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BGLTQ students of faith will soon have a new home at Harvard. Recently, Director of BGLTQ Student Life Sheehan D. Scarborough ’07 announced that the Office of BGLTQ Student Life will create a new group centered around the religious needs of queer students of faith. The decision comes following the controversies surrounding Christian group Harvard College Faith and Action earlier in the spring.
We are optimistic that the new student group can be a welcoming place for BGLTQ students of faith. This type of multi-religious, affirming affiliative community has been sorely lacking at Harvard. Nevertheless, the actions of Harvard’s Office of BGLTQ Student Life—which is technically under the purview of the Office of Student Life—do not make up for the OSL’s previous mistakes as it relates to queer individuals of faith at Harvard, such as its insufficient probation.
We stand by our opinion that the OSL’s “probation” of HCFA is completely insufficient. This probation seems to be in name only, carrying no apparent punitive weight. This is an effort to provide alternate spaces for BGLTQ students without also ensuring that existing spaces make them feel fully at home. Such an effort is inherently incomplete. We consider it somewhat hypocritical of the administration to on one hand provide a platform for BGLTQ students of faith and then continue to support a group that has made mistreatment of those students a characteristic of its leadership.
This is not to discount the potential benefit of this new student group, and we sincerely hope that it serves as a source of comfort, solidarity, and healing for BGLTQ students of faith who are grappling with their identities. We appreciate Scarborough’s effort to create this intersectional new organization, and stand as allies with members of our community who are attempting to reconcile their faith with their sexuality. We simply hope that these students feel equally supported in all communities on campus, including HCFA.
We also want to clarify our opinion on HCFA’s probation, and why we strongly feel that it has not gone far enough. Harvard has a duty first and foremost to protect all of its students. It is imperative that all students have equal access to every part of College life, and therefore that leadership decisions are made based on qualifications, not on the intrinsic parts of a student’s identity.
Harvard must promote tolerance and diversity in order to protect its students. This case may seem particularly thorny because, many argue, part of promoting religious tolerance is allowing HCFA to set leadership policies as it chooses. However, as we have written previously, HCFA’s actions violated this broader principle of tolerance by explicitly removing a student from leadership after finding out about her decision to date another woman. Punishment is then an appropriate response. It is not discriminatory to require an organization to not discriminate.
It is also important to note that while part of our case for harsher terms of probation hinges on this principle of tolerance, HCFA also broke other College policies. OSL policies dictate that no student organization can make leadership decisions based on pressure from or the influence of an outside group. HCFA is affiliated with and receives funding from the Christian Union, a Christian organization with branches on numerous college campuses. HCFA removed this student leader after of the actions and decisions of Christian Union’s ministry fellows, who are paid by Christian Union and requested the student leader step down. The initial decision to put HCFA on probation also comes from this rule violation.
Thus, with the largest Christian fellowship on campus discriminating against BGLTQ students and on probation for violating College rules, a new space for BGLTQ students of faith cannot come fast enough.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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