In Already Welcoming Dorm, Housemaster Extends LGBTQ-Friendly Policies

The recently released results from last April’s “Living Pink” survey revealed the predominantly positive sentiments toward LGBTQ students—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning—in MIT living groups. Most living groups scored highly, demonstrating residents’ welcoming attitudes toward the LGBTQ community. 

On a scale that ranked how comfortable students felt having an LGBTQ student in their living groups, Senior House topped the charts with an impressive 6.8 out of seven. Senior House Housemaster and Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy Agustín Rayo approached the results as both a complement and a challenge.
 
“The first thing that struck me about the survey was that even at my dorm…there’s still work to do,” Rayo said. “If you look at the responses from the Senior House students, you can see some degree of anti-LGBTQ discourse.”
 
Rayo reached out to survey creator Cory Hernandez ’14 and asked for suggestions on how to improve living conditions for LGBTQ students in his dorm. Hernandez provided Rayo with a number of ways he could make Senior House more LGBTQ friendly. 
 
For one, Hernandez suggested promoting more aggressively the “You Are Welcome Here” campaign, in which students, staff and faculty show support for the LGBTQ community by posting cards featuring the rainbow flag on their doors, desks and other prominent places around campus. Hernandez also suggested that Senior House adopt a more robust non-discrimination policy to ensure the LGBTQ community feels accepted. He also said that the living group should celebrate LGBTQ “days of action,” which include No Name-Calling Day and National Coming Out Day.
 
Rayo responded to Hernandez’s suggestions with enthusiasm. “I really want Senior House to be a haven for the LGBTQ community,” he said. Rayo stepped up the “You Are Welcome Here” campaign by displaying the postcards in more prominent places and nominating a graduate resident tutor as an ambassador to oversee the campaign in Senior House.
 
Rayo also became more careful when talking about discrimination in Senior House. “I have made a point of mentioning non-discrimination issues specifically regarding the LGBTQ community in official announcements and speeches to the house,” he said.
 
LGBTQ “days of action” will also become more prominent in Senior House, Rayo said. In October, Senior House residents participated in “Gaytober,” a series of parties and talks celebrating the LGBTQ community. The month-long series centered around National Coming Out Day on October 11, and featured a mural painting that incorporates the Senior House logo and the rainbow flag.
 
With his suggestions becoming reality in Senior House, Hernandez drafted a document with specific action items that any living group could implement to improve the living environment for LGBTQ students. Hernandez hopes to eventually bring his suggestions to all of MITs living groups, using Rayo and Senior House as a model.
 
To learn more about the Living Pink survey and guide, visit the Living Pink website.
Filed under: LBGT