Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Story of Self

Hi! My name is Ellie and I'm a current Sophomore in Mather House studying Social Studies. I've worked as a Campus Education intern at the Office of BGLTQ Student Life (colloquially called the QuOffice) since fall of 2018.

My intern role at the QuOffice involves working with various Harvard student groups to help address questions, problems, or concerns related to LGBTQ+ rights. Over the past two years, I've worked with religious groups, peer counseling groups, musical groups, and various Harvard Offices to lead trainings, workshops, and community discussions about a wide variety of topics within the realm of LGBTQ+ rights. Outside of my work with student groups, I have doubts about what possibilities for change there are in my role. I've spent a lot of time trying to parse through how my job has simultaneously uplifted and stifled my voice.

I've thought a lot about how and why the intern roles throughout Harvard's EDI Offices were created, I developed this research project as a result of this curiosity. The work that EDI interns do in the realms of race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and immigration status is work that often goes uncompensated, and I want to better understand how our compensation as employees of Harvard changes the interactions interns have with their work. I doubt many take this role without eventually questioning what the scope of interns' influence in these roles really is. In comparison to other large-scale student advocacy efforts to make change on our campus, such as the push for fossil fuel and prison industrial complex divestment, I question whether or not these institutionalized roles have the capacity to create reform. Were these roles created with the intent of allowing students to create change at an office-wide or an institutional level? Can interns change the status quo? Do they have a greater ability to do so than students doing advocacy work for causes they care about independently of the administration?

Furthermore, perhaps more cynically, I also wonder if and how the creation of the EDI Offices masks, or even demonstrates, institutional reluctance towards more comprehensive measures to create an inclusive environment for all students. For example, does the existence of the Office of Diversity Education and Support, which provides support for undocumented and mixed immigration status students, conceal the fact the Harvard is not officially a sanctuary campus?

I developed this research project through my desire to answer the above questions, in addition to the curiosity about how and why these roles were created, and whether they were developed with the intern of allowing students to have influence in the administration. Other ideas guiding my research are: How do student interns perceive their ability to enact change on an office-wide and institutional level? How do administrators view these roles? How do these perceptions differ? Have these roles deradicalized students or radicalized them? How can the roles of student interns doing work with Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion be improved?

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