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Dunster Reacts to Graffiti

By Ariel R. Frank

Some Dunster residents say the anti-gay graffiti scrawled on the walls of the main entry in the house last week has called to their attention the decrease in tolerance in the house.

While most of the residents do not believe that a someone from Dunster wrote the word "FAGGOT" on the walls, the graffiti made them realize that the atmosphere in the house has changed and will continue to do so with randomization.

Some people say Dunster used to be an expressive, tolerant place to live and that it is losing those qualities.

But others argue that Dunster is still that way. Still others say randomization has made the house more diverse.

According to Moon Duchin '97, a resident of Dunster, the house has the largest number of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Students' Association (BGLTSA) members of any house. She says it is more than double that of the next houses, Eliot and Adams.

About 10 percent of Dunster residents are openly gay, Moon said, compared to less than two percent of the entire campus.

Duchin said she worries that the house is no longer as accepting of people like Roland Tan '97, former chair of the Dunster House Committee, who says he likes to be "shocking."

Starkey, who transferred into Dunster from Lowell House in September, echoes Duchin's concern.

"I like that Dunster has Roland Tan, our flamingly gay [former] House Committee chair," says Julia E. Starkey '97. "In Dunster House, in general...deviating from the norm, being a big freak parade is okay."

Chair of Hard-core Erotic Appreciators in Dunster, Starkey says she switched houses because she liked Dunster's personality. However, she said she's scared it will lose that personality as a result of randomization.

Kofi N. Kankam '97, also a Dunster resident, says that although the house may have been tolerant in the past, it was not ethnically diverse.

"In the past, its geographic isolation was matched by the homogeneity of students here relative to the rest of Harvard," he says.

According to Kofi, randomization has added diversity to the house. He cites the paucity of black students over the past few years in the house as an example. Kofi says that a blocking group of 10 to 15 black students was randomized into Dunster this year. A couple of years ago, there were only a few blacks living in the house.

"[Randomization has] given this house a breath of fresh air," he says.

Former House Committee Chair

Tan was not randomized into Dunster House. He says it was his first choice.

Tonight, he wonders aloud whether he should put on something else before meeting with his thesis advisor to discuss his topic, "The Theater as Rectum."

Tan, whose hair is streaked with orange, is wearing boldly-striped bell-bottoms, a zippered shirt and glitter on his eyelids.

"There's something about being shocking that demonstrates that difference exists and alerts people to the fact that they need to get used to it," he says.

Tan, who says he sometimes attends BGLTSA meetings and has been called a "faggot" at Tommy's, adds that he has never been harassed in Dunster.

He says he feels comfortable in the house, although it seems different now and he like it better last year.

"I'm concerned that with randomization, people in the house should remain tolerant and make the house a place where you feel comfortable," Tan says.

Duchin also says Dunster is different this year compared to four years ago or even to two years ago when she moved into the house.

"Dunster was something it's not anymore--an absolute hotbed of drugs, hippies and music, and I don't mean concerts in the library," she says.

According to Duchin, a friend of hers recently heard some men making jokes about lesbians in the Dunster courtyard.

"The lesbian jokes really hit home because this used to be a place where it was utterly comfortable to be gay," she says.

Duchin says the decline is due to the fact that there are people living in Dunster as a result of randomization who don't want to be there. In the past, students had to have listed the house on their lottery application in order to end up there.

Anna E. McMahan '99, who was in the first class of students to be randomized, says she was disappointed when she first found out that she was put into Dunster because she didn't know anyone in the house.

But she says she is "fine with it now."

"It's very eclectic and diverse," McMahan says. "There are strong personalities.

Eclectic Clubs in Dunster

McMahan says she believes Dunster's tolerant atmosphere is reflected by the different clubs that are supported by and advertised in the house.

"We have the only pornography appreciation group on campus, and there are a lot of BGLTSA signs up," she says.

McMahan says it seems as though the various activities in the house attract a diverse group of people.

Some of those activities include the Goat Roast--at which students gut and skin a goat in the courtyard--and the Dunster Cafe, in which students perform at an open microphone and sip coffee.

Starkey says she transferred into microphone and sip coffee.

Starkey says she transferred into Dunster from Lowell House because the house activities in Lowell didn't interest her. She says that groups such as the Hard-core Erotic Appreciators--which has an attendance of 15 to 50 people at Dunster events--would not be appreciated at Lowell.

"In Lowell, no one would have gone," she says.

She adds that she enjoyed the Full Moon Ceremony in Dunster last fall.

"We got in this big circle and danced to Hava Nagilah, but there were some people who were new to the house who looked as if they didn't find it a fun thing to be doing," Starkey says.

Although no one interviewed by The Crimson yesterday said they were displeased with the Full Moon Ceremony, Starkey says some students appeared disturbed or confused by the event.

Dunster residents received a flier a few days later which complained that the ceremony offensively depicted Chinese culture, Starkey says.

Ethnic Diversity

Erika E. Evasdottir, the adjunct advisor for race relations in Dunster, says she is pleased that people in general are "dealing with the fact that all of a sudden there's a different racial composition in the house."

