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QSA Fall Retreat

QSA Board Retreat—September 2nd 10 AM – 6 PM


If you read nothing else of this document (for which I forgive you, since the minutes are quite long), you MUST read the tasks list! 

Everyone: Put everyone’s phone numbers in your phone!

Everyone: Put the time you volunteered to table for the Activities Fair in your calendar (times are on the top of page 3).

Roland and Trevor: Check with Rush Hour if they can lend us speakers for Hotspot.

Roland and Trevor: Contact Board once Hotspot posters come in.

Ariel: Contact Roland later with what time she can table for Activities Fair.

Trevor: Get Neimy in contact with Meaks about LGBTQ service at PBHA.

Edith: Ask Brandy about what exactly she had in mind for the sports event, and whether she can contact the sports teams.

Edith: Contact Emily Miller and ask her about potential speakers at the Div School.

Trevor: Get in touch with Matthew Vines about potentially speaking/doing something.

Ivel: Look into adding the mental health tab/having a panel discussion.

Philip: Share google doc for talent show with board, start adding suggestions.

Roland and Trevor: Put inclusive safe spaces on the agenda for the next meeting.

Task: Roland and Trevor: Ask Van if we can use the LGBTQ office for our weekly meetings.


*Icebreaker: high and low points of our summers

Roland: During today’s retreat, we are going to talk about the future of the QSA, programming for this year, and our goals for this year. We are going to go through our mission statement and reiterate it, so that we can keep our core mission in mind.

Trevor: Some quick ground rules: (1) Assume that everything said in this room, stays in this room. Don’t bring up personal stuff later without prior permission. (2) Women’s center rules: absolutely no alcohol, no smoking, and no animals.

Roland: For the sake of keeping attention on our conversation, we’re going to ask that no one use their laptops except for the co-chairs and Sarina. When we come to programming, feel free to use your laptops then.

Roland: During discussions, assume best intentions and respect others. In that spirit, in order to communicate well, when you feel that something is offensive and hurts you, just say “ouch.” If you want to approve or affirm something, snaps are always welcome.

Trevor: We all want what’s best for the queer community – we just may be coming from very different places. Assume that everyone is doing the best they can to express themselves.


*Break for phone number taking


Trevor: It’s important to think of where we fit into the organization, where we see ourselves going in the organization, and why we care. It can be really empowering to see how much individual members are dedicated to the organization, and what they have given to be here today. We’re going to ask you to pair up with the co-chair within your committee, and sit facing them.


*Note-taking suspended for sharing activities



Roland: Philip did the poster-work, the flyers were very popular at the Open House.

Trevor: I think Hotspot has the ability to be classy. *Everyone laughs* Posters have been sent to the OSL. Once we receive them, we will begin postering and will contact y’all for help. We’ve been having trouble with the speakers: we don’t want to use the MTS speakers like last year since they blew out, and we’ve been having trouble finding alternatives – so we had to get the MTS speakers again. This time we are lending them to another event beforehand to see if they blow out, and if they do we will look for another alternative.

Food: Ivel made the good point that spicy food + hooking up = disaster. We have $175 for food, and we want to make sure this time that we do not run out of drinks.


Next Friday, 4-7. Need people to set up, table, and tear down. You are expected to table unless you have another commitment.  We’ll be outside of Cabot in our usual spot. Rain plan is to be rescheduled for the week after.

Roland: We have a brand new system for tasks! There’s a beautiful new google doc just for tasks, with dates for each event. We want to make sure this year that everyone is equally invested emotionally and physically in the events that we do as a board. A task will be added to the doc, and Sarina will email you a week before to check that it’s getting done. The entire board can view and edit the doc – if you make a change, though, you must inform the co-chairs.


Two tabling sections:

Pick up stuff from the QRC at 3:45

(1) 4-5:30 including set up: Neimy, Trevor, Ivel, Kenneth

(2) 5:30-7 including take down: Ben, Philip, Sarina, Roland


*Roland and Trevor tabled the speak out loud event until after lunch

*Roland and Trevor gave us until 1:15 to get back

*Note taking suspended for superlatives game – which was hilarious



Committees will now present their event proposals, and feedback will be given. There is a time limit of 15-minutes of feedback for each committee. Each committee will explain their proposed events, with a description of why each is important/necessary, how the event will work and who it is geared toward, and what is needed logistically to make it happen.


(1) Machine Outing. Geared toward incoming freshmen. It’s really important to get them acclimated to parties and social events, in a safe, queer environment. If someone feels uncomfortable, they can speak to Josh or Neimy who will chaperone the outing. The proposed date is Friday, September 14th.


Trevor: What if people get uncomfortable at Machine and want to go back? Neimy: We’ll be providing that option. Ivel: We shouldn’t brand it as a freshmen-only event, since that will put off upperclassmen. I also really like the idea of establishing this as a tradition. Edith: Consider how to keep people from bringing alcohol. Also consider subsidizing. Ivel: We should also make it a tradition to do IHOP afterwards.


