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‘The Achilles Heel of Title IX’
The Title IX Office has launched a new LGBTQ+ Resources page on its website as part of an ongoing initiative to improve gender equity at the University.
The office developed the page in conjunction with a number of other campus partners, including the College Office of BGLTQ Student Life, the GSAS Office of Diversity and Minority Affairs, the Harvard Medical School Sexual and Gender Minorities Equity Initiative, and the Office of the President and Provost.
University Title IX Officer Nicole Merhill said that the website’s Feb. 12 launch represented the culmination of more than a year and a half’s work.
“The members of One Queer Harvard really expressed the importance of having a central resource tool around LGBT+ resources on campus and in the community,” Merhill said. “That’s when the conversation really started.”
According to Rachel DiBella, the Assistant Director of Title IX Education Programs, the website was envisioned with the goal of creating a centralized resource for students. While there had formerly been a one-page resource guide available to LGBTQ+ students, the new website provides more comprehensive information.
Students who visit the site may navigate resources by clicking on their University affiliation or by selecting a certain topic, such as “Career/Professional Development” or “Health and Wellness.” The website also features information about where students can access all-gender restrooms around campus.
Jessica Halem — the LGBTQ Outreach and Engagement Director for the Medical School’s Sexual and Gender Minorities Health Equity Initiative — said the website represents an important partnership across the University.
“Even though we here at Harvard like to live in our separate silos, and are separate campuses, and we have separate budgets, that’s not how LGBTQ people work,” Halem said. “We cross over lines, we find each other, we need each other. No matter if we’re faculty, staff or students, we have to work together, because for many of us it’s really life or death to be connected to one another.”
Halem also said she believes that in a “massive” place like Harvard, an online hub for resources is “crucial.”
“We’re hoping that this website is a place that you could get a lot of your questions answered, and find out where to go for more,” she said.
In the month since the website went live, Merhill said the Title IX office has seen encouraging traffic.
“One of the things we noted is that those visitors who are visiting the LGBTQ+ resource page are spending more time on that page than on other pages within the Title IX site,” Merhill said. “The length of time people are spending is almost more important than the number of visits.”
Halem said that, apart from the resources, the website’s most important feature is the inclusive message it delivers.
“I believe it sends a clear message that Harvard University wants you here,” Halem said. “I think that if you are applying for a job, if you’re applying for schools, if you’re looking to transfer, if you’re looking to find your next research home, you have to have a visual, on the web — a clear message at the highest level of a Harvard University website.”
“It has to be crystal clear that Harvard University wants you here, that we have dedicated resources, and that we have created community,” she added. “The website is an important place where people look to see, ‘Is this a home for me?’”
—Staff writer Camille G. Caldera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.
—Staff writer Isabel L. Isselbacher can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @IsabelLarkin.
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