Letter to the Editor: The demolition of Fran’s House from the perspective of current residents

Dear Editor,

Here are the facts of this situation. Summit House, the current location of the Fran’s House affinity house, the LGBTQ affinity house, will be demolished after this academic year. This is not unreasonable, as for the past few years, the physical structure of the house has been starting to fail, with extensive flooding in the basement and parts of the ceiling losing integrity. There are plans for a new academic building in the space where Summit House currently stands.

The issue, then, comes from the question of where Fran’s House will be located next year. There are some accommodations that this space requires if it is to serve as a proper safe space for this community. It must be accessible to all students (ADA compliant). It must have a large common area for hosting gatherings and allowing community building (for students in the house as well as others). It must meet proper size requirements for the number of students who wish to live there, and it must be primarily comprised of single rooms. The house must also contain gender-neutral bathrooms.

The University has provided some options for the location of Fran’s House next year, but none of the options presented meet these requirements, nor could they be easily modified to do so. We acknowledge that the University is attempting to find replacements, but we feel that if this were an concern for a Greek organization, the issue would have likely have already been resolved, highlighting a current inequity of how different student organizations are treated by the administration.

Fran’s House is absolutely critical to LGBTQ students, and frankly to all members of the University community. It serves as a safe space to live together, work together and grow together, without fear of marginalization or oppression. Put simply, Fran’s House allows LGBTQ people to exist without apology. It also provides great services to the wider community, such as the annual Fran’s House Barbeque and registers. The house provides a space for allies to learn more about the community in a judgement-free space. We owe it to one another – as community members, as peers, as Bucknellians – to give all students a place to live free of fear. Failing to facilitate that safety by removing Fran’s House is a failure of the community and of the administration.

We are asking that a space be given for Fran’s House that meets the following requirements:

  1. A house with approximately 20-25 rooms. Every LGBTQ student who wishes to live in the space should have the right to do so in order to feel safe and welcomed on campus. We do not want to have to turn students away due to lack of rooms.

  2. A house that is primarily comprised of singles. LGBTQ students often feel uncomfortable or unsafe in shared rooms as the exploration of gender and sexuality is a private and personal process. Furthermore, we require some doubles in the house for students who feel more comfortable living with a friend.

  3. A house that is ADA-compliant. LGBTQ students who also have accessibility needs should not have to compromise their identity to find housing that meets their needs. This is a current dilemma of Summit house, and we should not have to deny students the right to safe and accessible housing.

  4. A house that has large common spaces. A staple of Fran’s House, like all living-learning communities on campus, is the programming and community events that are held. In order to engage in such programming that supplements the student experience, adequate meeting and social space is critical as it promotes community that supports students inside and outside of the classroom. This space needs to be large enough to accommodate not only students living in the house, but other members of the community as well.

  5. A house that has gender neutral bathrooms. Students residing in Fran’s House may choose to explore gender, so living in a house that they may have to choose a gendered bathroom does not help the overall community. LGBTQ students need to have security in their bathrooms as well.

We urge you to be an active community member and ally in this issue – to help spread the word to others on campus and urge the administration to take action on this issue. We also ask that the administration be transparent with us as we navigate specific solutions to this problem.

Sincerely,

The LGBTQ+ community at Bucknell.

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