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Most freshmen were probably surprised when they received a letter two weeks ago from the Harvard-Radcliffe Gay Students Association inviting them to join. While the group has only received one favorable response so far. GSA members view it as an important part of their effort to educate the Harvard community about homosexuality.
"We wrote the letter in a casual conversational manner to show the community that we are not really that different or strange," Eugene Hightower, president of the GSA, explained at the group's first meeting of the year yesterday. "Hopefully, after sending four of these letters to incoming classes of freshmen, we will have educated the community," he said with a chuckle.
The most important function of the letter was to try to help gay students "come out"--that is, admit their homosexuality. "As a former closet case myself, this is the sort of letter I would have thrown in a drawer. At least we know that the letter will start some gay students thinking," one member commented.
Yesterday's meeting attracted 15 people, including a number of people from MIT and other schools in the Boston area. One woman attended yesterday's session, marking the first time that a female had attended a GSA meeting.
The group plans to make efforts this fall to attract females. Few of the GSA members have had much contact with lesbians and there were few concrete suggestions offered.
Hightower said that he knew a woman who graduated two years ago from Radcliffe and was now active in the gay liberation movement, and suggested that he might invite her to speak one night, in hopes of attracting more women.
The GSA is faced with one problem all undergraduate organizations are faced with--fundraising. Following its efforts to contact freshmen, at a cost of $50 for printing and $160 for stamps, the GSA bank account is down to $39.07. To raise money, the groap plans to hold a dance this fall. Last spring, the GSA held a dance which drew 500 people and raised over $300.
To find a date to hold the dance could be a problem. Gay affairs are scheduled for every weekend from now until December, and in order to insure a maximum turnout, the GSA wants to make sure there will be no schedule conflict.
Unlike some gay activist groups, the GSA does not participate in any organized political movement. Most of the activities discussed--such as setting up an exhibit in Lamont, and organizing a course on homosexuality in one of the houses--are directed toward educating the Harvard community and reaching homosexuals on campus.
In spite of the turnout, one could sense tension in the air. When the people in attendance introduced themselves, a number of them mumbled, and throughout the meeting, only a few people spoke out. Yet for a group that was only an idea in Hightower's mind last fall, the group has come a long way.
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