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Summer Selected as New Co-Chair of BGLTSA

* Rapid growth raises questions for group's board


Lauralee Summer '98, the newly appointed co-chair of Harvard's Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA) said yesterday that the organization is responding well to the pressures faced by its growth and its increased political clout on campus.

The group's six "daughter" organizations won official recognition from the College this year. Candidates for the presidency and vice presidency of the Undergraduate Council vociferously lobbied the group--which claims more than 350 members--for an endorsement of their respective campaigns.

But Summer said that the group's rapid growth raises difficult issues that BGLTSA's board is working to address.

At Sunday night's BGLTSA community meeting, co-chair Andre K. Sulmers '98 announced that co-chair Michelle V. "Mitch" McEwen '98 had resigned in mid-November.

As a co-chair, McEwen was one of five members of BGLTSA's board. Summer was appointed by the board to replace her.

McEwen's resignation came after a series of disputes revolving around McEwen's ability to perform the tasks assigned to her, current board members said yesterday.

"We felt that Mitch had taken on too many responsibilities, and she was not able to fulfill all of them to the degree [the board wanted]," said David A. Campbell '00, one of BGLTSA's vice chairs.

Campbell said McEwen told the board that she had overcommitted herself to the organization and was taking too many classes.

According to Campbell, McEwen did not fulfill her obligations in organizing the White Party, an early November dance sponsored by BGLTSA and held in Winthrop House.

And McEwen failed to rent a room in Dunster House for a queer study break later that month, Campbell said.

Campbell said the board expressed its concerns about her inability to carry out her duties as co-chair. Soon after, McEwen resigned from the board.

McEwen declined to comment yesterday on the circumstances surrounding her resignation.

The board is aware of the time commitment issue and is taking steps to prevent something like it from happening in the future, Summer said.

"Our current board is working towards making our organization less hierarchical so that the co-chairs don't represent or equal the BGLTSA and everyone on the board does an equal amount of work," she said.

But Summer said the issue was raised long before McEwen's resignation.

"We have been working all along all year to promote this kind of attitude and delegation of responsibilities," she said. "It becomes problematic when one person feels the pressure of being a figurehead for an organization as well as having all these responsibilities."

Board members expressed appreciation for McEwen's work for BGLTSA.

"I certainly enjoyed working with Mitch," said Adam A. Sofen '01, BGLTSA's treasurer. "I'm sorry that she's left."

Campbell said he feels that McEwen was not the only member of the group who was not able to fulfill their commitments because of the way BGLTSA is structured.

"The co-chairs were generally doing most of the work each week," Campbell said.

The board decided to revise its constitution and compartmentalize several duties, giving BGLTSA committees more responsibilities over their respective projects, Campbell said.

"The work of the BGLTSA is supposed to be split along the job descriptions [for the group's two co-chairs, two vice co-chairs and treasurer] in terms of an even keel sort of fashion," Sulmers said. "When that's realized, it works very well and when it not realized, it does not work quite as well," he said.

Sulmers declined to comment on both McEwen's resignation and the controversy surrounding the publicity posters.

Campbell said that issues arose after McEwen's resignation that highlighted a larger problem within BGLTSA--lesbian representation.

The board voted to strike a provision in its constitution which mandated that one of the board's co-chair be female.

"BGLTSA is an organization that is devoted to breaking down or deconstructing arbitrary gender distinctions," Campbell said. To require a position be given to a female goes against the organization's philosophy, he said.

At the same time, the board affirmed that its composition be representative of BGLTSA's membership, which includes many lesbian and bisexual females.

"The problem is most of our event tend to be attended largely by males," Campbell said.

The board resolved "to rededicate ourselves to reaching out to ourselves," Campbell said.

"We have the stigma of the BGLTSA being an all-male organization and I want to change that," Sulmers said.

Summer said a recent BGLTSA event gives her hope toward this end.

The group sponsored a queer diversity workshop facilitated by Ana Lara '97.

"Something that both Andre and I commented on during the meeting was that there were an equal number of men and women there," Summer said.

The co-chairs said several other events are planned to help promote diversity within BGLTSA.

In January, the group will sponsor a Women's Art Weekend in Adams House, open to all women artists.

And a dance planned for next semester will have two dance floors, one catering to males and another reserved for females, Sulmers said.

In addition, Summer said the group will devote a lot of its energy toward developing the groups under its umbrella.

These include Girlspot, a forum for women; Quest, a confidential peer group; Cocktail, a forum for men; Spectrum a group for queers of color; QUAG, a group dedicated to political action; and the Transgender Task Force.

"For the rest of the year, we're working to define the relationship among these groups in our communities," she said.

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