LGBTQIA History at UR

LGBTQ history at the University of Richmond is a project compiled by Dana McLachlin, ’14, with assistance from the Office of Common Ground and the support of a summer research fellowship from the School of Arts and Sciences. Through this project, McLachlin wanted to uncover the story of the University's LGBTQ community in an effort to ensure that all voices are heard, and that future students, faculty, and staff can find their place in a long history of LGBTQ life at Richmond.

The primary sources for this history project include The Collegian archives, past yearbooks, and University documents. To further expand the story of LGBTQ life at Richmond, McLachlin also conducted interviews with many of the people mentioned in her research sources for firsthand accounts of their experiences.

As this project has been completed, the contents of this page are no longer being updated.

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  • 1960s

    Jan. 1964 – Editor of student newspaper, The Messenger, resigns after being prohibited from publishing “blasphemous and sacrilegious” content

    Oct. and Nov. 1966 – Westhampton student expelled for drinking; sparks outcry and debate over Honor Code, procedures for student dismissal, and alcohol policies

    Nov. 28, 1967 – Rally on Boatwright lawn urging UR to accept federal funds; more than 400 students in attendance and 1,000 signatures on petition

    Feb. 1968 – UR accepts federal funds

    Mar. 1968 – Male student’s ‘feminine’ long hair discussed at Richmond College sophomore class meetings and provokes heated debate in The Collegian

    May 1968 – Board of Trustees censors a survey about student drug use and sexual behavior; gains notoriety when joked about in Playboy magazine

    Fall 1968 – Board of Trustees forced to racially integrate due to federal government threat to shut down ROTC program; first black students live on campus as dormitory students

    Feb. 13, 1969 – Religious Emphasis Week includes a seminar on homosexuality hosted by Dean of Richmond College, Dr. Austin Grigg

    Jun. 1969 – E. Claiborne Robins gives $50 million to University, largest donation by an individual to a private college ever, saved UR from financial difficulties and stipulated a new University charter reducing the influence of the Baptist General Association of Virginia

    Read more about the 1960s.


  • 1970s

    Feb. 1970 – Board of Trustees vote to allow alcohol on campus, let women visit men’s dormitories, and abolish required weekly convocations

    Spring 1971 – University of Richmond student government association founded, aiming to “bring about cooperation and efficiency” among the student governments

    Apr. 12, 1972 – Student “women’s lib” group, Organization for Women’s Liberation (OWL) founded

    Early 1970s – Two RC students expelled/“asked to leave” for being caught in sexual act together

    Mar. 1, 1973 – Letter in The Collegian argues that strict visitation rules discriminate against heterosexuals and aid the spread of homosexuality

    Jan. 1974—Board of Trustees appoints committee to study coordinate education and prepare a report concerning its state at UR

    Apr. 1974 – Confrontation between students and the administration over visitation rights results in students establishing their own visitation policy and holding a rally to purposefully ‘break’ official policy and put into place their own; ultimately Board of Trustees blocks the creation of student-determined visitation policy, but does lengthen visitation hours

    Apr. 3, 1974 – 40 streakers rush Westhampton Green; one arrested for indecent exposure and another arrested for auto tampering for slashing the tires of a police car

    Apr. 11, 1974 – Seven students arrested due to actions on April 3 on charges of indecent exposure, tampering with a police vehicle, and cursing and abusing

    Apr. 17, 1974 – Students hold sit-in and workshops on Boatwright Lawn, outside the administrative offices, to air grievances over campus security force, the presence of fully armed police on campus, and lack of communication from administration over arrests

    Feb. 1975 – University of Richmond Student Government Association votes to dissolve itself due to ineffectiveness, as they remained subordinate to the college governments

    Aug. 1975 – Board of Trustees votes to restructure coordinate college; faculty, admissions office, and registrar of RC and WC integrated, although the WC English Department was not fully integrated until 1978

    Sep. 1976 – Tyler Haynes Commons opens, physically uniting men and women’s sides of campus

    Jun. 1977 – Virginia International Women’s Year meeting held at UR; Richmond feminist lesbians made LGB issues a prominent part of the agenda, and set up art exhibit of famous lesbians in history at UR

    Sep. 1977 – Gottwald Science Center opens, marking the first time science is taught on the ‘women’s side’ of the lake

    Oct. 10, 1977 – Anita Bryant, anti-gay campaigner, sings at UR in the Robins Center, and is challenged by two individuals, one a UR alum, wearing “gay and proud” t-shirts; the first gay rally in Richmond is held at Monroe Park to deflect attention from her appearance, and two editorials appear in The Collegian calling Bryant "offensive" and calling for moderation in her crusuade against homosexuality

    Dec. 1977 – Bryant offers counter response to the editorials, and Francis Kinsey, ’78, calls her statement a "fairy tale"

    Nov. 9, 1978 – First article about homosexuality at UR appears in The Collegian

    Read more about the 1970s.

