As reported by VTx, 41 students currently reside in Lavender House, the university’s latest living-learning community (LLC), located in O’Shaughnessy Hall.
According to the article, its name derives from the color’s representation in queer history when in the 1920s, lesbians donned lavender clothing as a way to subtly express their love for other women.
Ashleigh “Bing” Bingham, the director of the LGBTQ+ Resource Center and advisor of HokiePride, stated that the LLC is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Dean Laura Belmonte’s research and ongoing interest in the LGBTQ+ community and rights helped put the process of creating the LLC in motion.
“We knew there (was) student interest in the LLC; we knew there (was) administrative support, so in that point in time, a steering committee was put together,” Bingham said.
The steering committee consisted of Bing; Shaila Mehra, assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences; Jes Davis, president of the LGBTQ+ caucus; Jo Wolf, professor in the Department of Religion & Culture and History; Matt Kwiatkowski, associate director for Academic Initiatives in Housing and Residence Life; and Jess Westcott, psychologist at Cook Counseling Center.
The committee eventually transitioned into an advisory board after Lavender House and Jess Silvia’s position as its director became official on July 1.
When living at Lavender House, students can expect to take a required three-credit hour course, which Bing describes as a “queer histories course and queer studies course all wrapped in one.” There will also be film viewings, readings, visiting guest speakers and community activism all aimed at becoming better engaged and knowledgable in queer subjects.
“What I hope for Lavender House is (that) centering it on the academic discipline of queer studies will allow all residents in the space to use the insights of the scholarship to think about their own lives, the society they live in and how they wish to serve and to take that knowledge with them after they leave,” Mehra said.
According to Bing, opening Lavender House — along with the success of Ujima, an LLC concentrated in Black and African American culture and experiences — has prompted discussions about potentially opening more LLCs based on identities, such as Native Americans, Latinx and Asian Pacific Islander and Desi Americans.
Bing believes these discussions demonstrate how the university has made progress and continues to move forward for equity and representation.
“Discrimination has existed on our campus. You could easily go through the LGBTQ timeline of Virginia Tech to see what has happened. Virginia Tech has not always been welcoming, Virginia Tech has not always been affirming and it has been detrimental to individuals’ health,” Bing said. “In the smaller scheme of things, this is a huge thing for us to say ‘we are invested in this community, we see you and we support you.’”
According to Silvia, the LLC was an option for first-year students to join, while returning students had the opportunity to apply early last winter. Applications for returning students to join this year open in early October. For more information, visit llp.vt.edu/llc/lavender_house.