COMMUNITY NEWS Volume 1, Number 4 December 1993
A Newsletter for the lesbian, bisexual, and gay community
and supporters at Columbia University and Affiliates
DECEMBER EVENTS CALENDAR & CONTACTS
November 30 (Tuesday) AIDS Memorial Service, for all those at
Columbia and world-wide who have died of AIDS. 5 pm, St. Paul's
December 1 (Wednesday) World AIDS Day/Day Without Art. A day to
remember those with HIV/AIDS and to plan ways to work towards a
cure. Wear a "Silence = Death" button or a red ribbon. For
information on campus events, contact Ken Harlin at 854-1501
* Bi Weekly: A discussion group for bisexuals. Call Toni Eng at
853-5022 for more information. 8 pm, 303 Earl Hall.
2 (Thursday) CU Seminar on Homosexualities: "Something Queer about
the Nation: Sexual Transgressions of National Narratives in North
African Literature." Presenter: Jarrod Hayes, CUNY Graduate
School. 7:30 pm, 1512 IAB.
3 (Friday) Lesbian/Gay Studies Group: "Theologizing the
Erotic/Eroticizing Theology," with the Rev. Carter Hayward. 4 pm,
754 Schermerhorn Extension.
* Queer Films and Filmmakers: "The Dead Boys Club," directed by
Mark Christopher. 8-10 pm.
* LBGC First Friday Dance. 10 pm, Earl Hall.
5 (Sunday) LBGC Meeting. 7 pm, 303 Earl Hall.
6 (Monday) Coordinators' Meeting. 8 pm, Law 6W1.
7 (Tuesday) Lesbigay Community Holiday Party. Refreshments & more!
5-8 pm, Location to be announced.
8 (Wednesday) LABIA Meeting. 8 pm, 204 Sulzberger (Barnard).
9 (Thursday) LBGTC Meeting. Maybe a film too. 9 pm, 177 Grace
Dodge Hall (Teachers College).
11 (Saturday) JAGL Hanukkah Party. Call Tani Meir at 853-1917
(email@example.com) for time and location.
12 (Sunday) LBGC Meeting. 7 pm, 303 Earl Hall.
14 (Tuesday) Lambda Health Alliance Holiday Party. All are
invited. 6 pm, 11th Floor Lounge, Bard Hall.
15 (Wednesday) Bi Weekly: A discussion group for bisexuals. Call
Toni Eng at 853-5022 for more information. 8 pm, 303 Earl Hall.
16 (Thursday) GABLES-CU Monthly Meeting. 5:30-7 pm, 628 Kent Hall.
18 (Saturday) LBGTC Potluck/Holiday Party. Time and location to be
announced. Call Ed Falterman at 678-0884 for more information.
* Third Saturday Dance. 10 pm-2 am, Earl Hall.
19 (Sunday) LBGC Meeting. 7 pm, 303 Earl Hall. Call 854-1488 to
January 19 (Wednesday) Lesbigay Community Meeting. 5:30-7 pm,
Location to be announced.
January 27 (Thursday) GABLES-CU Monthly Meeting. 5:30-7 pm, 628
Key: GABLES-CU--Gay, Bisexual, & Lesbian Employees & Supporters
JAGL--Jewish Activist Gays and Lesbians
LABIA--Lesbian And Bisexuals In Action
LBGC--Columbia/Barnard Lesbian Bisexual Gay Coalition
LBGTC--Lesbians, Bisexuals, & Gays at Teachers College
"COMMUNITY NEWS" CONTACTS
Events: John Rash, 678-3779; firstname.lastname@example.org
Features: E. R. Shipp, 854-7571; email@example.com
Mailing list: Steve van Leeuwen; 854-3078; firstname.lastname@example.org
THE HOMOPHOBIA TASK FORCE IS ON THE CASE
As long as some of our Columbia colleagues feel free to leave
hate-spewed messages on our answering machines, scrawl insulting
graffiti on walls, and tear up lesbigay posters, or when groups
like the KKK feel free to sponsor a nationally advertised
"gaybashing" (see On the Road, page 2), then our community must be
ever vigilant. Since last spring the Homophobia Task Force has
been carrying on part of that work at Columbia.
The Task Force emerged in response to Marsha Wagner's unsettling
presentation at the May 1993 meeting of GABLES. At that meeting
Wagner, the University Ombuds Officer, described recent homophobic
incidents and suggested means of reducing homophobia and
Galvanized by her words, Task Force members decided that one of
our priorities would be to revise University policy statements and
documents to include protection against discrimination and
harassment on the basis of sexual orientation. We were surprised,
but certainly heartened, to discover that these protections were
already in print--in many cases since the 1980s. While this was
very encouraging news, we also realized that most members of the
University community--lesbigay as well as straight, students as
well as employees--were not well informed about the policies.
