A newly proposed Living Learning Community providing a space for students to explore gender and sexuality received approval from Georgetown University’s Office of Residential Living last month.
The LLC, called “Crossroads: Gender and Sexuality,” is intended to serve as a community space for conversations about inclusivity issues pertaining to gender and sexual orientation while remaining true to Georgetown’s Jesuit values, according to Todd Olson, vice president of student affairs.
“Our Catholic and Jesuit values call on us to engage with ‘respect, compassion, and sensitivity’ with our LGBTQ community. It is in keeping with our Catholic and Jesuit values to provide a language, perspective, and sense of inclusion for deepening our sense of cura personalis,” Olson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
LLCs are residential communities “where like-minded individuals can share and deepen their passions through social, educational, and reflective activities,” according to the Office of Residential Living’s website. Student proposals for new LLCs are accepted and reviewed annually.
About 500 students currently live in Georgetown’s 13 residential LLCs, according to Olson. The themes of other LLCs include culture and the arts, entrepreneurship and intercultural living.
Administrators have not yet announced the size and location of the Crossroads LLC, which will launch in the 2018-2019 school year. The proposal was co-authored by Grace Smith (COL ’18) and Henry Callander (COL ’18).
Smith, also the co-chair of the Georgetown University Student Association’s LGBTQ+ Advocacy and Policy coalition, said the new LLC’s approval signifies Georgetown’s acknowledgement of the importance of gender and sexuality in student life.
“This is a major and unprecedented accomplishment for a Catholic university,” Smith wrote in an email to The Hoya. “It makes a profound and radical statement that religion does not have to be mutually exclusive with the freedom to understand, challenge, and grow through and with expressions of and reflection on gender and sexuality. It says: come as you are; be who you are; love how you do; and we’ll make a home for you.”
Chad Gasman (COL ’20), president of the LGBTQ advocacy group GUPride and a coordinator for the LLC, said that, in addition to providing a student-led space as a resource for queer students, this LLC will also ease the housing process for LGBTQ students.
“For trans students especially, housing is a very difficult and stressful process,” Gasman wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I know I spent many nights sleeplessly trying to figure out where to live that was going to get me both an accepting roommate and also an accepting floor community, and having an assurance that a floor on campus is not only geared towards queer and trans issues, but is going to be heavily, if not entirely, filled with fellow queer and trans students is undoubtedly a load off trans students’ minds when housing selection rolls around.”
Gasman added, “What this means for the LGBTQ campus community is, in so many words, an assurance of safety and comfortability.”
The LLC’s approval has drawn media criticism, particularly from religious and conservative circles. Washington Times columnist Cheryl Chumley wrote that the LLC would “water down the gender definitions even further” while “ratcheting confusions and political correctness and fears to speak truthfully about the role of biology and God in determining sex.”
The Office of Residential Living rejected the Crossroads LLC proposal last year. In an April 2017 interview with The Hoya, Smith, who helped author the initial proposal, said she believed the university perceived the LLC as part of a “much larger fight over how Georgetown wants to live its Catholic values and what those Catholic values are.”
Addressing why the application was successful this year after the earlier rejection, Smith pointed to the 10th anniversary of Georgetown’s Out for Change campaign, which was commemorated this year by Georgetown in an event titled “Discerning Our Past: Townhall Revisited.”
“In the wake of the tenth anniversary of the Out for Change campaign at Georgetown and in a time when community and solitary feel especially important, this year is a distinctly powerful and critical one,” Smith wrote.
Georgetown launched the Out for Change campaign in 2007 in response to alleged bias-related incidents that occurred on campus, which sparked a historic town hall held by University President John J. DeGioia on LGBTQ inclusivity. The aftermath of the campaign, the town hall and the incidents led to the improvement of procedure to formally report and record incidents of bias against the LBGTQ community and the establishment of the LBGTQ Resource Center, the first of its kind for a Catholic university in the United States.
At the town hall, DeGioia said that Georgetown must uphold its Catholic heritage in all its actions as a university while also supporting its LGBTQ students.
“We can and must advocate for respect, inclusion, understanding, safety, mentoring, dignity, growth and equal opportunity. We can and must advocate for freedom from prejudice, exclusion, discrimination and homophobia,” DeGioia said.
Smith said the approval of the Crossroads LLC is a major step forward, but room for improvement remains for LGBTQ inclusion at Georgetown.
“Housing and residential life is fundamentally a process of creating a space of home for students on this campus,” Smith wrote. “And this only succeeds if and when the university is willing to recognize the diversity of all its students at an institutional level and allows them to choose the residential conditions that give them a place from which to thrive. This requires a holistic commitment to making residential spaces inclusive — from all-gender bathrooms on every single hall to a housing selection process that is grounded in choice and not policy.”