(2) Diva Party. Have the party in collaboration with the co-op, during the Game. Open it up to Yale students, and make it a safe, fun queer party space. Contain the event by having people show their Harvard/Yale ID at the door. We considered collaborating with another LGBTQ group at Yale, but we were concerned that doing so would make it much more likely for the party to be moved to a bar, making it much more difficult for under-21 to attend.


Ben: Is the co-op going to be easily accessible to Yale students? Neimy: We discussed this, and all of the other areas (Queen’s Head Pub) were not as conducive to the party environment we wanted to foster. We are very limited in terms of available space. We could look into the event hall in the SOCH. Ariel: The co-op is probably going to be easier to locate on a map. Also the co-op has a large queer community already. Trevor: We can minimize confusion for Yalies by making maps really clear and readily available (in emails and on posters).

(3) Service project in early December. Waltham House: home for LGBTQ homeless youth. Still need to contact them to see what kind of event is possible. We don’t want a community service event that can only hold 15 people; want it to be as open as possible. Another option is to have a food drive here at Harvard.

Trevor: One word of caution is that working with the kids at the Waltham House is not for everyone and may not be the best place for a group community project. Sarina: Does PBHA have any LGBTQ-oriented service programs? If not, we should look into starting one. Ken: There should be some kind of event (study break) for people not comfortable with parties.


(1) Invite Randy Roberts Potts, grandson of Oral Roberts. He would speak from the perspective of coming out in a highly religious environment. The focus of his talk would be on overcoming adversity due bullying and separation/rejection from family due to being gay. This would address the lack of programming about what to do when you come out and receive a strongly negative reaction. All the coming out events we have seem to focus on minimizing conflict, but what do you do when conflict is unavoidable? Event would be mid-November.

Ben: I really like the intersection of religion and sexuality. Multiple people: Perhaps Roberts is not the best, though, due to his high price tag and ambiguity about what exactly he would speak on.

(2) Queer Fat Femme. Bevin Bran Landingham. Addresses issues of size-ism and femme phobia that is rooted is misogyny. This also could be related to dating in the LGBTQ community. Have this maybe in March. Edith has not gotten around to contacting her since she cannot find her contact info, but Bevin definitely does events.

Trevor, Ivel, Neimy: I love Queer Fat Femme! Let’s push this to the fall semester. We’ll put it down tentatively in October.

(3) National Coming Out Day Open Mic. Would be really nice if faculty (ie Diana Eck) could come and share their stories.

*Tabling this for future discussion*

(4) Sports Event: Still up in the air/at formative stages.

Neimy: What exactly would this be? A panel discussion? Edith: I think Brandy wants the professor from the WGS sports course to attend, in addition to athletes. Neimy: Could we get varsity athletic teams to co-sponsor? Edith: Really important to have gender diversity at the event.



(1) Board Game Night. We need to build relationships with other organizations on campus. Service oriented bonding with the boards of other student orgs.

Ben: How many people actually like board games? And would be willing to engage in them for the purpose of building a relationship between student groups? Trevor: We should also be aware of the competitive nature of games. I also would like to propose Slutwalk as a possible service event. Sarina: What if we go in the opposite direction? Co-sponsor events, and then have a bonding sesh/debrief with the partnering org’s board. Trevor: Let’s table this for now. Maybe the underlying ideas can be addressed in a different form later.

(2) Disability Advocacy by Students at Harvard (DASH). Could collaborate with them on an event. Also Triple A.

(3) Have a speaker on transgenderism and mental health (Kate Bornstein, MTF transgender, raised Jewish, former Scientologist, estranged from her children). November 20th.

(4) Coming Out Day: Gender Monologues. Less open mic, more staged production. Reach a broader audience and increase our presence. Would require a lot of work, and increase our presence on campus. We could try for this semester.



(1) Health Tab. Places to get condoms, safe sex information, etc. Broader health campaign on campus. Need stronger, destigmatizing conversation on the specific health needs of gay people.

Edith: Was wondering if we were going to address mental health too? That’s a very pertinent issue.

(2) Co-sponsor event with Harvard Republicans. A discussion on a pertinent issue. Engaging, informative. Ben wants board input/suggestions on the specific topic. Timeline: October 29th (last week of October).

(3) Have a queer dinner on a bi-weekly basis. Geared toward queer individuals. Not necessarily an event per se, more organic discussion.

Trevor: Why not combine this dinner with the idea for a meeting/board game night with student orgs? Philip: Make it low commitment. I love the GQB concept: taking something straight and making it gay for the evening. What if we guerrilla queer other parties/events? Edith: I think we are in a position where we need to reach out to other orgs first, not wait for them to come to us.



(1) Every poet is gay: poetry reading!

Trevor: What do you think about the SOL event that is happening this week? Wouldn’t this be the same thing? Philip: This would be more low-key and recurring. 

(2) Event/study break on online dating.  Panel discussion, student-driven, share experiences, give tips, tell stories. Would be informative, fun and de-stigmatizing. Timeline: sometime when nothing else is going on, beginning of October.

