gays at universities

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What do you think is the place of intellectual gathering places such as universities in the gay-rights movement?

-- Marian Chen, March 17, 1997


First, I don't think we can take for granted that a university is an intellectual gathering place. We have students who come for a credential so that they can get a job (Business and Economics are the most common majors these days, not English and Philosophy). We have professors who publish in journals that nobody reads just so that they can pad out their vitae and get tenure. We have administrators hiring sub-assistants and milking the students, parents, and destitute PhDs. Not that I'm cynical....

Second, I'm not sure that we can assume that intellectuals will make significant contributions to the gay rights movement. I personally believe that prejudice stems from lack of understanding others' experiences. I can't understand what it is like to be gay from reading a Harvard sociologist's paper. I can only understand it by reading literature. It is the poet, not the professor, who is going to educate me about the reality of being gay. (Remember the famous poet who asked "What's the difference between an ape and a professor of English Literature?" (the professor of English Literature thinks that he can write poetry).)

If we accept that only art can give people an insight into experiences that they haven't personally had then it is Hollywood more than Harvard and the starving Bohemian authors of Greenwich Village more than the complacent tenured faculty who will play a significant role in the gay rights movement.

-- Philip Greenspun, March 18, 1997