Twenty students packed Winthrop House’s Tonkens Room on Wednesday night to brainstorm ways to improve life at Harvard for queer students. The town-hall-style meeting was sponsored by the Queer Advisory Council, a student-run branch of the Office of BGLTQ Student Life established this fall.
“The hope [of the event] is to get a wide range of perspectives from across the undergraduate community regarding what’s working and what stands to be improved,” said Joshua D. Blecher-Cohen ’16 , interim co-chair of Council. “Different folks have different experiences and so the purpose of the town hall is to get all of those out and use these voices as a tool for whatever things the QuAC is working on for the rest of the semester.”
Blecher-Cohen began the meeting by passing out a form to each attendee inviting them to write one thing they would like to talk about or see improved in each of five categories: BGLTQ/Queer Communities, Campus Climate, House Life, Institutional Policy, and Resources. Each attendee then introduced themselves, providing their first name, house, and preferred gender pronouns.
Students at the meeting discussed concerns ranging from the shortage of institutionalized space for queer students identifying as females, to the hetero-normative nature of student-led “Community Conversations” seminars during Freshman Orientation, to the lack of resources for sexual assault victims in the queer community.
Participants also recommended solutions for many of the problems they identified.
For example, attendees proposed that the College create a unified website featuring descriptions of all BGLTQ support groups on campus to provide freshmen better guidance. They also suggested that the College publish each fall a list of queer faculty members prepared to support students.
“The meeting succeeded in bringing out a pretty diverse section of the community,” said Ivel Posada ’14, co-chair of the Queer Students and Allies board. “I thought that it enriched the conversation in really substantive ways.”
Despite the event’s focus on addressing problems at the College, participants maintained an upbeat tone.
“Coming into Harvard as a freshman, I think it’s really great that there’s so many venues for people to express themselves and to get involved in the queer community,” said one attendee, who asked to remain anonymous. “Especially for people coming from backgrounds where that wasn’t always an option, it’s one of the best things that I’ve seen at Harvard so far. It’s nice to be involved in an intellectual and progressive discussion.”
The QuAC’s next meeting, which will be open to the public, is scheduled for Saturday, November 2 from 2 pm to 4 pm in the Office for BGLTQ Student Life.