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Saturday, June 12, 2021

UF’s first gender-neutral Living Learning Community will officially open to students this Summer

LGBTQ+ identifying UF students will have access to various amenities to facilitate a support network within the community and at the university.

Graphic by Shelby Cotta
Graphic by Shelby Cotta

After scrolling through different housing options when applying to UF, the name Lavender Living Learning Community caught Kate Eggenberg’s eye.

“I was curious about what the Lavender LLC was, and I kind of knew that ‘lavender’ was a queer coded word,’” the 18-year-old UF computer science incoming freshman said. “So I looked into it and I realized this is a gender inclusive housing option, so I was like, I kind of want to partake in that.”

LGBTQ+ students can look forward to living at UF’s first gender-neutral housing, the Lavender LLC this Summer — an initiative to build a more inclusive, unified and welcoming community on campus. 

The LLC will officially open in Summer B in the Springs Complex for all current and incoming UF students.

Living Learning Communities are designed to foster unity within different groups and identities, especially those that are marginalized. There are 16 LLCs at UF for races, ethnicities and areas of interest.

“The LGBTQ+ community has so much to offer,” Jeremy Fuentes, a 19-year-old UF nursing sophomore interested in living at the LLC, said. “I feel like it will never be a bland moment and there will never be anything that you can't really educate yourself or immerse yourself in.”

Ryan Wilder, a former UF Student Government senator and alumnus, said he pushed to create an LLC to incorporate gender neutral and transgender students’ needs into the on-campus living community. 

The Lavender LLC is not assigned by sex and allows students to be comfortable with their identity without having to be worried if their roommate is homophobic, transphobic, or discriminatory in any way.

Wilder said he has heard from many UF queer students about their experiences of living in the dorms and how they were afraid of having to come out to their roommates who might not support them. 

“This is something that we were able to do to prevent that from having to happen to another student ever again,” Wilder said.

To ensure residents are respectful and supportive, first-year UF international studies major Dayanna Peek said the community has set behavioral expectations for students living in the LLC and that it is up to the resident assistant to share that information and reinforce it.

The LLC is also trying to create an environment that educates residents on the complexities of gender identity and its importance, the history of the LGBTQ+ movement and the figures who contributed to it, among other goals.

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“It’d be interesting to learn more and kind of learn the roots of how we got to where we are now,” Eggenberg said, the incoming freshman who will live at the LLC this Summer.

Initially, the LLC was to be called the Marsha P. Johnson LLC, but with the recent controversies around UF buildings named after people, UF administration agreed on the Lavender title.

Peek said the reason behind the name, Lavender LLC, is to reclaim the term ‘lavender’ from the Lavender Scare in the 1950s, which was a moral panic about LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. by the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee, or the Johns Committee.

However, former UF president J. Wayne Reitz aided members of the committee in 1958 by assigning a UFPD official to work with the committee to find and question LGBTQ+ students and professors on-campus in an interrogation room. 

It was a witch hunt where many LGBTQ+ students and faculty were kicked out or fired from UF.

The Lavender LLC was proposed in Fall 2020 by a team of six SG senators and students, including Wilder, Monica Lea, an SG Graduate Senator, and Alex Hernandez, former UF Pride Student Union president. 

UF Housing and Residence Education approved the proposal on Oct. 5, 2020.

“I'm really proud to be part of this task force and to bring ideas and bring this to life,” Peek, who will be the RA for the LLC in the summer, said. “I'm just so excited for the new students to come and to have a home.”

The student organizers are currently working with various partners to schedule different activities for residents during Summer B and Fall, said Peek. They are planning to host a kick-off event for all residents once they’ve moved in to welcome students and provide general on-campus and off-campus resources.

Pride Student Union, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Center for Gender Sexualities and Women’s Research, UF Student Healthcare Center and other campus organizations and centers partnered with the LLC to promote the community and offer multiple resources to students.

Alyssa Zucker, the associate director and undergraduate coordinator for the Center for Gender, Sexualities and Women’s Studies Research, said she is excited to introduce students to the different degree programs and studies they offer.

Zucker, who is also the official liaison to the academic side of the LLC, will promote a new course that will be offered in the Fall: IDS 2935, Be a Social Justice Activist. The course dives into the organization, intersectionality and hashtag activism in social movements.

In the Springs Complex, UF Housing will set up what it calls pods, which consists of suites. Within a suite, there are two rooms and a bathroom that is shared between two or four students, depending if it is a single or double suite.

Jordan said they estimate between 60 and 80 students will live in the LLC within the first year.

For Summer B, prices range from $1,255 to $1,351 per student, while in the Fall and Spring, prices may vary between $3,198 to $3,430 per semester. Compared to other UF residence halls, the mean cost of a dorm in Summer B is $1,161, and in the Fall and Spring, $2,933.

Students can register to live in the community as long as they add the Lavender LLC to their preferences after doing a housing contract in the Housing Management System. However, the deadline for Summer B was May 14.

From there, students can use the RoomSync app to look through possible roommate profiles until UF Housing sets live Zoom roommate matching assignments by May 17, where students can meet, connect with each other and decide whether they’d be a good roommate. 

This process of roommate matching where residents meet prior to move-in day is only done for this Living Learning Community.

“Because it's truly gender inclusive housing, we want everyone to have a roommate scenario that they feel really good about,” Jordan said.

Normally, UF Housing will assign roommates within the dormitories, as well as provide the RoomSync app to incoming residents, unless otherwise stated in a student’s preferences after completing their housing contract.

The Lavender LLC was awarded UF’s 2021 Outstanding Inclusive Excellence Initiative, which recognizes actions that cultivate and celebrate diversity and demonstrate a sustained commitment to advancing inclusive excellence within the UF community. 

Although, some students felt that this should have been implemented at UF a long time ago as many other universities in Florida already offer LGBTQ+ LLCs or gender-inclusive housing options for students on-campus like USF, UNF and FIU.

“Being a part of it made me realize that, UF, we're really behind,” Peek said. 

Fuentes said he just hopes that the Lavender LLC is one that continues to grow and that it is able to stay for a long time, providing a safe space for LGBTQ+ identifying students to feel welcomed in the university.

“We want to hear more from students, like what do they want to see in the community as it really is their community. It's their LLC,” Wilder said. “It's so important that we put the students first and the people who will be living in the community first.”


Contact Camila Pereira at cpereira@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @CamilaSaPereira.

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