On a typical Thursday evening, senior Christine Bachman is busy hosting students at the Queer Studies House, a residential academic interest house with a focus on queer studies. These evenings are called “Thursday Teas.” Sipping tea and eating cookies, Bachman and the four other residents of the house start informal conversations on a variety of topics related to queer studies, an emerging interdisciplinary field that critiques traditional norms of sexuality and gender. Sometimes, as many as 30 or 40 students stop by for these gatherings.
“Students get to know and relate to each other on a personal level that in turn enables a safe, open, varied discussion about issues of difference,” explains sophomore Catarina Campbell, who frequently attends these gatherings.
As co-president of the Middlebury Open-Queer Alliance (MOQA), Bachman was one of the three chief architects of the proposal for the Queer Studies House. The proposal was approved by Community Council last year. (Middlebury Story Archive)
In the fall of 2007, members of the Middlebury Open Queer Alliance (MOQA, now known as Q&A) proposed a new academic interest house to the Community Council. The proposed Queer Studies House would serve “as a central location for academic research, discussion and action surrounding issues of sexual and gender identity,” according to the three MOQA leaders who led the effort – Christine Bachman ’09.5, Ryan Tauriainen ’08, and Molli Freeman-Lynde ’08.
In January 2008, the three architects presented their proposal to the Student Government Association Senate. After a heated discussion and in the face of stiff opposition – mainly focusing on the concern that only queer students would be interested in and inhabit the house, and that the house would become a place queer students isolated themselves, rather than engaging the campus community – the Senate passed the proposal 5-4.
The Community Council gave its final approval to the QSH 9-1 with one abstention, and the house became a reality the following fall in the 2008-2009 academic year, filling the space previously occupied by the German House, 70 Hillcrest Road.
In an interview with The Campus, Christine Bachman described the focus of the house in this way: “What’s different about queer studies specifically is that women’s and gender studies is about men and women and then queer studies takes that and runs with it. Queer studies really looks at how binaries are constructed and sort of destabilizes the very organizing principles of women’s studies and gender studies.” Explaining the need for a residential space for queer studies, Bachman continued, “the idea is that when people live together and there is interest and energy around their shared interest there is going to be more support dedicated to creating programming and outreach to the community.”
Here are some stories about the founding of the Queer Studies House:
- “Council hears new house proposal” (December 6, 2007)
- “SGA supports Queer House” (January 21, 2008)
- “Queer Studies House okayed” (February 14, 2008)
People’s Gender Council of Middlebury
The People’s Gender Council of Middlebury (PGCOM) was a grassroots group of Middlebury students, staff, and faculty active from 2009-2011 and focused on harnessing the passion of anti-oppression activists and experts to effect broad, systemic, policy-oriented change. PGCOM was the brain-child of Lark Mulligan ’11 and Viveka Ray-Mazumder ’11, who worked with members of the QSH faculty board as well as other QSH residents and interested students to create and implement their proposal over 15 long months. PGCOM operated under a philosophy heavily informed by queer studies, and many strategy sessions either for creating the proposal or planning how to bring it to the Administration were held in the Queer Studies House. More about the history, work, and fate of PGCOM is available at its now-dormant website (link above).