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Allegedly Anti-Gay Remarks Spark Inquiry

Dining staff, BGLT tutors, and student groups urge show of gay pride

Unnamed photo
Bora Fezga

Edward B. Childs cooks in the Adams House kitchen. He is participating in an investigation into alleged anti-gay remarks made by a dining hall manager.

A dining manager allegedly accused two chatting female dining hall workers of being lesbians, according to the president of the union representing Harvard’s dining staff.

Janice Loux, Unite Here Local 26’s president, said the manager asked the two women, “What are you, lesbians?” Loux said the manager may have wanted the workers to move on or stop their conversation.

The details of the incident, the manager’s exact comment, and the context of the remarks are still under investigation by the union. Loux did not identify the manager or the two women.

“I, an openly gay woman, object to any mistreatment of our workers on the basis of sexual orientation,” said Loux. “Quite frankly, I believe that Harvard will not tolerate this either. I don’t believe the head of dining services tolerates any of this nonsense.”

HUDS spokeswoman Crista Martin declined to comment in an e-mail, saying that “the University takes such matters very seriously,” but adding that it would be inappropriate to remark on specific personnel issues.

Undergraduates learned about the anti-gay remarks from an e-mail sent to the Adams House open list on Tuesday by openly gay Adams House cook William D. Nicolson.

Nicolson sought to collect gay pride items and pass them out to students to wear in the dining halls.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of who you are,” Nicolson said.

Yesterday, Nicolson affixed a black pin with the word “pride” and a rainbow triangle to the front of his white cook’s hat.

Adams House cook and the union’s Chief Steward Edward B. Childs, who is involved in the ongoing investigation, said discrimination based on sexual orientation has been increasing recently.

“It’s not a coincidence that Proposition 8 came up in these economic times, trying to undo something that’s already happening, just like post-Reconstruction,” Childs said. “We’re going to put a stop to it.”

Childs said specific details, such as the name of the House in which the incident took place, would not be available until Monday.

Nicolson’s e-mail spurred BGLT tutors in Adams and Lowell Houses to encourage a demonstration of gay pride in their dining halls.

“It’s part of Adams House tradition to be a place of diversity and tolerance but also a locale of activism and support for the entire Harvard community,” Adams House BGLT tutor Christopher J. Hanson wrote in an e-mailed statement.

Hanson also contacted Adams junior and BGLTSA Secretary Christian L. Garland ’10, who forwarded Nicolson’s message to the BGLTSA e-mail list. Garland wrote in an e-mailed statement that he will “press [BGLTSA] to become more involved with other interested organizations (like SLAM) to form a more coherent and organized movement against anti-LGBTQ discrimination.”

Lowell House resident tutor and BGLT adviser Marcus Alexander also forwarded Nicolson’s e-mail to the Lowell open list, urging both straight and gay students to wear something symbolizing BGLT pride to dinner Wednesday night.

“Whatever the facts and the final resolution of the case, it is important to show that Lowell is open and welcoming to gay, lesbian, bi or trans staff, just as we are the home to all Lowell students and tutors regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Alexander wrote in an e-mailed statement.

—Staff writer Danielle Kolin can be reached at dkolin@fas.harvard.edu.
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