Harvard University in Cambridge,
Controversy erupted at Harvard University this week after Datamatch, the university’s annual Valentine’s Day matchmaking service, featured “restrictive gender choices,” according to The Harvard Crimson. Students were “forced” to choose “male or female without offering options for genderqueer or gender non-conforming students.”
Created by the Harvard Computer Society, Datamatch allows students to complete an online survey and it will then “match” them with students who received compatible results. Despite being a campus tradition since 1994, the program sparked outrage this year among students who felt “Datamatch did not do enough to include people of non-binary genders,” Raynor J. Kuang ‘17 of the Datamatch development team said.
While students did have the option to provide “extra” gender information at the end of the survey, this apparently proved insufficient. “You can’t put a part of someone’s identity in parentheses and say that’s ‘extra’ information about them,” said Darius A. Johnson ’18.
Student groups took issue with the matchmaking service as well. Twenty-six members of Harvard’s Undergraduate Council, including its president and vice president, signed a letter voicing their discontent with Datamatch. Adam’s House representative and Undergraduate Council BGLTQ+ Caucus Chair Nicholas P. Whittaker ’19 presented a letter of his own.
The letter is a “statement of support with the gender non-conforming and gender queer community after Datamatch implicitly excluded them from the experience,” Whittaker said. “The idea of it being romantic does not necessitate the idea that it be stuck upon strict gender bearings.”
Harvard Computer Society co-President Javier Cuan-Martinez ’18 apologized, saying the he takes “full responsibility for the exclusion that we have created on campus.”