Originally published on Advocate.com April 03 2004 12:00 AM ET
University of Iowa officials expect to approve a special dormitory floor for students interested in sexuality studies. "The academic group said it was an excellent proposal," residential services director Von Stange said. "I don't see why I wouldn't approve it, but I do have to look at it."
Cianan Russell, a transgendered male senior chemistry major from Kansas City, Mo., started the push for the specially designated floor in the fall of 2002. Prior to his sex-change surgery, he lived on a women's floor of a dorm and suffered insults related to his masculine appearance. On Thursday he said an online survey he conducted showed that many other students have experienced similar problems. Russell initially envisioned a floor for students interested in studying gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues, but the current proposal is for a floor dedicated to anyone studying sexuality.
The plan calls for 15 sophomores to live in the west tower of the Quadrangle Residence Hall, according to Lola Lopes, associate provost for undergraduate education. She said the university would expand the program and probably move it if student interest dictates a need to do so. The floor would be modeled after many other floors in Iowa dormitories set aside for students with similar academic interests, including floors dedicated to science and engineering, business leadership, and, beginning this fall, writing. Faculty and other speakers come to the floors to make academic presentations and hold discussions.
It would be one of only three or four such floors in the nation, according to an expert on the subject at the University of California, Los Angeles. "We found there was a lot of [faculty] interest if we broadened it to include all types of sexuality studies topics," Russell said. Officials say no student will be denied entrance to the sexuality studies floor based on gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs. Sarah Neilson, 20, a junior from Wheaton, Ill., said Iowa can be an uncomfortable place for students with nontraditional sexual orientations. "You look around the cafeteria...and you know that people can't relate to that aspect of your life," she said, adding that the floor might be quite popular. "It has a lot to do with the intellectual discussions. If you have a whole floor of people who will talk about these issues and get them out there, it sounds like a great opportunity."