Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will hire a fellow tasked with serving its BGLTQ affiliates next semester, following years of student requests that they create the position.
BGLTQ graduate students have alleged for several years that the school does not provide adequate resources to support them and that some administrators did not respond appropriately to previous requests for a paid, BGLTQ-focused fellow. GSAS affiliates have voiced their displeasure in emails to administrators and in Facebook posts.
They have also argued Harvard lags behind peer institutions, pointing to similar fellow positions and BGLTQ offices that serve graduate students at Yale, Brown, MIT, Princeton, and other comparable schools. The new position at GSAS appears to satisfy one of the key asks made by LGBTQ@GSAS, the BGLTQ affinity group for graduate students.
The new fellow — who will be selected next semester — will work alongside two other "Diversity Fellows" hired by the GSAS Office of Diversity and Minority Affairs. The office created the paid position of diversity fellow last semester in an effort to better serve students from underrepresented communities.
In April, GSAS Dean for Academic Programs and Diversity Sheila Thomas said this year’s diversity fellows — Ph.D. students Alyssa M. Hernandez and Alfredo M. Valencia — would be able to “go out into the community and have honest conversations with underrepresented students” in a way administrators could not. Valencia will step down at the end of this year, but Hernandez will stay on as one of three fellows.
Hernandez and Valencia work with GSAS’s affinity groups, including the W.E.B. DuBois Society, Harvard GSAS Latinx Student Association, and Harvard Graduate Women in Science and Engineering. The duo also work with graduate programs to promote diversity at the departmental level.
Hernandez said in a press release that the addition of a third fellow will help GSAS “better serve” BGLTQ students.
“We both knew from interacting with students that LGBTQ students could benefit from additional administrative support, particularly in creating more LGBTQ-focused programming and providing more funding and assistance to the LGBTQ@GSAS student group,” she said.
In a statement she issued regarding the new position, Thomas agreed, citing students’ concerns that GSAS does not provide enough support to BGLTQ graduate students.
“We know that there is more work that we can do to help support the LGBTQ community in GSAS, and this is just the beginning,” she said. “The addition of the LGBTQ-focused fellow will give us greater capacity to develop programming that better serves this community.”
GSAS will select the new fellows after an application window closes in January.
—Staff writer Shera S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @saviyonah.