Gay Halls In University Dorms: Good Idea Or Target For Hate Crimes?

The University of Iowa already offers dorm halls focused around fields of study like business, engineering, Hispanic languages and culture. But now the school’s GLBT Allied Union Executive Board wants to give incoming students the option to live in an LGBT dorm hall specifically for queer students and allies. But will this offer LGBT students solidarity among like-minded individuals or will it isolate them from the larger campus and make them sitting ducks for harassment, vandalism, or even hate crimes?

As for isolation, a dorm hall welcoming of LGBT students could actually serve as a way for queer-identified students to become more active in campus life and politics rather than less active, since living with other openly queer students might teach them the importance of open involvement and queer campus politics. Also, the dorm would serve as a great place for closeted, curious, and questioning students to visit and meet with other LGBTs without feeling like they have to self-identify by going to a bar or an LGBT organizational meeting.

As for violence, Quentin Hill of the GLBT Allied Union Executive Board, dismisses fears about the hall becoming a target saying, “People seem to be open and affirming here, and accepting even though they might not agree with it. I think that’s a unique thing about Iowa City.”

According to campus police statistics, the campus had 47 reported incidents of harassment and 65 reported incidents of assault in 2010, just five and ten more incidents respectively than were reported the year before. So while an LGBT floor could increase their occurence, it’s also likely that the school would take greater care to monitor the floor and swiftly respond to any such cases, both to avoid bad press and to show their care for current and prospective LGBT students in particular.

Image via Phil Roeder

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