Rooted and open.
According to the ELCA in 2018, a Lutheran university locates its identity in a common institutional calling, taking into consideration the inclusivity of all students. Augustana is manifesting that inclusivity in a new space known as the LGBT HeadQuarters, or LGBTHQ.
The LGBTHQ hosted a grand opening on Tuesday, Oct. 15. Housed in Tuve Hall, the LGBTHQ acts as both a resource room and meeting space for Augustana’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) community.
The space was made possible by Samantha Kibbish, assistant director of Campus Life for Tuve Hall, and GSA with support from the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office and the Dean of Students. What was once an old storage room is now a safe space for breath and connectedness with pride flags and chairs.
“I noticed this room that was wall to window bed frames,” Kibbish said. “Flash forward to last spring, I went to a GSA meeting and I noticed that the GSA members were sitting on the floor of the theatre. Then, over [the] summer, I thought of a more useful use for the space. What better way to reuse this space than to give it to the GSA students and members of the [LGBTQ+] community?”
In an Oct. 11 email to students, Dean of Students Mark Blackburn wrote “the LGBTHQ serves as a resource space dedicated to support all students in the LGBTQ+ community and to promote the education of students and community members alike about LGBTQ+ issues, gender identities, expressions and the current issues in our society relating to them.”
“This space is a space to breathe,” Skylar Allen, GSA president said. “For a lot of us, it is a lot to try and mask and try and get through life with other people’s perceptions of you, but with the GSA it’s kind of a family.”
Breathing allows for openness for the 34 members of GSA. This openness among the LGBTQ+ community and fostering neighborliness are the most important aspects of this initiative, according to President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin’s opening remarks at the dedication.
“Some may find that there are barriers to opening up [and] need a special space to start sharing and opening with others who may have similar lived experiences,” Herseth Sandlin said.
To be rooted in the Lutheran faith is to be open and loving to your neighbors. It is this foundational root that allowed for the extension, or branching, of support for a space to house the LGBTQ+ family at Augustana, according to Allen.
“It is not despite [the fact] that this is a Christian school that we have this space, but because,” Allen said.
Allen also emphasized the advantageous nature of Augustana in regards to its location and size with only about 1,800 students.
The vibrant, hand-painted walls and chairs can be found on the first floor of Tuve in room 129. The space will be utilized for GSA meetings, as well as potential community-oriented educational events.