Since the summer the Task Force has met with senior University
administrators, including Rosalind Fink (Equal Opportunity and
Affirmative Action), Rosalyn Hantman (Training and Personnel
Development), Mercedes Ravelo (Security), and Kathryn Croft
Commenting on the significance of the Task Force, Wagner recently
said: "So many people encounter homophobia and think (1) there's
nothing to be done, (2) if we can't identify the offender, we have
no choice but to keep silent, or (3) it's inevitable and we have
to live with it. This is an example of how speaking up alerts the
entire University community that this is a problem. It enlists a
lot of people in opposing homophobia, provides options for targets
of the offensive conduct, and offers group solidarity and
constructive bonding activity for those who are offended by it. It
also puts the offender on notice that this unacceptable behavior
is being reported, recorded, and investigated and that this kind
of conduct is unwelcome at Columbia."
The Task Force's efforts to encourage the reporting of incidents
and an appropriate response to these incidents were reinforced in
mid-August when the Security Department promised that all
incidents would be fully investigated in a University-wide memo on
Bias Incidents (see article in the October issue of Community
News). More recently the Task Force has agreed to serve as a
clearinghouse on homophobia incidents. All are invited to contact
any member of the group listed below, and if you consent, the Task
Force will include a description of the incident in a proposed
Another Task Force project is to use posters and other published
materials to educate the public on homophobia. We welcome your
ideas and recommendations both for ways we can develop our own
posters and other materials we might acquire. The Task Force is
also discussing diversity training, orientation programs for new
employees, and methods of establishing and maintaining
communications with different segments of the University
During this semester we have been meeting on the second Friday of
each month. Meetings are open to all. To report incidents, make
suggestions, or ask questions, contact Marsha Wagner, the Ombuds
Officer (854-1234; email@example.com) and/or any of the
following Task Force members: Annie Barry (854-3219; ab14), Debbie
Bell, (304-5224; deb2), Ken Harlin (854-1501; harlin), Ed Mannix
(854-8313; ejm5), and Steve van Leeuwen (854-3078; svl2).
- Debbie Bell, E.R. Shipp
CONOR INTERVIEWS... PROFESSOR PETER AWN
How many times have I wondered: "Just who is this Peter Awn?" How
many times has his name been bandied about when the topic of out
professors arises? Let's face it; he's the queer faculty poster
boy. For those who don't know the man behind the reputation--and I
sure didn't--here is a little background:
Born in Brooklyn 42 years ago and educated at Fordham, Woodstock,
and Harvard, Peter went from the Jesuit priesthood to the Columbia
University faculty, where he has been since 1978. A tenured
professor in the Department of Religion, he is one of those
teachers who is here because he really enjoys his work and the
chance to interact with students.
"[Teaching] keeps you in touch with people at a stage in their
lives when they really are putting their worlds together. It keeps
you thinking about who you are, where you've come from and what
But Columbia is not his entire life.
"What I love is being able to teach at an absolutely topnotch
institution and still being able to walk out the front door at the
end of the day and have a life of my own," he said.
When he began teaching at Columbia, Peter didn't care whether or
not others knew he was gay. Now he thinks it is absolutely
imperative that people know. In his department, he has not run
into anti-gay bigotry, but acknowledged that "in some departments
it's clearly an issue."
Peter personally became more involved with campus issues because
of the silence here about AIDS. "This enormous pool of talented
wonderful people just sort of disappeared with no recognition and
no awareness at all," he said of those who have died. He began to
seek ways he "could make the community more of a presence on
What particularly disturbs him is the chasm between faculty and
students. "The older I get, the less I have any sense of really
what the needs are of the undergraduates," he said, adding that
too often faculty members are not even asked to get involved in
lesbigay community activities. "I think if people were asked, they
would do it," he said. Peter urges stronger connections across the
lines that divide us, whether they be age or academic
Just as he had a hand in the creation of the Institute for
Research on Women and Gender, Peter is now working with other
scholars to fully develop gay and lesbian studies at Columbia.
What's exciting, he said, is that more and more scholars with
expertise in gay and lesbian studies are coming to Columbia and
are joining together to try to develop the curriculum.
Peter expressed much interest in the formation of a Queer Center
at Columbia. We agreed that this was a project to which a proposed
alumni group could give a lot of help, whether in professional
advice, external pressure on the University, or financial
Peter and I agreed on a lot of things. One of them was our love
for the city. He said he couldn't really imagine leaving Columbia
in the near future. Between his friends in New York and his
family, most of whom live in New Jersey, he has planted roots. In
a university that sometimes seems as if it has the turnover rate
of a fast food restaurant, this bodes well for both the queer and
All in all, we had a great talk. It's cool to know that despite
our differences--our ages, the time in our lives that we came out,
our professional aspirations (or, in his case, successes)--we
connected on a lot of issues as one queer to another. This is an
important lesson to remember, as we work together and listen to
each other to build a cohesive and embracing community.
