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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 22, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

News

House of Roy taps into LGBT culture

Members of the House of Roy, Ithaca College’s first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender residential learning community, are already participating in events geared toward providing support for the LGBT community.

In its first semester, the community houses 14 students in rooms on one half of the first floor of Eastman Hall. Six of the residents are sophomores and the rest are freshmen, senior Catherine Kirchhoff, co-creator but not a resident of the community, said.

Junior Benjamin Jeffirs, the resident assistant for the House of Roy, said the living community focuses on helping residents acclimate to their school and surroundings, educating people about the LGBT community and encouraging student involvement on and off campus.

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Sophomore Matt Obetz, a resident in the House of Roy learning community, speaks with senior Catherine Kirchhoff, co-creator of the living community, Tuesday. Programs for the floor began with a luau Aug. 29. KELSEY O’CONNOR/THE ITHACAN

“[The residents] need to get out and meet people who are not just the kind of people they see all the time,” Jeffirs said. “I want to provide them with a safe place where they can explore these different beliefs.”

As with members of other residential learning communities on campus, residents in the House of Roy are encouraged to participate in events related to their program. All other students are welcome to participate as well.

Some programs the residents of the House of Roy will be involved with include volunteering at the Center for LGBT Education, Outreach and Services; movie nights; the LGBT fall film series, which includes films currently scheduled through December; a prom; a potluck with other groups on campus; and guest speakers invited to talk about LGBT issues.
Residents are also encouraged to participate in other activities hosted by the Center for LGBT Education, Outreach and Services.

The House of Roy already helped to plan and host the Welcome Back Lavender Luau, which took place Aug. 29 during the college’s week of welcoming events.

Jeffirs said he hopes events such as these will increase awareness of the LGBT community and LGBT issues on campus.

“The House of Roy will bring a whole new level [to] the sexual and gender diversity on campus,” Jeffirs said.

Kirchhoff said she started working on getting the House of Roy approved in April 2009. Kirchhoff and Lis Maurer, director of the college’s Center for LGBT Education, Outreach and Services Program, were key players in establishing the housing option.

“[LGBT housing] is a growing thing on college campuses … so I felt like it was time to get the ball rolling,” Kirchhoff said.

Kirchhoff said Ron Trunzo, associate director of Residential Life and Judicial Affairs, also contributed to the efforts to institute the new housing option.

The community’s name came from the mnemonic “ROYGBIV” for the colors of the rainbow, a symbol of the LGBT community. The rooms reserved for the community filled up mostly over the summer, with one of the allotted rooms remaining vacant this fall, Kirchhoff said.

The Office of Residential Life’s website, IC Peers, Intercom and Facebook were used to promote the community, Kirchhoff said.

Housing in the House of Roy is open to any on-campus student who expresses an interest in the LGBT community.

Freshman Kira Sobiech, a resident living in the House of Roy, said she chose to apply to live in the residence hall because she thought it would be a good opportunity to get involved on campus.

“We have events that concentrate on LGBT history and rights,” she said. “It’s nice in the sense [that it’s] a community.”

Freshman Garen Whitmore, another resident of the House of Roy, said he became interested in living in the dorm because of the community’s emphasis on cultural learning.

“It’s just like being with people who have had the same experiences, or similar experiences, or completely different experiences, but you can all talk and compare in a safe place,” Whitmore said.

Kirchhoff and Jeffirs said they plan to work together on increasing the total number of residents — especially the number of upperclassmen — by next year. They say they hope the numbers grow enough to have the House of Roy occupy an entire floor in Eastman.

Maurer said she hopes the House of Roy will continue to grow.

“The future is limitless,” Maurer said. “The idea of living-learning communities on campus is that students come together around a common theme and make the community what it is.”