A conference of college homosexuals to be held at Brown this weekend has sparked campus-wide controversy over housing the gay guests, The Brown Daily Herald reported.
Many freshman dorms across campus, where the most of the 500 guests will be staying, held votes this week to decide whether to allow the homosexual students to sleep in their premises. The guests represent approximately 60 Northeast colleges, including Harvard.
Brown's Lesbian Gay Student Alliance asked resident counselors and their units to house the conferees in their dorms. Freshman dorms were chosen to house the guests because they are equipped with spacious lounges.
In one freshman dorm, a vote Thursday night ended in a 33-6 decision to allow the guests to sleep in the dorm's lounge, although the decision was not reached easily. "It was a really heavy discussion," said freshman Ed Notargiacomo. "It really caused a rift within the unit."
Notargiacomo said Brown Health Education Director Toby Simon came to the unit meeting to alleviate students' fears about health risks involved with housing the visiting gay students. She guaranteed that there was no real threat of contracting AIDS from the guests, Notargiacomo said.
"I really don't see any difficulty in having them stay here. They're not imposing on anyone," said one student, who asked not to be identified.
"I'm not condoning anything. They're human beings who need a place to sleep," Notargiacomo said. "It's not like we're all of a sudden making it a homosexual school," another freshman in the unit said.
But Notargiacomo said an Orthodox Jew in his dorm was so adamantly opposed on religious grounds to letting the homosexuals stay in the unit's lounge that "he said to us that he no longer considers himself part of the unit" when it voted to house the guests.
"He feels we've trampled on his beliefs," Notargiacomo explained. "I was amazed." Notargiacomo added that one of his resident counselors, a born-again Christian, was also opposed to hosting a group of gay students.
Other students had different reasons to oppose housing the gay guests. "It's something I'd rather not see. It turns me off to see guys holding hands," one student told the Herald.
One Brown freshman visiting Harvard this weekend said the fact that ten of the guests would be in her unit this weekend "played a part" in her decision to come up to Cambridge.
"People are not comfortable with strangers staying in the hall, regardless of their association," she said.
She said she was unhappy that her resident counselor called a meeting of their unit, suggested that the group vote, but ultimately made the decision to host the visitors without ever actually taking a vote.