The 1990s were a period of great progress on campus for LGBTQ individuals and included several important firsts in LGBTQ life. As reported in The Collegian, the Lambda Coalition disaffiliated with CAPS in 1991 and became the University’s first recognized LGB student advocacy group. The Coalition did things such as bring the AIDS Quilt to campus, host movies with LGBTQ themes, and sponsor lectures. However, the group remained small and had to meet in secret locations in fear of violence or harassment.

In 1993, a Virginia Association of Colleges and University Housing Officers study of Virginia’s college campuses named UR the most homophobic school in Virginia. Also in 1993, a University Diversity Commission report on the state of diversity at the University recognized sexual orientation as an aspect of diversity needing greater attention and study and revealed a deep hostility toward LGBTQ individuals by wide swaths of the University community.

Safe Zone began as an idea during the winter and spring of 1996; it was established in the fall of ’96 by several faculty and staff members and offered trainings on sexual diversity. Once trained, individuals could place ‘Safe Zone’ stickers on their office door, publicly announcing to students and other community members that this would be a safe space to discuss LGBTQ issues. By the end of its first year, Safe Zone had more than 80 members, reflecting the dire need for such a program and the enthusiasm its creation brought.

Despite the increase in LGBTQ activism during the ’90s, there were several setbacks. In spring 1997, The Collegian reported that a law student’s personal items were vandalized and a threatening note was placed on her desk, accusing her of being a lesbian. She ultimately needed a police escort to ensure her safety. Additionally, repeated efforts to include sexual orientation in the non-discrimination policy were stymied by the business school, and debates occurred around discrimination in the ROTC program and the implications of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

In spring 1997 the Board of Trustees, acting on a University committee’s suggestion, opted to remove all protected categories from the non-discrimination policy in order to delay debate of the inclusion of sexual orientation. Two years later, in Mar. 1999, the Board of Trustees voted to include sexual orientation in the non-discrimination policy that went into effect in the 1999-00 school year. According to a series of articles published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, this decision was the catalyst for the Baptist General Association of Virginia’s disaffiliation with the University.

Due to small numbers and a lack of student leaders in the late ’90s, the Lambda Coalition was disappearing by 1996-97 and fully defunct by 1999. After a speaker from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force came to campus, it was revitalized in fall 1999 and fully in place in spring 2000, renamed New Directions.

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  • Lambda Coalition

    The Lambda Coalition initially existed as a gay support group in the late ’80s, run through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at the University. In the early ’90s, students decided to shift the focus of the Lambda Coalition from a support group to more of a social and educational organization. They campaigned to make it an official campus organization, proposing its constitution and bylaws to both the student and faculty governing body in Feb. 1991. According to Collegian reporting, Lambda’s goals were to “provide support for other gays, lesbians and bisexuals on campus who have felt that there has been no outlet for them to ‘come out’, and to educate the campus in general about issues of sexual orientation.” In order to gain recognition, Lambda gathered 50 student signatures on their petition.

    The Lambda Coalition faced resistance from the campus community and was stigmatized and harassed. The Collegian reported that David Braverman, who advised the coalition, received around six prank phone calls in Feb. 1991 concerning the group, many making jokes about its existence, asking questions such as, "Why do we need a homosexual support group? There’s no heterosexual support group.” Additionally, in a survey asking students how they viewed an LGB student group, not one student was willing to publicly support the group.

    However, institutional support for the group was high. Matt Beams, ’94, one of the students who worked to gain club status for the group, reflects “When we went before WCGA and RCGA I was really pleasantly surprised; RCGA was so much more welcoming and excited than I expected. The Inter-Fraternity Council was also supportive and helped us with funding. It turned out to be a great experience. The chaplain’s office was also supportive; it was amazing to me that this Christian leader was totally accepting.” He continued, “It felt like the administration was fostering this support. It was during the Clinton era, so there were a lot of conversations around political correctness, so on campus people really stepped up pressure not to discriminate against anyone. Say what you will about political correctness, but it did help make campus a more comfortable environment.”

