After concerns over a lack of support for BGLTQ students in Dunster House came to a head last spring, the House has made an effort to address those issues this fall by hosting multiple events geared toward BGLTQ students and instituting a formalized budget for BGLTQ-specialty tutors.
The changes come after students and tutors spoke out last year about Dunster’s lack of residential tutors who identify as bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, or queer, prompting top College administrators to look into their concerns. Students and tutors also lambasted the House for the small number of events for BGLTQ students with no formalized budget and House Masters Roger and Ann Porter’s decision not to rehire Avik Chatterjee ’02, a tutor who students praised for his role as an advocate and ally. Along with concerns about the lack of House resources, students also cited a widespread perception that the House was less welcoming to BGLTQ students.
This semester, however, since Dunster residents filed back into their recently renovated House, some have noticed a similarly renewed approach to House-sponsored BGLTQ programming. And notably, unlike last year, Dunster this year hosts residential tutors who openly identify as BGLTQ.
Gregory K. Davis, a first-year tutor in Dunster, is both a designated race relations and BGLTQ tutor. When interviewed for the job last year, he said students gave him the impression that “resources and events and activities were lacking in Dunster and that a change was needed in the future,” referring to BGLTQ programming.
Just about a month into the school year, Dunster’s BGLTQ tutors have hosted at least two events, according to Davis, who said there has been “definitely a renewed push” for them and other resources. The House has also allocated an official budget of “a couple hundred dollars” for BGLTQ events, said Davis, who added that more funds could be made available as needed.
The House hosted a brunch, titled “BGLTQ Brunch at Dunster House: Celebrate Bisexuality!” in late September, and tutors College-wide advertised it over multiple House email lists.
Davis said Dunster also hosted a beginning of the year BGLTQ smoothie-making event. Davis added that the Porters—who had previously been criticized by students in an anonymous survey for a perceived lack of visible support for BGLTQ events in the House—attended the event and spoke with students for about an hour. The Porters did not respond to a request for comment about new BGLTQ initiatives in Dunster.
“It’s definitely been a very good vibe; people have been much more open than I could have even imagined,” Davis said.
Students in the House said that the House generally seems to be moving toward becoming a more welcoming place for BGLTQ students.
Carl E. Rogers ’16, who previously voiced concerns about BGLTQ life in Dunster to House administrators, said the House has reacted to his feedback in tangible ways. Among other changes, Rogers said there are now stickers expressing support for BGLTQ students displayed on doors in his entryway.
While Rogers had previously said there were perceived inequities in both the visibility and availability of BGLTQ resources at Dunster as compared to other Houses, he said Dunster has mitigated the inequality.
“I did what I could, and this is the change that we got out of it,” Rogers said. “I think things are different, and concerns were listened to and acted upon.”
Alejandro R. Ashworth ’17, a student who helped organize a petition to reinstate Chatterjee as a tutor in Dunster last spring, said “things have been progressing.”
“People are trying,” Ashworth said. “The bisexuality brunch was very visible.”
—Staff writer Noah J. Delwiche can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ndelwiche.—Staff writer Ivan B. K. Levingston can be reached at Ivan.Levingston@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @IvanLevingston.