University of Wisconsin’s housing division is adding a new coed learning community that will be open to students interested in gender issues and sexuality in the upcoming fall semester.
The University Housing Division created the Open House: Gender Learning Community to be open to all students, no matter their background or sexual orientation. The gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer learning community will be based on the fourth floor of Phillips Hall, one of the Lakeshore Residence Halls, according to Magpie Martinez, Diversity Programs for UW Housing director.
The Gender and Women’s Studies Department is sponsoring the Open House, Martinez added. As a part of the community, UW Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies Julie D’Acci will be teaching a one-credit, weekly seminar, she said.
Martinez said this learning community, along with other learning communities, is possible because of grants from the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates. MIU gave UW the grants because learning communities prove to be beneficial to many UW students, she said.
“I think that very focused learning communities give students the opportunity to deeply engage in subject matter,” Martinez said. “I think it’s awesome.”
According to Paul Evans, UW Housing director, the movement for the Open House was in progress for a few years. He said housing members tried to figure out the best ways to approach the community and they focused on finding the right location for it.
Evans added the idea originated from a group of students that mostly lived in Witte Hall a few years ago. He said they desired a community that could talk about gender issues and a variety of other things.
Open House welcomes all students to participate in learning about gender, power, perception, the history and current issues of LGBTQ as well as the power and privilege of particular social groups, according to the Open House website. Ultimately, students will be learning about their own identity and the formation of their identity as well.
According to LGBTQ Diversity Coordinator Anthony Wilder, the learning community option will be available when students are applying for housing.
“This is a way of showing support for the LGBTQ community on campus,” Wilder said. “[It is also] a way to learn about sexual and gender identity [and to] learn, grown and explore.”
Evans also said it is important for UW students to know the Open House will have similar coed housing style as dorms such as Witte, Sellery or Ogg Halls.
UW Housing hopes the Open House will be a huge success among students and enthusiasm surrounding the learning community will be high, Evans said. He added he wants students to feel safe and be able to learn and grow together as they focus on issues surrounding gender.
According to the UW Housing website, Open House hopes students will build an intentional community attempting to create social change in a safe space for students.
“Hopefully, this is only the beginning,” Wilder said.