LGBTQA Living-Learning Community Continues to Thrive Virtually

Kent State University’s LGBTQA Living-Learning Community (LLC) has gone virtual this semester, but campus leaders continue to support the group’s members who relocated to other residence halls after Korb Hall, which has housed the community since 2016, was closed along with Lake Hall because fewer students had chosen to live there.

“The mission behind the virtual Living-Learning Communities is to try and keep these communities active and whole even though they are virtual,” said Ken Ditlevson, director of the LGBTQ+ Center. “We want to make sure that the students are connected as best as possible.”

This community is open to all students interested in learning about sexual orientation and gender identity, with a focus on social justice for LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and asexual) persons.

Virtual programs this semester have included roundtable discussions, trivia nights and film screenings. Most recently, the LGBTQ+ Center hosted a virtual roundtable discussion for Black History Month focusing on queer people of color to engage community members.

While practicing Flashes Safe Seven safety protocols, the LGBTQ+ Center was able to host some in-person events including the creation of a giant hand print rainbow and a gathering at a safe distance on Manchester Field. Students in the LLC were the first to be invited to these special events to encourage community participation.

The LGBTQ+ Center has also created a walking group that will walk the track at the recreation center on Monday afternoons, beginning in March, as a way to attract community members for a weekly in-person meet-up, Ditlevson said.

“I believe in these living-learning communities,” Ditlevson said. “The feedback that I've gotten from students in the past is that they feel more connected because they have a built-in friend group.”

Next fall, the LLC will return to Korb Hall, which is best known for providing gender-inclusive housing since 2004. Kent State is a pioneer in catering to LGBTQ+ student needs, as gender-inclusive housing was not typical for college campuses in the early 2000s.

The decision to move the students was not taken lightly.

“When we made the decision, we called each and every student, so the students knew that the community was still here,” said Jill Jenkins, executive director of residence services. “We understood it was a pain to move, but we care about their experience, and we really tried to be in touch with that.”

Students in both Korb and Lake Halls were offered the opportunity to relocate to any available residence hall room at no extra cost. Students who actively participated in their living-learning community were given the option to be moved into the same halls to keep the community together. Most relocated students chose to move to Eastway and Leebrick residence halls.

“Because everything is offered virtually, their participation in the community won't miss a beat,” Jenkins said.

All residence halls, with the exception of designated quarantine isolation halls, are expected to open again Fall 2021.

When Korb Hall reopens in the fall, LLC members will have a larger community area with more rooms on the fourth and fifth floors and access to a new kitchen space, which is scheduled to be built later this semester. Common ionization machines will also be installed in each room to help with air filtration and make it a safer environment during the pandemic.

“We care about the residents and their needs, and we are excited to have them here as part of the community,” Jenkins said. “We look forward to welcoming students back home to Korb in Fall 2021.”

The LGBTQ+ Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily in the lower-level of the Kent Student Center, allows four guests to visit at a time and offers limited eating areas to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines.

“The LGBTQ+ Center is not just for LGBTQ+ people,” Ditlevson said. “We want students to take advantage of the virtual programming that we're doing through the LGBTQ+ Center, not just the living-learning community special monthly events because we have stuff that's going on weekly.”

Students who are questioning their identity or looking to get involved in the community can connect and receive additional information by signing up for an email listserv on the LGBTQ+ Center website. The center offers virtual meetings with Ditlevson or other staff members for support and to discuss resources, training sessions and handouts.

“The living-learning communities aren't going away,” Ditlevson said. “It's something that Residence Services believes in. It's also something our identity centers like us believe in. It just makes for a better experience for students when they feel more connected.”

POSTED: Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - 9:58am
UPDATED: Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - 12:38pm
WRITTEN BY:
Hannah Gooch