Evasdottir says there is an increase in the number of "black and Asian students" in Dunster this year.

"There are cliques in the house, but at the same time I'm surprised by the tolerance," she adds.

Some Dunster residents who love living in the house say that, while the composition of Dunster House will change because of randomization, its atmosphere may not.

Like Duchin and Starkey, Winston G. Olson '98 says what he loves most about Dunster is that "anything goes."

"I'm wondering whether or not randomization will really change Dunster," he says. "The atmosphere here is already conducive to that kind of change.

Starkey, who transferred into Dunster from Lowell House in September, echoes Duchin's concern.

"I like that Dunster has Roland Tan, our flamingly gay [former] House Committee chair," says Julia E. Starkey '97. "In Dunster House, in general...deviating from the norm, being a big freak parade is okay."

Chair of Hard-core Erotic Appreciators in Dunster, Starkey says she switched houses because she liked Dunster's personality. However, she said she's scared it will lose that personality as a result of randomization.

Kofi N. Kankam '97, also a Dunster resident, says that although the house may have been tolerant in the past, it was not ethnically diverse.

"In the past, its geographic isolation was matched by the homogeneity of students here relative to the rest of Harvard," he says.

According to Kofi, randomization has added diversity to the house. He cites the paucity of black students over the past few years in the house as an example. Kofi says that a blocking group of 10 to 15 black students was randomized into Dunster this year. A couple of years ago, there were only a few blacks living in the house.

"[Randomization has] given this house a breath of fresh air," he says.

Former House Committee Chair

Tan was not randomized into Dunster House. He says it was his first choice.

Tonight, he wonders aloud whether he should put on something else before meeting with his thesis advisor to discuss his topic, "The Theater as Rectum."

Tan, whose hair is streaked with orange, is wearing boldly-striped bell-bottoms, a zippered shirt and glitter on his eyelids.

"There's something about being shocking that demonstrates that difference exists and alerts people to the fact that they need to get used to it," he says.

Tan, who says he sometimes attends BGLTSA meetings and has been called a "faggot" at Tommy's, adds that he has never been harassed in Dunster.

He says he feels comfortable in the house, although it seems different now and he like it better last year.

"I'm concerned that with randomization, people in the house should remain tolerant and make the house a place where you feel comfortable," Tan says.

Duchin also says Dunster is different this year compared to four years ago or even to two years ago when she moved into the house.

"Dunster was something it's not anymore--an absolute hotbed of drugs, hippies and music, and I don't mean concerts in the library," she says.

According to Duchin, a friend of hers recently heard some men making jokes about lesbians in the Dunster courtyard.

"The lesbian jokes really hit home because this used to be a place where it was utterly comfortable to be gay," she says.

Duchin says the decline is due to the fact that there are people living in Dunster as a result of randomization who don't want to be there. In the past, students had to have listed the house on their lottery application in order to end up there.

Anna E. McMahan '99, who was in the first class of students to be randomized, says she was disappointed when she first found out that she was put into Dunster because she didn't know anyone in the house.

But she says she is "fine with it now."

"It's very eclectic and diverse," McMahan says. "There are strong personalities.

Eclectic Clubs in Dunster

McMahan says she believes Dunster's tolerant atmosphere is reflected by the different clubs that are supported by and advertised in the house.

"We have the only pornography appreciation group on campus, and there are a lot of BGLTSA signs up," she says.

McMahan says it seems as though the various activities in the house attract a diverse group of people.

Some of those activities include the Goat Roast--at which students gut and skin a goat in the courtyard--and the Dunster Cafe, in which students perform at an open microphone and sip coffee.

Starkey says she transferred into microphone and sip coffee.

Starkey says she transferred into Dunster from Lowell House because the house activities in Lowell didn't interest her. She says that groups such as the Hard-core Erotic Appreciators--which has an attendance of 15 to 50 people at Dunster events--would not be appreciated at Lowell.

"In Lowell, no one would have gone," she says.

She adds that she enjoyed the Full Moon Ceremony in Dunster last fall.

"We got in this big circle and danced to Hava Nagilah, but there were some people who were new to the house who looked as if they didn't find it a fun thing to be doing," Starkey says.

Although no one interviewed by The Crimson yesterday said they were displeased with the Full Moon Ceremony, Starkey says some students appeared disturbed or confused by the event.

Dunster residents received a flier a few days later which complained that the ceremony offensively depicted Chinese culture, Starkey says.

Ethnic Diversity

Erika E. Evasdottir, the adjunct advisor for race relations in Dunster, says she is pleased that people in general are "dealing with the fact that all of a sudden there's a different racial composition in the house."

Evasdottir says there is an increase in the number of "black and Asian students" in Dunster this year.

"There are cliques in the house, but at the same time I'm surprised by the tolerance," she adds.

Some Dunster residents who love living in the house say that, while the composition of Dunster House will change because of randomization, its atmosphere may not.

Like Duchin and Starkey, Winston G. Olson '98 says what he loves most about Dunster is that "anything goes."

"I'm wondering whether or not randomization will really change Dunster," he says. "The atmosphere here is already conducive to that kind of change.

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