Students complained after program only allowed ‘male’ or ‘female’
Harvard University’s annual Valentine’s Day computer dating program, Datamatch, will add a “non-binary” gender option this year after students protested that it only allowed participants to identify as “male” or “female.”
The “third gender option” was installed “for matching purposes just like the other two options,” a Datamach developer told the student government at a recent meeting, according to The Harvard Crimson. “We don’t want gender to be a big part of Datamatch at all. We want everyone to be excited about it.”
Last Valentine’s Day, students were only permitted to identify as male or female, though they were “allowed to add comments about their gender identity in a section at the end of the survey designated for ‘extra’ information.”
The inability for Harvard students to identity as non-male or -female on Datamatch caused the Harvard student government to publicly criticize the program, penning “a statement of support with the gender non-conforming and gender queer community.”
The Harvard Computer Society, which runs Datamatch, apologized and penned a response in turn promising “to make sure that Datamatch 2018 includes all identities.”
This year, participants will also be allowed to provide up to 100 characters of additional information about their gender identity, according to Pekala, and will be allowed to choose whether gender information is displayed on their profile at all.
Datamatch will also debut a “checkbox model” to allow students to select which of the three gender options with which they would like to match.
“We hope that will give people a lot of flexibility in how they are presenting themselves,” Pekala said.
Pekala said he and other members of the Datamatch team met with multiple students who complained about the lack of a third option last year. He said Datamatch decided on final changes by seeking “consensus” with Harvard students who were “personally affected by last year’s mistakes.”
This year, the program is also expanding to “multiple colleges around the Boston area,” The Crimson reports.