  • 1980s

    Fall 1980 – Women Involved in Living and Learning (WILL) program founded on campus

    Feb. 19, 1981 – First gay-tolerant op-ed and cartoon appear in The Collegian concerning conservative politicians recently found soliciting men

    Aug. 1982 – E. Bruce Heilman Dining Center (D-hall) opens; men and women eat all three meals together for the first time

    Fall 1986 – Sororities founded on campus

    Jan. 1988 – Condoms available at the Student Health Center for the first time

    Fall 1988 – First gay and lesbian support group founded within Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

    Feb. 2, 1989 – Exposé on gay life at UR appears in The Collegian

    Nov. 7, 1989 – Richmond AIDs Information Network presents play on AIDS at UR, sponsored by RC, WC, and the ECRSB

    Nov. 9, 1989 – Anti-gay activism op-ed appears in The Collegian, with no written response

    Read more about the 1980s.

  • 1990s

    Jan. 1990 – UR president Richard Morrill establishes commission on diversity to study and propose policies and programs to increase racial and ethnic diversity at all levels at the University

    Apr. 11, 1990: Filmmakers Jeffrey Friedman and Robert Epstein featured in panel discussion entitled “Politics and Art: The Case for Gay, Lesbian, and Bi-Sexual Rights,” focusing on their recent documentary about AIDs victims

    Apr. 12, 1990 – First explicitly pro-gay op-ed appears in The Collegian; mentions ACT UP and Lambda Legal

    Sep. 1990 – UR installs condom vending machines in residence hall laundry rooms to help combat spread of AIDs and promote safe sex

    Fall 1990 – UR creates committee to study discrimination against homosexuals in the ROTC program; at the time, all cadets must sign a form stating they are not homosexual when they are contracted

    Nov. 17, 1990 – UR Spanish professor Sixto Plaza dies of AIDS, although it was not known by either faculty or students that he had AIDS until an announcement for his memorial service; he was openly gay and a member of a community religious support group for gays and lesbians

    Dec. 1990 – Arts and sciences faculty vote to include sexual orientation in non-discrimination policy

    Jan. 1991 – Four-part series on “Homosexuals at UR” appears in The Collegian, addressing such topics as coming out to friends and family, stereotypes and discrimination; draws response from students discussing openness of campus

    Jan. 31, 1991 – No student willing to publicly support a gay/lesbian/bisexual student organization in an informal Collegian survey, raising questions from readers

    Feb. 1991 – Lambda Coalition disaffiliates with psychological services and becomes first recognized LGB student organization at UR; student calls for support of organization and for others to stand up against discrimination

    Feb. 21, 1991 – Business school rejects addition of “sexual orientation” to non-discrimination policy because of ROTC program

    Apr. 1991 – Lambda Coalition hosts first Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Awareness Week, including a film and panel discussion

    Apr. 1992 – Lambda Coalition bring Names Project (sponsors of the AIDS quilt) to campus as a part of the second annual Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Awareness Week

    Feb. 11, 1993 – “The Debate: Gays in the Military” appears in The Collegian

    Apr. 8, 1993 – RC area coordinator comes out as gay; coverage in The Collegian also includes homosexual diversity at UR and support offered by new organization, Common Ground

    Apr. 12-16, 1993 – Lambda Coalition hosts third Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Awareness Week, including a film, informational tables, panel discussion, and a rally on Boatwright lawn

    Spring 1993 – Virginia Association of College and University Housing Officers (VACUHO) names UR Most Homophobic Campus in Virginia

    Apr. 1993 – Fundamentalist Christian recruiters target campus, telling student behind a Lambda Coalition table that “he is evil and destined to spend eternity burning in eternal hellfire.”

