By Meghan Brink | March 1, 2021
An LGBTQ+ community residence hall was announced this week by Residential Life as a new addition to UAlbany’s mission to create an inclusive and safe space on campus for queer and transgender identifying students.
The creation of the Harvey House began with a vision from junior Jake Evans and was fortified into action through a mix of work with the Student Association (SA), Residential Life, and the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC).
Evans, who currently serves as the Student Association’s Director of Gender and Sexuality Concerns, experienced difficulty finding a living space during his freshman year where he would feel safe.
“Something I was really nervous about when it came to college was my living situation,” said Evans. “As a gay man, I was nervous about getting stuck with a homphobic roommate or suitemate, and I realized there wasn’t a place that was very accessible for me where I would feel comfortable.”
Evans, a theater minor, joined the theater living learning community where he was able to find a supportive group of individuals. However, he envisioned the Harvey House in an effort to make it easier for LGBTQ+ students to find a safe and accessible living space on campus.
“Like many LGBTQ+ people, I had to figure out my own avenues of how to adapt and feel the most comfortable,” said Evans. “I didn't want other students to go through those avenues, I wanted there to be a space where they would be accepted.”
Evans in front of an ad poster for Harvey House. Credit: Richel Boroh / ASP
Evans has played a proactive role in extending safety measures to LGBTQ+ students. In April 2020, Evans began work with Country D'Allaird, coordinator for the GSRC, to extend university housing protections dictated by Residential Life to include a provision that allowed LGBTQ+ students with at home instability to be covered under extenuating circumstances to remain in on-campus housing.
This successful attempt to address the issue of housing insecurity for LGBTQ+ students inspired Evans to begin working in Fall 2020 with his team in SA and D’Allaird to create what would become the Harvey House. After researching similar LGBTQ+ housing across other public universities, and presenting their proposal to Residential Life, the Harvey House was finally approved in December 2020.
The Harvey House, named after UAlbany alumni Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official and an LGBTQ+ rights champion, will be located at Dutch Quad and open to freshman, sophmores, and juniors, unlike the 14 other living learning communities on campus that are offered only to first-year students.
According to Evans, the Harvey House will differ from the Gender Inclusive Housing currently offered by Residential Life in many ways.
“It doesn't provide programming, it doesn't have a community aspect, it was kind of just there,” said Evans. “Gender and sexuality are different, and it's important to realize that… it was important for me to create a space that included all identities.”
According to Evans, the Harvey House will offer its members programming and services aimed to foster a sense of belonging, create a deeper understanding for LGBTQ+ equity, and empower students through their identity. Evans is currently collaborating with the GSRC and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to create programming for the Fall semester to increase services available on campus to queer and transgender students.
Some of the ideas Evans has in mind include tailoring the required freshman writing and critical inquiry course to be LGBTQ+ based and volunteer opportunities.
Students who are interested in joining the Harvey House for the Fall 2021 semester can now apply via the Residential Life website. Any questions or concerns about the Harvey House can be answered by Residential Life Assistant Director for Community Jameelee Ford.