Lee Forest, who was hired by the College in September as the first director of bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender student life has decided to turn down the position at Harvard.
In an email to student leaders of the Harvard College Queer Students and Allies, Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever, the Harvard Trans Task Force, and Girlspot, Assistant Dean of Harvard College for Student Life, Emelyn A. dela Pena said Forest had chosen not to accept the position for “personal and professional reasons.”
Forest was scheduled to begin her new position on Tuesday.
On Friday, Assistant Dean of Student Life, Emelyn dela Pena called student leaders of LGBTQ organizations to an urgent meeting.
Led by Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds and Associate Dean of Student Life Joshua G. Macintosh, the administrators notified LGBTQ student organization presidents of Forest’s sudden decision.
“Everyone is disappointed,” said QSA co-president Samuel J. Bakkila '11-'12. “This is something we’ve been looking forward to for a long time.”
Co-president of GLOW, Miguel Garcia ’12, said he was disappointed and frustrated at the sudden nature of Forest’s decision.
Emily J. Miller, a student at the Divinity School, who had previously served as the graduate assistant for LGBTQ student life will assume the position of interim coordinator of LGBTQ student life while the search committee looks for someone to fill the now-vacant director position.
Though they say Miller has been a helpful resource in her role as graduate assistant, both Garcia and Bakkila expressed concern that there will not be a permanent director until next year.
“This is kind of bad timing because [the director position] is something that is needed to keep a lot of things going right now,” Bakkila said.
Garcia echoed that sentiment.
“Her responsibilities have not been defined at all,” he said, referring to Miller's position. “It is unclear what her role will be.”
Miller’s status as a full-time student was also a point of concern, since she will now be expected to work 30 hours per week in the space dedicated to LGBTQ issues in the basement of Boylston Hall.
Though the LGBTQ community has existed without an administrative presence in the past, Garcia said they need an authority figure to represent the LGBTQ-identified students on campus.
Garcia said that in the past when there has been an incident like a hate crime that directly affects the gay community, the lack of an administrator to advocate on behalf of LGBTQ students has caused concern within the community about how to adequately respond to such incidents.
In her email, dela Pena said that the search committee would reconvene and begin another search in January or February.
—Staff writer Eliza M. Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.