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New BGLTQ and Diversity Offices On Track to Completion by Next Year

By next year, Harvard will likely complete the renovation of Grays Hall basement into a dedicated space for the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity and the BGLTQ Office.

According to Director of Diversity and Inclusion Programs Loc Truong, the timeframe for the renovations is “still being assessed.” Truong added that the College has yet to allocate a budget for the project.

The Office of BGLTQ Student Life and Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion are currently located on in temporary offices at 7 Linden St.

The Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and BGLTQ Offices held its first town hall Thursday to solicit feedback from undergraduates about the renovations. Truong said the town hall will be one of many. Approximately two dozen College administrators, undergraduates, and recent alumni attended the meeting.

“I think that our students’ needs are changing,” Truong said. “We need to listen to what their needs are to create a kind of space that not only BGLTQ students are looking for, but all students.”

The project’s architects, Kennedy and Violich Architecture, were also present at the meeting to take note of suggestions for the new space. The firm is responsible for a handful of recent Harvard architecture projects, including the Women’s Center, the Tozzer anthropology building, and Holworthy basement.

Multiple students suggested that the College and the project’s architects ensure that the new space is welcoming to students. Some suggested that the basement room be open 24/7, and others discussed decorating the space with queer imagery and feminist quotes.

These proposed changes come at a time of transition for the Office of Student Life, the umbrella organization that oversees the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and BGLTQ Offices. Since the beginning of the year, the Office of Student Life has dealt with high-level of turnover.

Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair recently took over as the head of the Office of Student Life, replacing Stephen Lassonde, who left his post last spring. Former Director of the Office of BGLTQ Student Life Van Bailey left the post over the summer, and Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Emelyn A. dela Peña will depart in October. While the College begins a search for Bailey’s replacement, freshman proctor Sheehan D. Scarborough ’07 is serving as the office’s interim director. O’Dair will temporarily take over dela Peña’s duties.

The changes in leadership also come at a time when the College is working to implement a series of reforms released by a diversity working group last November, which emphasized creating open spaces for students with diverse backgrounds and identities. A University-wide task force on sexual assault re-emphasized this concern and drew attention to the high rates of sexual assault in the BGLTQ community.

“As you know, space is really hard to come by,” Truong said. “But we want to make sure that the space we have for these two offices are centrally located and accessible to all students.”

—Staff writer Ignacio Sabate can be reached at ignacio.sabate@thecrimson.com . Follow him on Twitter @ignacio_sabate.

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