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College Counseling Service Helps Gays

By Ariel R. Frank, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

Andre K. Sulmers '98-'99, co-chair of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA) said choosing which college to attend was more difficult because he is gay.

It was next to impossible to discern whether or not a school had a liberal, activist community and a vibrant queer social scene, Sulmers said.

But the college search may become easier for students such as Sulmers thanks to Christopher-David--the first independent college counseling service focusing on gay applicants (the name comes from the middle names of the two men).

The El Cerrito, Cal. firm was founded by Jeffrey D. Cook, director of admissions at Life College West--a small graduate school in California--and Jeffrey C. Moss, a communications and media specialist. For $25 an hour, they recommend schools based on surveys and interviews conducted at hundreds of colleges nationwide.

"A lot of students growing up, especially in high school, may have been the targets of tremendous intolerance and discrimination and sometimes even violence," Cook said.

According to a link on the firm's Web site (www.christopher-david.com), one in six gay and lesbian high school students is a victim of violence.

"Maybe it's easy for you at Harvard to see life differently because a gay community is more accepted, but we have to remember there are a lot of students in middle America who need better guidance from their high school guidance counselors," Cook said.

Cook and Moss sent surveys to 500 colleges about one month ago. The questions asked about the schools' non-discrimination clauses, curriculums, student organizations and surrounding communities.

Although most of the schools have responded, Harvard has not yet mailed back any information, Cook said.

Marlyn McGrath Lewis '70, director of admissions, said the admissions office "would not hesitate" to supply information to the firm.

"I can see that there would be a useful niche for good advice directed toward gay and lesbian students," she said.

Although the admissions office does not have an outreach program directed at gay and lesbian students, it does try to make candidates see "that this is a place open to talent, that we don't get hung up on irrelevant attributes," McGrath said.

McGrath said that the admissions office tries to ensure that the College viewbook is sensitive to concerns about sexuality and that interviewers are open-minded and reassuring.

Mixed Feelings About Queer Life at Harvard

But Alex S. Myers '00, treasurer of BGLTSA, says that when he was choosing a college, he noticed the absence of gay students from Harvard's application materials.

Still, Myers says he thinks Harvard will fare well in the survey.

"There's a lot of opportunity available and there's a great deal of tolerance on campus," he says. "But in terms of administrative outreach to students or a feeling of really being welcomed by the administration, I think a lot of other schools beat us in that area."

Kathleen M. Douglas '99, a member of BGLTSA and publicity chair for Girl Spot, also said Harvard would likely be seen as friendly to non-heterosexual students.

"I think Harvard should do very well. Cambridge is a very liberal area and as a result it's a very gay area," she says. "Harvard has a pretty big gay community and it's pretty loud and prominent...in general I think most people here are pretty accepting."

But Velma M. McEwen '00, co-chair of BGLTSA, has a less optimistic view of Harvard.

"It's tolerant but not appreciative," she says. "Appreciative is the people who are actually curious about learning about the people outside of their community and are thankful that there are people who aren't like them so that they can open up their minds."

Sulmers, who says he thinks Harvard is tolerant, adds that the apathy of the gay community here may be "off-putting" to potential applicants.

"We have a very intelligent student body that is not prone to making objectionable comments about being queer," he says. "[Prejudice] does exist here and it's not necessarily overt.

McGrath said that the admissions office tries to ensure that the College viewbook is sensitive to concerns about sexuality and that interviewers are open-minded and reassuring.

Mixed Feelings About Queer Life at Harvard

But Alex S. Myers '00, treasurer of BGLTSA, says that when he was choosing a college, he noticed the absence of gay students from Harvard's application materials.

Still, Myers says he thinks Harvard will fare well in the survey.

"There's a lot of opportunity available and there's a great deal of tolerance on campus," he says. "But in terms of administrative outreach to students or a feeling of really being welcomed by the administration, I think a lot of other schools beat us in that area."

Kathleen M. Douglas '99, a member of BGLTSA and publicity chair for Girl Spot, also said Harvard would likely be seen as friendly to non-heterosexual students.

"I think Harvard should do very well. Cambridge is a very liberal area and as a result it's a very gay area," she says. "Harvard has a pretty big gay community and it's pretty loud and prominent...in general I think most people here are pretty accepting."

But Velma M. McEwen '00, co-chair of BGLTSA, has a less optimistic view of Harvard.

"It's tolerant but not appreciative," she says. "Appreciative is the people who are actually curious about learning about the people outside of their community and are thankful that there are people who aren't like them so that they can open up their minds."

Sulmers, who says he thinks Harvard is tolerant, adds that the apathy of the gay community here may be "off-putting" to potential applicants.

"We have a very intelligent student body that is not prone to making objectionable comments about being queer," he says. "[Prejudice] does exist here and it's not necessarily overt.

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