More than 400 Harvard affiliates signed a petition urging top University administrators to provide more resources for LGBTQ+ graduate students by hiring one or more full-time employees dedicated to supporting students, faculty, and staff.
The petition, sent to administrators Tuesday morning, states that Harvard’s LGBTQ+ student population feels “extremely fragmented and inadequately supported by the university in its attempts to build community and in efforts to address issues and needs.”
The students’ appeal for support comes just months after a group of LGBTQ+ affiliates received homophobic emails threatening violence and a transgender Harvard Kennedy School student died in police custody in Indonesia, but Harvard graduate students have called on the University to better support LGBTQ+ affiliates for years.
The petition highlights four main issues facing LGBTQ+ affiliates at Harvard: difficulty planning university-wide social events, lack of visibility and representation, limited access to specific healthcare and mental health needs, and a scarcity of focused academic resources and research. The petition also asks the administration to revive One Queer Harvard — a university-wide social organization that dissolved following the Covid-19 pandemic — and create a center for LGBTQ+ affiliates.
Diego Garcia Blum, a fellow at the Kennedy School and co-organizer of the petition, said Harvard should identify gaps in its course offerings to provide more opportunities to study issues impacting LGBTQ+ populations.
“We had a tragedy of discrimination abroad hit our community this year,” Garcia Blum said. “Yet, there’s almost nothing — like literally zero — in research or academic offerings on international LGBTQ violence abroad and discrimination.”
“We should take responsibility as one of the world’s leading institutions to look into that,” he added.
Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton said the University is aware of the petition, but declined to comment any further.
Timothy P. McCarthy ’93, who was the first openly queer faculty member at the Kennedy School, has taught “Queer Nation: LGBTQ Protest, Politics, and Policy in the United States” since 2018, which is still the only course at HKS focused on LGBTQ+ issues.
McCarthy, who served on the committee that led to the creation of the Office of BGLTQ Student Life, said he “had to sign” the petition to continue his “long-standing record of supporting students.”
Jonathan Loc, a second-year HKS student who sent the petition to University administrators, said the lack of LGBTQ+ support offered by Harvard surprised him.
“Since [One Queer Harvard] is not in operation anymore, that community building across schools has been harder,” said Loc. “That combined with the lack of a center has made Harvard overall slow to act.”
“It shouldn’t really be up to students,” he added. “It should be up to this University to make sure LGBTQ students are included.”
Several leaders of Harvard’s LGBTQ+ organizations said the petition could lead to better access to resources at their respective graduate schools.
Charlotte McAdams — president of Queer Rites, the LGBTQ+ affinity group at Harvard Divinity School — said a key request of the petition is “equalizing the queer opportunities.”
“One kind of issue that I think can be present among the grad schools, and specifically in grad school leadership, is that the schools get funding in different ways for their queer organizations,” McAdams said. “Some have corporate funding; some don’t have any funding at all.”
McCarthy said the demands students made in the petition are not unreasonable.
“They’re not asking for unicorns and free tuition,” McCarthy said. “They’re asking for support so that they can thrive here — which is what should be our first priority.”
—Staff Writer Darley A. C. Boit can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MHerszenhorn.