- Conor Kennedy Ryan
ON THE ROAD TO NEW HOPE WITH LBGC
When we saw that the Far Right had planned something called
"Gaybash '93" in New Hope, Pa., there was no way that the Lesbian
Bisexual Gay Coalition (LBGC) could ignore the challenge. We
pulled together a campuswide response to this blatant attempt to
incite and validate violence against lesbigays and, calling
ourselves the "Coalition to Fight the Right," undertook a 12-hour
journey last month to secure the dignity of queers across this
country. What we learned, however, was how not to get to New Hope
(we were given poor directions!) and, alas, how splintered the
Left is. What follows is an account of that odyssey.
Some sixteen LBGC members drowsily left our beds at 7 am while
recovering from the previous night's dance. Twelve of us piled
into a seven-passenger van; four others rode with members of the
International Socialists Organization and the Barnard-Columbia
Students for Choice (BCSC). Altogether some fifty members of
Columbia's Coalition to Fight the Right headed for New Hope to
track down the Ku Klux Klan.
We had assumed that the five vans from Columbia would travel
caravan-style for the 90-minute drive, but as soon as we got on
the West Side Highway, we lost two vans. We lost another one
somewhere on the New Jersey Turnpike. The two-van caravan got lost
for the next few hours, when we in the LBGC van decided to ditch
the other one (whose drivers had given us the bad directions in
the first place) and place our fate in the hands of two native
Pennsylvanians who were onboard.
After more than four hours on the road, we finally arrived at the
beautiful and gay-friendly town of New Hope, where we encountered
a brigade of police officers who blocked the main entrance to the
Washington Crossing State Park, the site of the demonstration. At
another entrance a vexed police officer asked which demonstration
we wished to attend--"the violent one or the peaceful one."
Concerned about our safety, we replied in unison, "the peaceful
one." But concerned about the missing van and other queers, we
asked how violent "the violent one" was. With a look of
desperation, he told us: "People are getting their butts kicked."
Driving around for another mile, we free-associated our shared
image of hundreds of militant queers and socialists engaged in
brutal battle with hundreds of white supremacists and homohaters.
Reality was much less dramatic. There hadn't been a battle at all,
merely some minor rock throwing by the 35 Klan members and neo-
Nazis. A small river separated them from the 100 protesters on our
side. The most violence may have come from a straight radical
group, which decided to beat up three white supremacists who
happened to be standing peaceably on the wrong side of the river.
As we left the tumultuous scene, we caught sight of the other
vans. Heading back to New York through the hills of Pennsylvania,
we were in awe of the large patches of green and the vibrant
colors of falling leaves along our route. But it was good to get
back to the Columbia-Barnard campuses, the community we know and
- Catina R. Alexander, Lyris Hung
JAGL: JEWISH ACTIVIST GAYS AND LESBIANS
Last spring a conference for young progressive Jews, sponsored by
Tikkun magazine, was held at Columbia. At one point during the
conference, the participants split up into working groups, one of
which was for gay, lesbian, and bisexual Jews. Those of us
gathered there got to talking about our desire for a framework in
which lesbigay Jews could be politically and socially active.
Although some of us were involved with Congregation Beth Simchat
Torah (CBST), the lesbian and gay synagogue in the Village, we
wanted more than that institution could offer. Thus was born JAGL-
-Jewish Activist Gays and Lesbians.
Too often, when Jews come out of the closet, they feel that they
must give up their Jewish identity. This is understandable,
considering that there is a tradition in the Jewish community of
denying the very fact that gay and lesbian Jews exist. This
abandoning of part of one's identity is often a painful process
that scars the individual for life. One of JAGL's goals is to
combat homophobia among Jews through education, thus making it
easier for gays and lesbians to come out in the Jewish community.
Conversely, JAGL hopes to provide Jewish lesbians, gays, and
bisexuals with a context where they can be proud to be both Jewish
and queer. Finally, by being visible as Jewish queers, we hope to
combat the anti-Semitism that unfortunately also exists in the
JAGL's first action arrived without warning last May, when CBST
was suddenly denied permission to march in the Salute to Israel
Parade. We mobilized our forces to organize a protest along the
parade route; although CBST decided not to protest the decision
openly, we felt that it was imperative to be visible at the parade
itself. Many people, both gay and straight, joined the
demonstration and showed support. People are starting to realize
that we queer Jews will simply not accept the ignorance and
rejection that we have been faced with.
Over the summer, a bunch of JAGLers went to Camp Kutz, a Reform
sleepaway camp, to conduct a workshop on gay, lesbian, and
bisexual Jews. This, our first educational outreach, proved to be
a great success. Through consciousness-raising exercises and
discussion, high-school students learned about what it is like to
grow up Jewish and gay. A similar workshop is now being planned
for a Jewish institution in the Columbia area.
