A GoGuideMagazine.com Exclusive
Do You Feel Welcome on Campus?
Iowa City, IA – According to various media reports, it’s been decided to keep UI’s cultural houses closed through the rest of the fall semester. All of the cultural houses located on campus exist to serve those communities that often find themselves underserved or underrepresented in the overall campus community.
The Pride Alliance Center serves the LGBTQ+ community on campus. The Center offers various programming and educational programs throughout the year. It also serves as a resource for those students who may be struggling and is looking for help. The Pride Alliance Center is, among many other things, a clearinghouse of all the available resources on campus. For the record, there are a lot of resources available to the UI community. However, finding these resources can be a challenge.
Another resource center for many in the community is Studio 13. Studio 13 is Iowa City’s only full-time LGBTQ+ bar. It offers a lot more than just entertainment. In many ways, it is the Center of LGBTQ+ life for many UI students.
Presently, Studio 13 and all bars have been closed by order the Governor of Iowa. This step was taken as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19. The bars and clubs in the two counties representing the University of Iowa and Iowa State University have been closed the longest. October 4th represents the last day of closure in Johnson and Story Counties. Of course, another spike in local COVID-19 cases could include another shutdown.
With all these hurdles this semester caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, GoGuide is asking the question, “Do you feel welcome on your college campus?” This question is more profound than just feeling welcomed. Do you feel like you have a safe place to go if needed? Do you feel isolated or depressed? We want to hear from you. Visit GoGuideMagazine.com and share your college experiences with the LGBTQ+ communities across the state of Iowa.
GoGuide Magazine reached out to the Pride Alliance Center and the UI administration asking these same questions. Read their responses here:
⦁ How should new LGBTQ students at UI best assimilate into a new city and new educational setting given the fact that the Pride Alliance Center is closed for the fall?
⦁ Although the physical space of the Pride Alliance Center (“Pride House”) is closed for the fall semester, we have a very active virtual presence. In addition to social media engagement, and virtual programs and events, Pride House student staff members are hosting a consistent weekly schedule for a virtual Pride House space via Zoom. This virtual gathering space is to mimic – to the best of our ability – the services and opportunities for community building and academic support that we offer in person. We also utilize our platforms to highlight additional virtual engagement opportunities for LGBTQ+ students to connect with peers – such as student organizations, and to identify resources – such as Academic Advising.
⦁ What are the considerations for opening the Pride Alliance Center for the spring semester?
⦁ The Pride House, along with the additional UI Cultural Centers and areas within Multicultural and International Student Support and Engagement (MISSE), will follow university COVID-19 guidelines, including recommendations surrounding the gathering of students. We must put our UI community’s holistic safety and wellness first when deciding the appropriate time to reopen. Centering safety is especially important when supporting marginalized communities, as data repeatedly show disproportionately negative impacts of COVID-19, including ongoing healthcare disparities.
⦁ Does the Pride Alliance Center have any plans for Homecoming (in-person or virtual)?
⦁ We are grateful to have an ongoing partnership between MISSE and the Homecoming team. We have an annual event called the Multicultural Block Party. Although this event typically involves music, performances, food, and community across all the UI Cultural Centers, this year’s block party has taken to an online platform. The Homecoming Instagram account (@uihomecoming) is offering a gift card giveaway to eight people who follow at least 2 of the MISSE accounts (@uiowaafrohouse; @uiowalnacc; @uiowaapacc; @uiowapridehouse; @uiowaisse) and share a comment on their post. What is especially cool about this giveaway, is that all the gift cards come from four local businesses: Beno’s, Bollywood Grill, Mammita’s Coffee, and SugaPeach. (Side note: October is also LGBTQ+ History Month, which will bring some great programming our team has been working on!)
⦁ Have you heard feedback from new LGBTQ students on campus life (good or bad) about this very unusual year of school and COVID-19?
⦁ Students have been overall optimistic about the circumstances of this semester. Many of them imagined college as a time to gain independence, to explore all things our campus has to offer, and to make lifetime friendships. All of these goals can be achieved, but not in the way they had imagined. I’ve listened to a spectrum of new student responses, from disappointment regarding the difficulties of exploring campus from a dorm room, to excitement and gratitude that we are offering so many engagement opportunities in virtual spaces. I have truly been impressed with the resilience students have demonstrated through these holistically difficult times.
⦁ I know the UI has a lot to offer LGBTQ students but finding a central portal that online or in-person appears to be a real challenge for new students given all the closures and high turnover in the diversity office. Do you have any final thoughts on how UI handles its LGBTQ student population in terms of offering a welcoming environment and an opportunity to find social opportunities?
⦁ Since beginning my role in October 2019, I have collaborated with several dedicated campus partners and have been on numerous committees who have created initiatives to support LGBTQ+ UI students. I can say with confidence that the (countless) folx I have had the pleasure of working with at the University of Iowa do their best to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment. I can also say that there’s always room for growth when it comes to centralizing information and resources. Now more than ever, when we rely on virtual spaces to share programming and social engagement opportunities, we recognize where we can fine-tune how this information exists. We can’t always control turnover, but we can maximize information centralization within departments to reduce progress loss when turnover does happen. Our goal is to support students as seamlessly as possible.