A new LGBTQ+ living community is being established at Binghamton University.

Located in Newing College’s Delaware Hall, the community is intended to have a social culture that organizes itself around LGBTQ+ interests, activities and issues. According to Casey Wall, director of Residential Life and housing, the new community is part of BU’s efforts to provide inclusive living environments for all students, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. It will be open to all incoming first-year students for the fall 2023 semester.

The idea was borne when the Q Center — an organization on campus dedicated to affirming gender and sexuality diversity — joined forces with Residential Life in the fall of 2021. The LBGTQ+ living community was introduced as a collaborative effort by Wall, Nick Martin, the assistant director of the Q Center, Anne Guanciale, the Q Center’s director of intercultural affairs, Amy Pollock Drake, the senior associate director of Residential Life, and Susan Briggs, the associate director of Residential Life and housing.

Martin explained that instating the new living community was a process facilitated by the Q Center in the spring of 2022. It was through town halls, focus groups and feedback sessions with students, faculty and staff, that the idea of introducing a queer community in the residence halls sprouted.

“In developing the [living community], we’re excited for this floor to host queer-identifying people, students who don’t wish to put a label on their identity for many reasons and allies who are interested in intentionally supporting the LGBTQ+ community,” Martin wrote in an email. “Through consistent interactions with Q Center professional and graduate staff, intentional Residential Life support, LGBTQ+ related events, queer faculty connections and community dinners, we hope this will be an affirming space where students can openly explore their many identities and develop lasting connections with other of the same or similar identities.”

According to Martin, numerous studies show that an improvement in student success, engagement, retention and graduation rates occurs when students build a community through affinities or identity-based groups.

“This illustrates [BU]’s commitment to serving LGBTQ+ students by providing identity-affirming opportunities from the very start of their college career,” Martin said. “The Q Center team and myself recognize that this marks the start of many years of additional work to make good on this commitment — we look forward to our ongoing collaboration with the Residential Life team to maximize the output of this new venture.”

BU recently scored 4.5 out of five on the Campus Pride Index — a scale that measures LGBTQ+ inclusive policies — a nod to the increasing inclusivity the University wanted to provide. In its other goals of diversity, however, the University has not been as consistent, with a decreasing amount of underrepresented minorities among faculty and graduate students.

Wall noted that Delaware Hall will also feature the availability of private bathrooms and shower rooms, as well as the opportunity for students to live with one roommate, rather than multiple suitemates. More developments may come in the future, Wall said.

“There will be space for further growth and development and both Residential Life and the Q Center are committed to ongoing assessment to ensure we are meeting student needs,” Wall wrote in an email.

Some other SUNY schools have similar communities in place – including SUNY Oneonta and SUNY New Paltz. Additionally, Cornell University instated their own LGBTQ+ living community in 2019.

This new community would be the first identity-based living community on BU’s campus and the eighth living/learning community offered at BU.

Angel Zeng, an undeclared freshman, noted the potential importance of the community’s location.

“I think that this is very exciting for the queer community, I think that the [private] bathrooms are great and would provide a great sense of security and privacy for them,” Zeng said. “This is a great location for the safety and consideration of the queer community.”

Kaitlyn Ip, a sophomore majoring in psychology, expressed excitement about BU’s new living community, drawn from her previous residence in Delaware Hall.

“I think that Delaware’s a great choice, especially because I used to live there so I know its opportunities — the building has a very welcoming community, and I hope that those who decide to live in the LGBTQ+ living community really enjoy it,” Ip said.