alliance (MOQA) proposed a “Queer Studies House” at the Community Council’s weekly meeting on Dec. 3.

Christine Bachman ’09, Ryan Tauriainen ’08 and Molli Freeman-Lynde ’08, co-presidents and treasurer respectively of MOQA, led the discussion and presented the main ideas and visions behind establishing the house. The house would serve as a gender-neutral space in which four to eight students would live, regardless of their sexual orientation. The proposal also includes that the house will function “as a central location for academic research, discussion and action surrounding issues of sexual and gender identity.”

Bachman cited “visibility Ö supporting queer students and legitimacy to queer students and issues” as the main reasons for the creation of a Queer Study House. Freeman-Lynde added that the house, which could open as early as next fall if approved, would “promote conversation and educate students” about these issues. The house would assist in “affirming Middlebury’s commitment to diversity and nondiscrimination,” according to Freeman-Lynde.

Although there are spaces on campus, such as Chellis House, that have served as a meeting center for these groups, none of these places truly fulfill the needs of a Queer Studies House simply because they are not designed to fill them.

“We cannot assume that issues around sexual and gender identity belong in Chellis House merely because it has been the most welcoming and supportive space,” stated the proposal. “As an academic interest-based house, the Queer Studies House fulfills a need that Chellis House is not designed to fill.”

The proposal expands on this idea by stating that the house would also serve as a safe space for the queer community on campus.

“The Queer Studies House will provide a safe space for students of any sexual orientation or gender identity who feel uncomfortable or unsafe on campus due to friction of harassment as a result of sexual or gender identity,” the proposal states. “Rather than cloister or segregate members of the queer community, we hope that the Queer Studies House will encourage an atmosphere of respect and safety throughout campus.”

Freeman-Lynde added that there has been “10 years of talks of establishing a house like this” and due to the recent “upsurge of homophobic incidence,” the creation of this house would also stand as a symbol of Middlebury’s stance against discrimination.

The Community Council’s response to the creation of a Queer Studies House is to support the direction of this proposal. Nevertheless, the Council agreed to discuss the matter with representatives of this proposal in future meetings in which a more detailed proposal will be raised, given the perceived the sensitive

Peyton Coles ’08.5, a member of the Community Council, raised an important question regarding the possible negative effects a Queer Studies House may create. Coles stated that the house has a “potential to alienate an important group of the community.” In response, the representatives of this proposal said that the house would not “segregate members of the queer community” but an open space for any student who demonstrates academic interest in Queer Studies.

The members of the MOQA and representatives of this proposal are hopeful that the proposal for the Queer Studies Housewill be supported. So far they state that the proposal has been met with very positive responses with College administrators and students.

As stated in the proposal, “Middlebury College will stand with other institutions across the country that have already established similar spaces, and will serve as an example for schools wrestling with hate crimes and discrimination based on sexual and gender identity.”