Conflict and Conversation: 1995
Debate Begins: Autumn, 1995
In her article “Close-mindedness is the Real Problem,” Alison Heely recounts that in October, 1995, a a campus-wide phone call announcing the semester's first GALA meeting provoked defamatory comments from members of the Ursinus community. As she writes that misconceptions about the mission and goals of GALA incites fear, her argument brings to light the damage of devaluing the work of the LGBTQ+ community . Heely argues that misconceptions not only defame the identities of the queer community, but are damaging to the campus community, as students segregate themselves from diverse perspectives.
As we analyze the newspaper articles from the fall of 1995, a particularly helpful term emerges from scholar Joseph H. Neisen’s 1990 article “Heterosexism: Redefining Homophobia for the 1990s.” Neisen argues that while homophobia manifests as hate speech and overt condemnationof the LGBTQ+ community, heterosexist beliefs and behaviors also operate more insidiously. Nielson defines heterosexism as the construction of heterosexual lifestyles as normative by the "major institutions" of society, as well as the passive allowance for continued discrimination . Niesen argues that “Heterosexism manifests itself…. in forms of exclusion or lack of acknowledgment of gay'lesbian/bisexual lifestyles" . The conflicts in The Grizzly in the fall of 1995 echo Niesen’s argument. On one hand, they discuss direct attacks against GALA and the LGBTQ+ community on the Ursinus College campus. Moreover, the tone and content of many of the opinions expressed devalues the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community to the campus, and often through insidious assertions of moral and religious superiority.
As debate percolates in The Grizzly, an opinion article written by Dr. Doug Nagy, a professor at Ursinus, exacerbates the conflicts. In his article “Homosexuality: Not a Good Alternative,” Nagy condemns GALA by writing that it “excludes” and “intimidates” other students . Nagy presents heterosexual relationships as the societal “norm” and argues that relationships not fitting into this mold are harmful . While the article thus devalues the presence of GALA and the LGBTQ+ community, it also justifies its claims through an alleged moral and religious authority. It is ultimately Dr. Nagy’s article that becomes the center for debate in The Grizzly. While several articles support Dr. Nagy’s argument, many student authors flood The Grizzly with articles that advocate for GALA and critique Dr. Nagy’s point of view.
Debates on Religion and Sexuality
As the debates about GALA continued in The Grizzly, several of the articles diverged into discussions of the position of religion and morality on sexuality. The articles in this section show condemnation and support of the LGBTQ+ community through alleged biblical evidence.
Forum: Hate Speech vs. Free Speech
In this gallery, you will find articles that discuss the nature of words and opinions. A theme interwoven throughout the 1995 debates about sexuality, GALA, and homophobia was the question of free speech. Students asked: what is the distinction between expressing one's opinion and creating speech that disrespects another's identity? When is a line drawn between "free speech" and hate speech?
Several of the arguments used to condemn GALA stated that the group restricted the freedom of expression of other members of the Ursinus community. Dr. Nagy, for example, wrote in his article "Homosexuality: Not a Good Alternative" that GALA “suppressed” the opinions of their opponents through "peer pressure" and "intimidation" . Dr. Nagy’s sentiment was echoed by several other opponents of GALA who wrote that the condemnation of homophobic remarks interferes with the “right” to express personal and religious points of view.
Although it occurred in 1995, the debate about free speech is alarmingly relevant to today. As protest and activism ignites in our current polarized political climate, many critics of protests state that their voices are attacked by cries for justice. Indeed, these claims do not seem very far removed from assertions by authors in the 1995 Grizzly that the efforts of GALA to eradicate homophobia “silenced” their opinions . As hate speech continues to disparage marginalized communities and threaten civil rights, Chris Bower’s call to reject and punish hate speech champions activism just as necessary today as it was in 1995, as hate speech threatens civil rights.
Alison Heely, "Close-mindedness is the Real Problem," October 3, 1995, Digital History at Ursinus, accessed December 9, 2016, http://omeka.ursinus.edu/items/show/196
Doug Nagy, "Homosexuality: Not a Good Alternative," October 10, 1995. Digital History at Ursinus, accessed December 9, 2016, http://omeka.ursinus.edu/items/show/196
Joseph H. Niesen, "Heterosexism: Redefining Homophobia for the 1990s," 1990. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy, 1.3, 24.