Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67 threw open the door to his home and was nearly thrown backward by a gust of wind.
“Good job, you made it. Welcome!” he said, holding the door open for a group of students who had braved the hurricane to attend Monday afternoon’s “First-year EqualiTea,” an event the Freshman Dean’s Office and the Office of BGLTQ Student Life co-sponsored. Cups of hot tea, cucumber sandwiches, and pastries were waiting for guests on the table in the living room. A few minutes past 4 p.m., there were at least 30 students and faculty members at the event.
“I was surprised that so many people showed up despite the weather,” said Joseph J. Vitti ’10, a proctor who specializes in BGLTQ issues. “The rain couldn’t stop us.”
Vitti and his partner Clark S. Goodwin planned the event together and said they were not willing to call it off just because of Hurricane Sandy. While Vitti spearheaded the Queer Movie Night and National Coming Out Day events for freshmen earlier this month, Goodwin had been working on hosting a tea since the beginning of the year.
“It was happening. There was no option,” he said.
Vitti, who earlier in the day sent an email announcing that the event would still go on, addressed guests with a short welcome speech. He then handed Dingman the flag that freshmen had signed in support of BGLTQ students on National Coming Out Day. The flag will be hung in the Freshman Dean’s Office.
“I am delighted that Joe and Clark had this idea and that people were happy and warm,” Dingman said. “I would have been crushed if people didn’t come.”
Though Dingman has previously hosted open houses for freshmen at his home, this was the first BGLTQ-specific event he has hosted.
“We wanted the community to know that our home is open to all students. Everyone is welcome at the table,” he said.
Goodwin and Vitti said that the name of the event, “EqualiTea,” was created by Mike C. Ross ’16, a student in their entryway. Though the tea was specifically geared towards BGLTQ students, they wanted to make the event as inclusive as possible.
“Mike told us we should call it the ‘EqualiTea’ and we jumped on the idea,” Vitti said.
When asked how they got to the event, students jokingly said that they had been blown over to Dingman’s house and called the walk an “adventure.” Tai Boon Ding ’15 had leaves stuck on his cheek when he arrived.
“It was really bare on the way over here. There was no one on the streets,” Ellen L. Shrock ’16 said. “But I’m glad I made it. It’s such a conversation-starter to meet people at an event like this.”
Goodwin added that he felt the event was a good way to expose freshmen to the BGLTQ community at Harvard.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to go to events like these at my college, but they’re everywhere here,” he said. “The community is fantastic.”
—Staff writer Michelle Denise L. Ferreol can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org