'U' president Bollinger defends gay culture class

BY ANNA CLARK

Published April 14, 2003

After drawing attention across the state and the nation, the debate surrounding English Prof. David Halperin's Fall 2000 class, "How to Be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation," moved to the University's Board of Regents monthly meeting April 13.

Defending the course in his opening remarks, University President Lee Bollinger said the class has a legitimate role in the University's academic environment.

"It is the role of the University to think about what it means to be human. This course is a facet of the study of what it means to be human," he said. "It's one of intellectual interest. We believe this course has academic value."

According to its description, the focus of the course is the "role of initiation in the formation of gay identity" by studying topics such as Broadway musicals, drag and gay literature.

During public comments, American Family Association of Michigan President Gary Glenn condemned the class.

"AFA-Michigan believes it is wrong to force taxpayers to foot the bill for a class whose express purpose is to 'experiment' in 'initiating' teenagers into a lifestyle of homosexual behavior," Glenn said.

He continued to say that the class violates state law as well as moral and religious beliefs of many taxpayers. While an 86-page booklet, titled "Health Implications Associated with Homosexuality," was distributed to the regents, Glenn said a homosexual lifestyle is threatening to one's health.

After the meeting, Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R-Ann Arbor) said she had some questions regarding the course because its title was inconsistent with the literature she received about the course. But she said she supports academic freedom. "I don't pass judgment. I support the freedom of the faculty," she said.