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Peninsula Issue Sparks Campus Controversy

Gay Students Protest; Two Professors Come Out

By Anna D. Wilde, Crimson Staff Writer

It probably was not what they meant to do.

Editors of the conservative campus journal Peninsula dedicated their October/November issue to articles critical of homosexuality. The Magazine called homosexuality "misguided" and promoted support groups that help gay people to change their sexual orientation.

But instead of causing Harvard's gay community to rethink its way of life, the issue provoked a widespread mobilization of gay students and a protest at which two respected faculty members came out of the closet.

We needed something like this to get us off the ground," says Sandra Cava's' 92 former co-chair of the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Students Association (BGLSA). "It was really good for the community to mobilize."

The 56-page Peninsula issue featured an exploding pink triangle on its cover and contained articles that argued that homosexuality is a "bad alternative" to hetrosexuality.

Some of the magazine's writers stated that homosexuals could not be truly happy in their chosen lifestyle and called on them to change.

The tension caused by the publication of the Peninsula issue in early November was heightened by the simultaneous appearance of an anti-gay slur on a Lowell student's door.

Gay students responded to both incidents with eat-ins in the Union and the Lowell House dining hall which drew over 100 people. The week of protests and arguments was capped off with a rally in Tercentenary Theater which drew 200 students and a number of faculty members.

At that rally, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals Peter J. Gomes and Professor of English and Comparative Literature Barbara E. Johnson both condemned the magazine and identified themselves as gay.

Gomes said at the rally that the magazine's conclusions were wrong. "Gay people are not victims of an insufficient moral will to be straight," he said.

Cavazos says that Johnson and Gomes were inspiring examples to Harvard's gay community and she says she hopes their action inspires more faculty members to reveal their homosexuality.

Later in the year, the BGLSA hosted a meeting to provide an opportunity for gay students and professors to meet and talk.

The fallout from Gomes' action at the Tercentenary Theater protest continued into the spring semester as five students banded together to form Concerned Christians at Harvard, a group dedicated to ousting Gomes from his post as minister of Memorial Church.

The Concerned Christians contended that Gomes' argument that homosexuality was not a sin made him unfit to serve as minister of Memorial Church.

The group held a sparsely attended candlelight vigil in February and tabled in several house dining halls. But Gomes received support from President Neil L. Rudenstine and the group's calls faded during the spring months.

Christian G. Vergonis '92, a members of Peninsula's governing council, says he is glad the magazine dealt with such a controversial and relevantissue the way it did.

"I think we were able to present a lot of realinformation about homosexuality," he says. "Wethink we've succeeded in changing attitudes oncampus about homosexuality."

Vergonis says he felt that Peninsula'sposition reflects the opinions of most of theHarvard community and adds that people havefrequently expressed their support to magazinestaff members.

"Unfortunately, there was a small but veryvocal minority of students that staged rallies andsit-ins," he says.

Cavazos disagrees. She sees the campus as splitabout 80-20 in support of the BGLSA and againstPeninsula's opinions.

She and other BGLSA leaders say that in thewake of the controversy they think Harvard isgradually becoming a more open and welcomingenvironment for the gay community, and they hopethe trend continues.

John A. Frazier '95, BGLSA co-chair, says hesees Harvard as a "fairly welcoming place," and hesays the new visibility of the BGLSA has added tothat.

Both Cavazos and Frazier say theadministration's response to the Novemberincidents was supportive, but they say more can bedone to make homosexual students feel comfortablehere.

Cavazos would like to see more education forfirst-year students on topics of harassment, whileFrazier would like to see a strongeradministration stand against ROTC.

Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III says theCollege has taken a "firm position" cagainstanti-gay prejudice and "seeks to create a tolerantenvironment."

Epps criticized the magazine's "rough treatmentof a sensitive issue" at the November rally, andRudenstine issued a statement condemning theLowell house graffiti.

Next year, Frazier says, the BGLSA will seek toimprove its visibility on campus and to forgecloser relationships with other campus minorityorganizations.

"I think visibility on campus is one of themost important things for changing people," hesays. "It enlightens them a little."

As for Peninsula's staffers, they saythey have no plans to abandon their penchant forcreating a stir.

"In general," Vergonis says."Peninsulawill continue to explore controversial andrelevant issues.

"I think we were able to present a lot of realinformation about homosexuality," he says. "Wethink we've succeeded in changing attitudes oncampus about homosexuality."

Vergonis says he felt that Peninsula'sposition reflects the opinions of most of theHarvard community and adds that people havefrequently expressed their support to magazinestaff members.

"Unfortunately, there was a small but veryvocal minority of students that staged rallies andsit-ins," he says.

Cavazos disagrees. She sees the campus as splitabout 80-20 in support of the BGLSA and againstPeninsula's opinions.

She and other BGLSA leaders say that in thewake of the controversy they think Harvard isgradually becoming a more open and welcomingenvironment for the gay community, and they hopethe trend continues.

John A. Frazier '95, BGLSA co-chair, says hesees Harvard as a "fairly welcoming place," and hesays the new visibility of the BGLSA has added tothat.

Both Cavazos and Frazier say theadministration's response to the Novemberincidents was supportive, but they say more can bedone to make homosexual students feel comfortablehere.

Cavazos would like to see more education forfirst-year students on topics of harassment, whileFrazier would like to see a strongeradministration stand against ROTC.

Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III says theCollege has taken a "firm position" cagainstanti-gay prejudice and "seeks to create a tolerantenvironment."

Epps criticized the magazine's "rough treatmentof a sensitive issue" at the November rally, andRudenstine issued a statement condemning theLowell house graffiti.

Next year, Frazier says, the BGLSA will seek toimprove its visibility on campus and to forgecloser relationships with other campus minorityorganizations.

"I think visibility on campus is one of themost important things for changing people," hesays. "It enlightens them a little."

As for Peninsula's staffers, they saythey have no plans to abandon their penchant forcreating a stir.

"In general," Vergonis says."Peninsulawill continue to explore controversial andrelevant issues.

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