Beginning this week, the Harvard working group on LGBT issues will hold a series of open forums across campus designed to hear about the experiences and concerns of the College’s LGBT community.
The insights will help inform the working group’s report on the resource needs of LGBT students, which will be submitted in March to Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds.
Jia Hui Lee ’12, who will help lead Leverett House’s forum, said that “it is a positive move on the College’s part to make this process inclusive of student input.”
“The more students that come and the more experiences that each forum can collect means the possibility of getting better resources will be a lot higher,” Lee said.
The LGBT working group was formed this past October, shortly after a series of highly publicized suicides by LGBT students across the country.
Forums will be held at all twelve Houses and in the Yard, beginning with the first forum, at Adams House, on Wednesday.
The forums will be facilitated by students and House BGLTS tutors, and will be attended by at least one student and one faculty member of the working group.
“We want to make sure that all students, however they identify, feel welcome and come to share their perspectives so that whatever we recommend to the Dean will be in the service of the whole community,” said Susan B. Marine, who chairs the working group.
Participants’ words may be used in the working group’s proposal, but student names will be withheld, according to Marine, who is also the assistant dean of Harvard College for student life and the director of the Harvard College Women’s Center.
Marine said that the idea to hold house-based forums came from the process used in 2002 by the Committee to Address Sexual Assault at Harvard to explore students’ concerns about sexual violence.
Elizabeth C. Elrod ’11, who will help facilitate Pforzheimer House’s forum, said she hopes students with a breadth of experiences will attend the forums. Elrod said that for Harvard students, learning who to speak with about LGBT issues can be a challenge.
“Freshman year I was completely lost,” Elrod said. “People need to know where they can go to find support or just to talk. As it is now, it’s so hard to seek out the resources that you really need.”
Sam J. Bakkila ’11-’12, who will co-facilitate Eliot House’s forum, said that these discussions provide a space for people to voice their concerns and their needs.
“It’s really rare for the administration to solicit this type of feedback on a large scale throughout every house in the College, and we really have a receptive audience because the working group is actively looking for this kind of feedback,” Bakkila said.
He added that the conversations are open not only to LGBT students, but also to the broader community, including people who have friends who will be affected by the working group’s proposal.
To date, not all of the houses have scheduled their forums. Quincy House will host its forum on November 22; Pforzheimer House’s will take place on December 8.
While each house will hold a forum, students are welcome to attend discussions in any house.
—Staff writer Alice E.M. Underwood can be reached at email@example.com.