But wait--JAGL is also about fun! Last spring we had a Purim party
complete with costumes and hamentaschen (unfortunately, they
weren't pink). Our Hanukkah party is coming up on December 11--
location to be announced. JAGL led an Israeli dancing workshop at
BGLAD's Queer Carnival, and we are considering starting queer
Israeli folkdancing nights; if you are interested, please let us
If you are Jewish and queer, please become a part of JAGL. We have
meetings twice a month in 303 Earl Hall; please call 854-1488,
check the lesbigay notesfile, or contact Tani at firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information. Our group is always looking for new faces
and new ideas!
- Tani Meir
THE MENTORS PROJECT: OFFERING COLUMBIA LESBIGAYS CONFIDENTIAL HELP
Rachel is an adjunct assistant professor in the Political Science
Department at Columbia University who is applying for teaching
positions at other institutions. Rachel is also a lesbian and is
concerned about how forthcoming she should be about her sexual
preference on her resume and subsequent interviews. Should she
note her involvement with God's Love We Deliver, Homophobia Task
Force, and Women Oriented Women (WOW) when asked about
extracurricular activities? How does she raise issues such as the
availability of domestic-partner benefits and housing for Renee,
her partner for the past three years.
David is new to Columbia University, a first-year graduate student
in the English Department, and he's having problems adjusting to
an impersonal campus in a metropolitan area. David misses the
friends he had at his small rural college, friends who provided
him with support and guidance when he came out there in his senior
year. He is unsure of how to best approach his hopes of
incorporating gay-specific themes in his research, and is looking
for advice. David just wants to talk to someone to sort his
feelings out, to help him feel more comfortable with himself and
Rachel and David are not real people, but these two vignettes
illustrate the type of personal questions for which the Mentors
Project is designed to provide guidance. Sponsored by the Columbia
Gay Health Advocacy Project (GHAP) and the Office of Campus
Programs, it has identified gay and lesbian faculty,
administrators, staff, and graduate students who are available as
advisors for members of the lesbigay community at Columbia. The
Mentors Project was created last spring to provide an opportunity
for individual and confidential advising about lesbigay issues of
a personal or academic nature.
Interested? To get involved as an advisee or mentor, contact Laura
Pinsky or Rachel Efron at 854-2878 on the Morningside Campus or
Robert Kertzner (960-2439), Ron Remien (960-2375), or Ronald
Winchel (960-5835) on the Health Sciences Campus. As best as
possible, advisees will be matched with mentors based on specific
interests or needs. We would also like to hear from anyone who
knows of a similar program elsewhere so that we can compare notes.
- Ken Harlin, Robert Kertzner
COLUMBIA HIV SUPPORT GROUP
Weekly meetings facilitated by Laura Pinsky. Open to students,
staff and faculty from any campus. Free and confidential. For
details, call Laura Pinsky at 854-2878.
HIV MENTORS SOUGHT
Persons interested in participating as mentors in the planned CU
"HIV mentoring program" are invited to contact Stephen Davis at
email@example.com or 219M Butler Library. Although the program
is still being worked out, the idea is that an HIV mentor would
help, guide, support, and counsel a person with HIV who is either
having difficulties in his or her work environment or who fears
having such difficulties if and when s/he divulges health status.
TEACHERS COLLEGE EXTENDS DOMESTIC-PARTNER BENEFITS
Effective November 1st, TC faculty and employees who qualify as
domestic partners under New York City regulations are eligible to
receive full health benefits. Since the insurance carriers
currently used by the College do not offer policies for domestic
partners, the benefit will initially consist of an addition to the
employed partner's monthly salary in an amount that is equal to
what TC pays to its carriers for these benefits. Even though this
benefit payment will be fully taxable under current law, a TC
study found that even after taxation, it could buy health
insurance, "though the deductibles were somewhat high." This
benefit is applicable only to faculty and professional staff
because unionized employees are covered under contracts that
provide for separate benefits programs.
CKR2 SEEKS SUBSCRIBERS
CKR2, also (perhaps formerly) known as Conor Kennedy Ryan, wants
to let everybody know that the Lesbian Bisexual Gay Coalition
(LBGC) has joined the technological 1990s with its own e-mail
distribution list. To be added to this list, send your address to
firstname.lastname@example.org, of course.
LBGC ANNOUNCES OFFICE HOURS
LBGC is inaugurating office hours! In our attempts to create more
safe spaces for queers on this campus, we are opening our office
from noon to 4 pm, Monday to Thursday. Stop by and check
magazines, books, and new decorations. Coffee, queer music, and
most importantly, queer faces are available!