Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds has charged a new working group with examining student life issues on campus for bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender undergraduates.
The announcement comes after a number of highly publicized suicides by students associated with the LGBT community, and after a Harvard undergraduate was the victim of a hate crime and robbery last month.
“One thing that concerns all of us right now is the recent visibility of the suicide and bullying and mental health issues more broadly in the LGBT community. We’re seeing this across the country and certainly we want to address that issue,” said History and Literature Lecturer Timothy P. McCarthy ’93, who said he will be a member of the committee.
College spokesman Jeff Neal said the committee had been in the works since this summer—before the recent incidents transpired. He said, however, that the incidents would inform the committee’s discussions.
“We fully anticipate that working group members will bring an awareness of these national incidents and that it will no doubt help frame their work,” he said.
The committee will be chaired by Susan B. Marine, assistant dean of Harvard College for student life and the director of the Harvard College Women’s Center, which has sometimes served as an informal hub for the LGBT community.
Marine said the College “recognized that we’re not necessarily meeting the needs of everyone,” and that the committee would look into “lots of unanswered questions.”
The exact topics the committee will cover have not been announced, but in her letter to the committee, Hammonds listed seven questions for the committee to answer, including, “What are the most appropriate structures for advising and support of BGLT student organizations?” and “How might the College create and enhance meaningful intergenerational partnerships within the existing BGLT student and alumni/ae communities at Harvard?”
Harvard College Queer Students and Allies Co-Chair Marco Chan ’11 called the creation of the new working group “fantastic,” adding that he was excited to see the committee formalized.
“It’s been a long time in the making, but there have been a number of events since the beginning of the year that gave greater sense of urgency to this,” said Chan.
Chan will sit on the committee along with fellow QSA Co-Chair Emma Q. Wang ’12, faculty members, administrators, and at least one other student.
Wang said the committee could result in the appointment of a director or an administrator to address issues faced by the LGBT community at Harvard, but because the committee has not begun meeting it is too soon to predict what it will conclude.
“It is a bit too early to tell. The working group is going in with the mindset that nothing is a foregone conclusion,” she said.
The committee aims to finish its work by the end of the academic year, according to Marine.
—Staff writer Alice E.M. Underwood contributed to the reporting of the article.
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