Council Debates Homophobia Bill
Bills to create task force, combat
The Undergraduate Council (UC) passed several measures at its general meeting last night to condemn homophobia and support discussion of diversity of sexual orientation.
The council voted in favor of creating a task force to "end the practice of allowing a student to change rooms solely because she or he is uncomfortable with the sexual orientation of her or his roommate before making a sincere attempt to live with that person."
The resolution, which passed 53-8 with one abstention, is aimed at advising the Freshman Dean's Office (FDO) to change its current practices. The measure was prompted by the UC's discussion of incidents in which roommates of homosexual students had been granted room changes prior to move-in.
David B. Orr '01, who will lead the task force, said he has had a positive experience at Harvard as a gay student, but that more needs to be done to condemn the recent acts of homophobic vandalism.
"We cannot pretend that homophobia does not exist on this campus," said Orr, who is also the Crimson's reader representative. "Action needs to be taken."
John P. Marshall 01 was one of the council members who opposed the resolution, arguing that any problems with rooming during freshman year should be avoided.
"If even one person knows they are going to be very uncomfortable in a rooming situation, I don't see the point in a trial period," Marshall said. "The first part of freshman year is a difficult time already. Any additional problems because of rooming situations should be avoided."
Marshall also said the issue was not "new business" and that it was not appropriate for the council to make a decision on the issue.
Passing a joint bill with a vote of 59-3 and one abstention, the council resolved to combat homophobia in the wake of the incidents of vandalism in the Houses.
The resolution stated that the task force, led by Orr, should attempt to start discussion of sexual orientation during the freshman week program and should aim to ensure that acts of homophobic harassment are followed up with serious disciplinary action by the college whenever possible.
With a vote of 57-2 and one abstention, the council also resolved to endorse the anti-homophobia rally being organized by the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters' Alliance (BGLTSA) for tomorrow, organize a town meeting to discuss homophobia, and to condemn outright the recent acts of vandalism.
A routine resolution passed in the meeting allocated money to the House Committees and First-Year Caucus to organize social events.
The council passed all four bills of the evening in less than 2 1/2 hours. President Noah Seton '00 congratulated the council for debating and voting on such a contentious issue so quickly.
Other council members also said they were satisfied with the resolutions.
"I hope this starts a new trend for the UC to take on political issues," Orr said. "We don't have to only organize Spring Fest."