Philip: Would be great if we could share successful people’s profiles (only with their permission) for a close reading. 

(3) Because WGS is such a cool department, but not everyone is able to take a semester-long course on an LGBTQ subject, we should get Michael Bronski to give a crash course lecture on Queer History. Everything a queer kid needs to know in one hour.

(4) Harvard Thinks Queer! Get multiple professors to talk about an idea, talk about themselves. Timeline: this would be a fall thing.

Edith: Love the idea! 

(5) Queer Talent Show. Showcase the talents of Harvard queer students across lots of different communities. Especially if this was for charity, people would be excited to be involved. If we could get a charismatic MC/host – even better! Timeline: Not sure yet.

Philip: Not a performance hall, but a JCR. Envisioning a full house, more cozy and intimate.



Trevor: We are going to shake it up a little this year. Intro meetings are usually boring and all the same. We want to make sure that people are engaged and invested, and make them see that the QSA is worth their time.

Format of the meeting: We want to first make introductions, and second break up the freshmen into small discussion groups. Make it really personable: how’s it going? How is Harvard so far? Then we’ll move into the third portion of our meeting. Someone starts with a ball of yarn, says something (“I was discriminated against at work due to my sexuality”), and throws it to someone else who has experienced the same thing and raised their hand to indicate that – and repeat, creating a web of connectivity. Approach this meeting with the mindset that we want to create family.

Other groups: GLOW and other groups will also be there.

Philip: This sounds wonderful. A chance to meet other people in a non-stressful way. What if, for the discussions, each small group had a topic? Like classes? Or dating?

Ben: The intro meeting is the first time a lot of these students are around more than a few gay people at one time, we need to keep that in mind. Trevor: The idea of the introduction before hand is to seem like a professional organization.

*Side note: Van is creating a Queer Leaders group that may include the boards/leadership of all the queer orgs on campus.



Roland: Now is the time to solidify what exactly membership in the QSA means.

There are three important questions that we need to answer:

(1) What should a QSA member expect from the QSA board?

- an open ear

- transparency (esp. with regards to expectations from members)

- inclusive programming

- resources

- welcoming environment

- opportunities/roles to contribute

Ivel: When committee chairs are planning events, they should be required to include roles that non-board-members can fill/actively participate in.


(2) What should can QSA members expect from each other?

- support

- community

- respect

- friendship


(3) What should can a QSA member contribute?

- ideas for program and direction

- attendance @ events & meetings

- questions

- nothing (or whatever level of contribution they want)

- ownership (I want to be a member!)

- commitment (in its many definitions – as much as they want)

- perspectives

- concrete work

- support


Trevor: Distinction needed between members and members with voting privileges. Neimy: Need to have constructive things for members to do (if they want to). Trevor: I like the idea that the criteria we would otherwise use to define membership requirements, will actually be used to let people choose how much they want to participate. Ken: It would be great to have opt-in volunteer opportunities.  Ivel: If we are really serious about getting non-board-meetings to contribute, we need to re-conceptualize board meetings as general meetings or town halls. Ben: The process of liberalizing our email system is very important. We need to get as many people as possible on QSA-members, or just abolish the list altogether. Trevor: Just as a reminder, everyone is welcome to express his or her or their dissenting opinion (especially with regards to the membership framework we are operating under).

*Much more nuanced discussion than was recorded on the pros and cons of various proposed definitions of membership, and much much much debate over what to do with the email lists. A lot of back-and-forth. 

Trevor: Let’s set down what membership means. Ownership and an investment in the organization and community’s success are the defining characteristics of membership; no specific requirements, other than being a Harvard College student, are to be imposed on members; membership is fluid. Anyone who wants to, has, and will access our resources, and wants to be deemed a member, is a member.

*Vote is taken on the above definition of membership. All present voted in favor; 0 nays; 0 abstaining. Above definition of membership passes and becomes constitutional.

Roland: I think there is value in keeping the lists we currently.

QSA-Announce: The list that contains no discussion, only official QSA postings. A way for anyone to see what the QSA is up to, and a way for the grads to keep up with what is going on.

QSA-Members List: The discussion forum for members.

QSA-Board: Logistically, it’s a necessity for planning.

*Vote is taken to abolish the Members list. 4 yays; 5 nays; 1 abstaining. Motion to abolish Members list fails, list remains.

Multiple people: Should we hand over the lgbtq-talk list to the new BGLTQ office?

Ivel: Here’s my takeaway: we need to at least have (1) a list that contains EVERYTHING LGBTQ-related that’s happening on campus and (2) a list that is specifically for the board and planning.

Trevor: One last note on the agenda: check out took at the new QSA website!

*Everyone looks at website. Oohs and Aahs.

Trevor: We need to set a date/time for weekly meetings.

*Date is set by general agreement: Sundays, 2-3 PM.

Trevor: We also need to decide whether or not to continue with our weekly/biweekly discussion meetings. We’ll table this for next week.