Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis W. Sullivan was greeted yesterday by campus gay and lesbian groups quietly protesting his appearance at a Dunster House dinner sponsored by the Harvard Foundation.
In a gala event attended by several deans and Radcliffe President Linda S. Wilson, the Foundation honored Sullivan--who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Harvard presidency--with a plaque commemorating his contributions to the health and medical professions.
But about six students representing various campus gay and lesbian groups distributed fliers and stickers protesting Sullivan's stance on AIDS-related issues. In addition, the activists placed fake programs containing condoms and a list of demands for Sullivan at each place-setting in the dining hall.
The list of demands included increasing the availability of experimental drugs to combat AIDS, initiating multi-lingual AIDS education and implementing a national health care policy.
"Sullivan is here tonight and he has not been doing his job as far as AIDS in concerned," said Leon L. Lai '91, a member of Arts Organization for the Advancement of Sexual Minorities. "A lot of people just aren't aware of just how bad U.S. policies are on AIDS. It's important to educate people on that."
Sullivan has faced heavy protest from the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP) in past visits to the College, although the Boston-based chapter of the group was not present at last night's dinner. ACT-UP has demanded that Sullivan use his influence to relax immigration laws to allow individuals infected with the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus into the country.
Sullivan said in an interview that he is reviewing new congressional laws which give him more flexibility in allowing AIDS victims to enter the U.S. "We want to make a decision that's in the best interest of the public health of the country," Sullivan said.
Sullivan, who wore a pink triangle on his jacket for part of the evening before removing it for a photo oppor- tunity, added that he was not disturbed by theACT-UP protests. The pink triangle has been usedto show support for gay rights.
"The protests are totally unpredictable," saidSullivan. "But that's fine because this countrywas founded on protests."
Prior to the dinner, Sullivan met with variouscampus groups at a reception held at Wilson'sBrattle St. home.
"He shmoozed and shmoozed and shmoozed. As soonas I said the G-word [gay], he walked away," saidJavier E. Mateu '93, who attended the event.
In an interview, Wilson described herself as alongtime friend of Sullivan's and praised hisaccomplishments in several fields. She added thatshe thought Sullivan would be a strong presidentof the University.
But Sullivan told The Crimson that he is notinterested in the job and that talk of hiscandidacy comes as a surprise to him.
"It was news to me when I saw it," saidSullivan. "I have not the foggiest notion wherethat came from."
In a 20-minute address after the dinner,Sullivan did not mention the AIDS controversy butinstead focused on how to improve the health ofminorities and poor people.
While Sullivan said that the nation does notneed a national health care system, he added thatmedical costs needed to be reduced.
Sullivan said that individuals need to caremore about their personal health and lifestyles,which he labeled a "culture of character." Hestressed exercise, proper diet and avoidingtobacco and alcohol as important elements towardsachieving better personal health.
"I am not diminishing my department's duty toguard the nation's health," Sullivan said. "Butthere must be recognition that without a seriousacceptance of personal health, a culture ofcharacter, we will not improve the health ofpeople significantly, regardless of the moneyinvested."
But activists said they were disturbed thatSullivan made little more than passing mention ofthe AIDS epidemic.
"I was rather disgusted with his speech. It washypocritical," Lai said. "It was typical Bushpolitical bullshit--wonderful words and absolutelyno action whatsoever. I was disgusted by theentire affair.