This fall, queer issues at Harvard have become an institutional priority. But following a series of College-organized open forums and the creation of the BGLTQ Working Group in October to review resources for the LGBT community, students have voiced concerns that more University resources need to be devoted to LGBT support.
The current Queer Resource Center—the only space on campus dedicated solely to LGBT issues—is closeted in the basement of Thayer and entirely run by students who work to maintain the cozy room decorated with various rainbows where people can meet, find movies and books, or stretch out on the couches between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.
"The QRC is a universal place that’s not just for queer or queer-friendly people, but for everybody. But it differs from other lounge places in that it goes without saying that you can be open about your sexuality," says Felice S. Ford ’11, one of the QRC coordinators. "If you feel the need to hide elsewhere, you don’t have to here."
Yonatan J. Kogan ’12, another coordinator, says that for the students who work to ensure the continued availability of the QRC and the resources it provides, it can be difficult to negotiate the time spent running the QRC with other time commitments.
"It’s fantastic having a space where we can get together in the Yard, but the QRC isn’t everything it could be if it had funding, the support of full-time staff, and the full commitment of the University," he says. "Planning and resource acquisition and development shouldn’t all fall on students’ shoulders."
LACK OF CENTRALIZED RESOURCES
In addition to providing a welcoming and safe environment, the QRC offers safe sex supplies, candy, a meeting place for student groups after hours, a library full of advice books and LGBT literature, and a collection of DVDs. Three student coordinators and 11 volunteer staff members are responsible for the entire operation and maintenance of the QRC, which receives its funding from The Open Gate, a non-profit organization established by the LGBT alumni group, the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus.
QRC staffer Tevin L. Colbert ’14 says he was surprised to learn that the QRC receives no funding from the University, as many colleges have institutionally funded LGBT space and administrative support. Though he had expected Harvard to have more visible LGBT resources prior to coming, he says that he has been generally pleased with the atmosphere at the College.
"Harvard as a community has been really accepting—I feel almost like I could skip down the sidewalk waving a rainbow flag," he says, but adds that while he feels comfortable in the general environment of Harvard, locating specific information and resources can be a difficult task.
"My concern is for people who may need help and don’t know where to get it, for students who don’t know where to turn," he says. "You can find happiness and support, but you have to be willing to look for it."
AN IMPOSSIBLE BURDEN
Despite the dedication of the coordinators and staff, the fact that the QRC is entirely operated by students means that maintaining consistent personnel and institutional memory is a continuous struggle.