Allen Hall attracts LGBTQ+ community

By Ashleigh Kendrick, Contributing Writer

At 1005 W. Gregory Drive in Urbana sits Allen Hall — a large, four-story resident hall where over 650 students live every year. Inside Allen, students will find creative labs, over 20 active student groups and the Unit One Living-Learning Community. But besides those resources, LGBTQ+ students will also discover an inclusive home.

From having a gender-inclusive wing to a support group called Q, Allen Hall attracts a large LGBTQ+ population. The students found a home in Allen, utilizing resources meant to create a safe space and make life-long connections with others who are like them.

Laura Haber has been the academic & program director of Allen Hall’s Unit One LLC since 1999. The Unit One LLC is the largest resource available, comprised of all Allen Hall students, and its purpose is to engage students through artistic outlets.

Over the years, Haber witnessed the development of the gender-inclusive wing, 1 North, and the beginning of the student-led LGBTQ+ support group: Q. Haber said Q provides a supportive environment for LGBTQ+ students and those who are questioning their sexual identity. 

Part of the reason Allen Hall has historically been a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ is that Unit One has sought to be a welcoming place for a lot of folks who may feel marginalized, Haber said.

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Orion Taraszkiewicz, sophomore in LAS, lives in 1 North with their best friend who is transgender. Taraszkiewicz was relieved and excited when they learned about the gender-inclusive wing at Allen hall. 

“We had to get a gender-inclusive room, or else we would have had to go through a ton of paperwork in order to room together,” Taraszkiewicz said. 

Taraszkiewicz said living in 1 North also provided a comfortable living space that allowed them to think about their own gender identity. 

“It was only earlier this year that I was starting to get through my whole gender situation because I was realizing that I identify more as non-binary,” Taraskiewicz said. “So being in a gender-neutral hall helped to confirm that, and it makes me feel a lot more comfortable.” 

Nora Danaher, freshman in ACES, is a queer woman who also lives in 1 North. Danaher said they were drawn towards Allen Hall because they felt more comfortable living in places with people who understand them. 

“I am kind of more comfortable around people who aren’t conforming cisgender,” Danaher said. “It feels like they understand my experiences as a queer woman.” 

Haber said Allen Hall is like a “small college within a large campus.” She highlighted the perks of living in a small community, saying that students are able to engage and connect with their community with less societal pressure. 

“It’s easier to get to know the people around you, and it’s easier to get involved and develop leadership and feel connected to people,” Haber said. 

Erin O’Connor, sophomore in LAS and 1 North resident, O’Connor said she felt the sense of community Allen Hall strives for. 

“I feel like it really does a great job of getting people to go out and meet each other and really get to know the people that you’re living next to,” O’Connor said. 

In addition to creating an inclusive environment, Haber said Allen Hall provides residents with four credit hour classes that students can take within the building. Allen Hall also has various facilities where students can develop artistic, musical, photography and digital skills. 

O’Connor utilized her access to these facilities. O’Connor said last semester, she attended a music class, and a month ago, she attended a workshop on how to build circuit boards. She specifically remembered getting the opportunity to learn how to make paper.

“They (instructors) were outside the front doors, and anyone could come up and make their own paper out of the fibers,” O’Connor said. “That was definitely a really cool experience to be able to do that.” 

Allen Hall also frequently invites guests through their residence program. Guest residents range from artists, writers, scholars and activists and live alongside students in the residence hall. Haber said that guests are usually involved in LGBTQ+ issues or are a part of the community themselves. In the next week, Allen Hall will be welcoming Shing Yin Khor, a Malaysian-American cartoonist. 

Haber said Allen Hall’s goal is to promote inclusivity, diversity and to help students find mentors. 

“We have a lot of opportunities for our residents to connect with these people,” Haber said. “To connect on a more informal basis, to have conversations, to share experiences.” 

Haber said that through the programs, resources, clubs and inclusivity provided, she hopes that Allen Hall is inviting and welcoming to potential residents. 

“We hope to create a welcoming, inclusive environment for a lot of different folks,” Haber said. “And over my years, I have sought to have it be welcoming and inclusive for LGBTQ+ students.”


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