    Aug. 1993 – Diversity commission report published and discussed across campus includes information and survey questions on sexual orientation, revealing considerable bias toward LGBTQ individuals; only 48 percent of respondents state they would be comfortable working alongside someone gay or lesbian

    Sep. 1993 – Adjunct English instructor comes out through a Letter in The Collegian; her experiences are profiled in the Mar. 1994 issue

    Nov. 16, 1993 – Forum by psychology professor on causes of homosexuality

    Apr. 19-21, 1994 – Lambda Coalition hosts fourth annual Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Awareness Week

    Mar. 24, 1994 – The Collegian publishes story on English professor’s “life outside the closet”

    Mar. 30, 1995 – Trans jokes in The Collegian are met with no response

    Late winter/spring 1996 – Safe Zone begins with UR community members meeting and talking about possibilities for a program

    Jan. 24, 1996 – A Richmond College student is solicited for sex in exchange for money by a male member of the community, causing an uproar over safety in male dorms as another RC student reveals a man, thought to be the same person, had peered in on him in the shower

    Mar. 1996 – During Wear White for Gay Rights Day, posters are ripped down and graffitied, encouraging students to wear black instead of white in support of “heterosexual rights”

    Mar. 4-6, 1996 – Westhampton College Government Association hosts AIDS Awareness Week and posts “sexually explicit” posters in the Commons; provokes debate and reaction concerning frank discussions of sexuality

    Summer 1996 – Safe Zone writes bylaws, establishes a board, and develops a training program with an emphasis on combating homophobia on campus

    Fall 1996 – Safe Zone officially launches and has more than 80 members by the end of the year

    Feb. 18, 1997 – Openly gay Dan Renzi, from MTV’s “The Real World,” speaks at UR about gayness as part of Overcoming Barriers Week, hosted by the Volunteer Action Council

    Spring 1997 – Law School student suspected of being lesbian is harassed when her personal items are shredded and a threatening note is placed on her desk; ultimately needs police protection

    Apr. 10, 1997 – Editorial in The Collegian asks readers to rethink "moral sexuality"

    Apr. 18, 1997 – University-wide forum on the University’s statement of purpose

    May 1997 – Committee to review the statement of purpose removes all protected categories from non-discrimination policy in proposal to Board of Trustees to delay debate on including sexual orientation

    Oct. 27, 1998 – Student organization Helping Educate about AIDS in Richmond Together (HEART) brings AIDS quilt to campus

    Mar. 1999 – Board of Trustees votes to include sexual orientation into the University’s non-discrimination policy

    Oct. 1999 – Safe Zone hosts celebration for Coming Out Week

    Oct.  27, 1999 – Urvashi Vaid, director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Policy Institute speaks on campus; helps spark formation of New Directions, an LGBTQ student advocacy group

    Late 1990s – UR Family, a confidential support group for closeted individuals, forms

    Read more about the 1990s.

  • 2000s

    Feb. 24, 2000 – In two Collegian editorials, students address sexuality and labels and challenging assumptions of sexuality

    Mar. 2000 – New Directions sparks controversy with poster campaign asking such questions as, "When did you choose to be heterosexual?”

    Mar. 23, 2000 – After a story calls for tolerance of homosexuality, a letter to the editor in The Collegian condemns homosexuality and sparks student outcry

    Oct. 12, 2000 – Safe Zone and New Directions host celebration for National Coming Out Day, featuring University President William Cooper speaking

    May 18, 2001 – Board of Trustees approves a recommendation advocating for male and female residence on both sides of the lake; a task force created by the vice president of student affairs, composed of faculty, staff, students, and trustees, had researched housing and student life during the 2000-01 school year before presenting to the board

    Fall 2001 – A lesbian undergraduate student is barred from taking part in a military science class due to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, forcing a change in policy regarding military science classes to allow full participation by lesbian and gay students

    Fall 2001 – Agitation by Safe Zone members pressures UR alumni office to begin listing same-sex partners in the alumni magazine

    Oct. 2001 – Board of Trustees does not approve proposal to grant same-sex partner benefits

    Nov. 2001 – Coalition of New Directions, UR Family, and Multicultural Student Union propose diversity center in the Commons

    Mar. 21, 2002 – After a story in The Collegian states religion prohibits passing judgement on homosexuality, response calls for arguments based in rationality rather than religion; sparks debate among students

    Fall 2002 – Board of Trustees approval for mixed-gender housing goes into effect; men and women live on both sides of the lake for the first time

    Oct. 8, 2002 – New Directions and Safe Zone host Coming Out Day at UR, featuring speakers, dancers, music, and fruit smoothies; posters advertising event defaced with “Who cares” written on them

    Oct. 10, 2002 – Ladelle McWhorter, professor of philosophy and women’s studies, publishes editorial likening homophobia to terrorism

    Nov. 6, 2003 – Collegian editorial denounces WILL program

    Winter 2003 – University turned down offer of an endowed scholarship for students interested in LGBTQ and German studies

    Feb. 6, 2003 – The word “gay” was spray painted on the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity lodge in pink

    Feb. 7, 2003 – New Directions signs destroyed in the Commons

    Feb. 10, 2003 – New Directions sponsors “Live Homosexual Acts” in the Commons; A “zoo” of queer people

