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After Vandalism, Adams House Convenes Committee to Review Bathroom Signage

Adams House is set for renovations after construction is finished on Lowell House.
Adams House is set for renovations after construction is finished on Lowell House. By Evan T. Arnold
By Shera S. Avi-Yonah and Delano R. Franklin, Crimson Staff Writers

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Harvard College's Adams House.
Harvard College's Adams House. By Evan T. Arnold

In an email to residents Friday, Adams House administrators announced the formation of a committee to review restroom signage following incidents of vandalism of a gender-neutral bathroom earlier this month.

The email — signed by Adams House Faculty Deans John "Sean" G. Palfrey ’67 and Judith "Judy" S. Palfrey ’67, Resident Dean Adam Muri-Rosenthal, and House Committee members Caroline S. Kristof ’20 and Victoria “Tori” S. Tong ’20 — condemned the “distressing” vandalism and distributed an anonymous survey to Adams residents intended to gather feedback about the incident.

“Following the very distressing events last week when the gender neutral sign on the downstairs bathroom was defaced, we convened a committee of students and tutors to discuss the configuration of and signage for our restrooms,” the group wrote. “The committee is charged with determining the ways that we can promote the values that Adams House cares about the most—both in our facilities and in our communication with one another.”

The move comes after the sign marking the gender-neutral bathroom in Russell Hall was vandalized twice within the past month. The sign — which included three icons intended to represent male, female, and non-binary individuals — had its female icon colored in with black marker. The icons have since been removed, leaving a sign that simply reads, “Restroom.”

The vandalism sparked accusations of transphobia and misogyny against the perpetrator after an Adams House resident sent an image of the sign over the House’s email list, “the Schmooze.” Some students said the vandalism made them feel unsafe, while others debated the vandal’s intent.

The committee’s email praised students’ discussions about the incident, calling it a foundation for their work.

“We appreciate how thoughtful many of you have already been in discussing this topic: over meals in the dining hall, on the Schmooze, and in one-on-one conversations with your peers, tutors, and deans,” they wrote. “These are important conversations that should be had, and we look forward to translating this dialogue into clear next steps.”

In addition to gathering survey results, the committee also plans to partner with the Office of BGLTQ Student Life to offer resources for students, according to the email.

Judy Palfrey wrote in an email to The Crimson that the committee will help Adams administrators respond to the vandalism in a way that is consistent with the house’s values.

“The defacing of our gender neutral signage was an act of desecration and of disrespect that is not acceptable,” she wrote. “We called the committee together to suggest ways that we can underscore our message of inclusivity through the signage, facilities, decorations, and activities the house promotes.”

Palfrey added that the committee plans to regularly update students on its work.

—Staff writer Shera S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at shera.avi-yonah@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @saviyonah.

—Staff writer Delano R. Franklin can be reached at delano.franklin@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @delanofranklin_.

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