The “Rainbow Lounge” will be on the third floor of the campus library and will provide areas for studying and mentoring.
“The main thing is just that it’s a visible representation of the library’s support for our queer and trans students,” multidisciplinary liaison librarian Elle Covington told The Shorthorn, UTA’s campus newspaper.
The lounge will occupy a 120-square-foot study room — one of eight — on the third floor and is supposed to be open to all UTA students, according to Jeff Carlton, executive director for communications and media relations for the university.
“Though not fully open yet, the new lounge is expected to be used as a study space, a meeting room for support groups, office hours for our LGBTQ+ Program and for other UTA-affiliated purposes,” Carlton wrote in an email reply to The Texan.
He added that there were no construction costs for the lounge, as it was a pre-existing room, but UTA purchased a laptop cart and bookshelf to help furnish the space.
Nearby restrooms will be renovated to be “gender inclusive” according to The Shorthorn. Carlton did not address any costs associated with those renovations.
Carlos Turcios, vice president for the conservative group Turning Point USA chapter on campus, believes the Rainbow Lounge is “absurd.”
“The fact is that they are segregating an area for people with a certain sexual orientation and gender identity. These same people say we need inclusion, but this is exclusion,” Turcios told The Texan.
He differentiated it from the existing veteran’s lounge in the library to which it has been compared.
“In my opinion, veterans can have their own space because they have gone through a lot to serve the country. There is a service component involved,” Turcios noted.
Suriel Torres, a junior nursing major, said he is a fan of autonomy and doesn’t want to infringe on others, but wants to have access to the whole library.
He knows of no prevalent issues of violence or threats against LGBT students on campus and yet the Rainbow Lounge location was chosen because it was “in close proximity to librarian offices and provid[ed] an easy line of sight for staff to watch students so they can feel protected and supported.”
“Faculty will always be there watching over them,” Torres noted. “That doesn’t sound like mature young adults. That sounds like self-victimization.”
UTA received a five-star rating, the highest available, from the Campus Pride Index, which rates colleges based on how friendly they are to students who identify as LGBT.
Torres also questions what limits may be put on those who aren’t part of the LGBT community in order to make the Rainbow Lounge a safe space.
Pride Peers is a student group that claims to “support a campus free of prejudice, bigotry, harassment, and violence by providing inclusive and intersectional programming that create a courageous place for students to explore and increase their understanding related to topics under sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in an open and nonjudgmental environment.”
The Texan reached out to Pride Peers for a comment about the Rainbow Lounge but did not not receive a reply before the time of publication.
Thomas Evans, a junior at UTA, expressed concerns about the Rainbow Lounge and how it seems to favor one student group over another.
“The LGBTQ+ population can do what it wants as a separate entity, however as soon as the school starts supporting them over all of the other students, that is when I have an issue, especially when they are using my tuition money to do so,” he wrote in an email to The Texan.
“[W]hen I signed up to go to UTA I was under the assumption that I was paying for an educational experience that was meant to prepare me for the future.”
He added that “[A]ll students are loved and appreciated regardless of who they are, they should still have all of the same opportunities as everyone else, but I don’t think that means anyone should get exclusive treatment at the detriment of other students.”
Multidisciplinary liaison librarian Janet Burka claims it is not an exclusive space.
“One [reason] we emphasize is that even though this is called the Rainbow Lounge, it is open for everyone,” Burka told The Shorthorn. “It’s not just for the queer and trans community. It’s for allies, it’s for [all]. It’s a welcoming space.”
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Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.