    Feb. 11, 2003 – New Directions sponsors “The Diversity of Love” panel

    Feb. 12, 2003 – Liberty Society hosts Affirmative Action bake sale in the Commons

    Jun.-Aug. 2003 – Common Ground Commission created to examine diversity on campus and form a strategic plan and report for creating a safer and more diverse campus; the report, published Jun. 2004,  leads to the creation of the Common Ground Action Committee to develop specific action steps 

    Fall 2003 – First co-ed dorm; Keller Hall becomes the Global House

    Oct. 7, 2003 – New Directions hosts Coming Out Week; features Danny Roberts from MTV’s The Real World and a ‘Fruit Fest’ to make fruit smoothies

    Nov. 6, 2003 – Collegian op-ed jokes that WILL teaches students to become “man-hating carpet munchers;” creates controversy on campus and results in several Collegian letters and a campus-wide forum

    Jan. 22, 2004 – Student describes coming out experience in The Collegian

    Fall 2004 – Same-sex domestic partner benefits instituted, with benefits beginning in January 2005

    Jan. 2004 – Chaplaincy sponsors first Collegetown program; eventually becomes Allies Institute

    Jan. 2005 – Resident assistant asked to remove “straight pride” sticker from his door, sparking controversy

    Oct. 2005 – Article in The Collegian condemning the “homosexual bias” of UR results in campus forum to discuss sexual diversity

    Nov. 3, 2005 – Collegian article states coordinate college system fails transgender students

    Feb. 23, 2006 – The Collegian prints an op-ed bracket of “prettiest” girls on campus

    Apr. 1, 2006 – New Directions hosts gay prom on the James River with around 140 attendees

    Aug. 2006 – Office of Common Ground created as a result of Common Ground Action Committee, becoming the first institutional space for LGBTQ issues at UR; Glyn Hughes named first director

    Nov. 2, 2006 – Student Coalition for Political Action—including New Directions, Young Democrats, Women Involved in Living and Learning, VOX: Voices of Planned Parenthood, and Multicultural Student Union—present resolution to both student governments to revise non-discrimination policy to include gender identity and gender expression; passed both senates

    2008-09 – New Directions becomes the Student Alliance for Sexual Diversity (SASD)

    Oct. 23, 2008 – Kappa Sigma recruitment chair accidentally sends e-mail with sexist and racist language to high-level administrators and sororities, and it is forwarded throughout campus, sparking controversy and conversation over Greek Life and party culture; ultimately a task force is started and a Harvard Law Scholar is hired to assess gender relations on campus

    Jan. 29, 2009 – A story, “Letter from the Closet” in The Collegian begins campus-wide discussion over LGBTQ life and activism at UR; inspires letters from students and a trustee in the paper and a panel discussion with LGBTQ individuals

    Spring 2009 – Q-Summit outlines plan of queer activism at UR

    Apr. 17, 2009 – SASD publicly established by hosting “Day of Silence” event

    Nov. 19, 2009 – SASD sponsors “Live Homosexual Acts” monologue readings

    Aug. 2009 – Students protest the Family Foundation of Virginia’s use of University facilities to host their board of directors retreat; the organization is known for its anti-gay policies and action

    Read more about the 2000s.

  • 2010s

    Feb. 2010 – SASD reaches goal of 1,000 signatures on petition to include gender identity and expression in the non-discrimination policy

    Apr. 2010 – Jepson School of Leadership Studies awards Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, its 10 Year Reunion Recognition Award; sparks outcry and protest from more than 70 students

    Aug. 2010 – The Black Alliance for Sexual-Minority Equality (BASE) is formed at UR, aimed at addressing intersections of race and sexuality

    2010-2011: The Jepson School of Leadership’s annual speaker series focuses on leadership and diversity. Entitled "Kaleidoscope: Leading in a Diverse Society", it featured a discussion by Deirdre McCloskey on her experience as a trans woman as well as a talk on the future of LGBT activism by noted AIDS activist Cleve Jones.

    Apr. 2011 – SASD hosts Gay-pril celebration

    Apr. 21, 2011 – Board of Trustees votes to include gender identity and gender expression to school’s non-discrimination policy

    Fall 2011 – Allies Institute transformed into enVision, a social justice retreat hosted by Common Ground

    2011-12 – First LGBTQ-Ally living-learning community established in Keller Hall

    Apr. 2012 – SASD’s Gay-pril chalking defaced with phrases such as “Straight? Fine by Everybody Else”

    Apr. 2012 – Second Q-Summit hosted

    May 2012 – Gov. Bob McDonnell chosen as commencement speaker; his anti-gay stance provokes response from students, alumni