    The Lambda Coalition was consistently an underground presence on campus life. Michael Coe, ’98, who transferred to Richmond in fall 1995, recalls, “When I arrived on campus, to my knowledge there were no formal or informal LGBTQ organizations sponsored by either the students or the administration. Toward the end of my first year I began to hear about a quasi-underground gay social group; it was formalized but very quiet on campus.” 

    Matt Beams also commented on the lack of visibility. “The school was super closeted when I got there. Within Lambda, there was this culture of paranoia that people didn’t want to be found out; we switched around our meeting rooms.”

    Crystal Colter, ’95, further remembers, “While I was there Lambda was very small, it had about five or six active members, a couple of whom were straight, including me. We met in secret locations and moved around a lot, as there was a real concern at the time that people may find out who the gay and lesbian students were. One of the minor controversies at the time was whether or not allies could be involved, and to what extent that was supportive as opposed to preventing a safe, closed space. We were very active in terms of meeting and discussing issues but not so much in activities or programming as far as I remember. One of the big debates I remember at the time was whether or not sexual orientation was biologically or environmentally based.

    “There was at times misunderstanding and confusion because I was involved with Lambda as an ally; other students sometimes thought it strange that I was involved, questioning why I would want to be part of this kind of thing. There was an atmosphere of political correctness on campus, but it was just surface level; prejudicial ideas regarding race, sex, and gender were there, but hidden. The homophobia, as I recall it, was not blatant. Looking back on those years, it seems people weren’t talking about homosexuality much, not arguing about it, not wanting to think about it—I don’t remember having many of those conversations.”

    Beams remembers resistance as personal rather than as a group. “While personally there were times I would walk home at night and people would yell ‘faggot’ at me, as a group, the Lamba Coalition had gone through all the channels, so we were accepted and had the backing. We were pretty much ok.”

    The Lambda Coalition presented a wide variety of programming and events, most of which had an educational focus. In Apr. 1991, it hosted the first annual Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Awareness week. During the third annual awareness week in 1993, Lambda brought the Campaign for Military Students, a group of gay and lesbian military veterans, who staged a rally on Boatwright lawn. Around 80 students, faculty, and staff attended the rally; however, The Collegian reported that the rally was disrupted by a student proclaiming, “This is an abomination under God.” The student was ultimately quieted and asked not to speak, but this reflects a sentiment often expressed to Lambda Coalition members and other LGBTQ individuals at the time.

    That same week, fundamentalist Christian recruiters had been canvassing on campus, sparking complaints and debate in The Collegian. One Lambda member recalls sitting behind a table set up for the awareness week and being told that he is “evil” and “destined to spend eternity burning in eternal hellfire.”

    There was also some non-Lambda activism on gay issues. Helping Education about AIDS in Richmond Together (HEART), the University’s student-run AIDS awareness group, raised $10,000 dollars to pay for the AIDS memorial quilt to come to campus in Oct. 1998. According to the organization’s president, “People hear so much about AIDS that they don’t listen. The quilt and its ceremonies should have an impact; they are tangible. Hopefully, it will raise awareness.”


  • LGBTQIA Social Life & Visibility

    LGBTQ social life in the ’90s was often underground, hidden, and highly invisible. A four-part Collegian series in Jan. and Feb. 1991 entitled “Homosexuality at UR” reveals some of the difficulties and barriers LGBTQ students faced at the time, including coming out to friends and family, stereotypes and discrimination. No one was openly quoted in the article, suggesting how closeted the University was at the time.

    One lesbian student expressed “I’m really afraid of discrimination on this campus” and further said she “could never think of walking around campus holding her girlfriend’s hand or displaying any type of affection in public because the campus was so conservative.” Additionally, it was reported that, “all students interviewed said that if given the same choice of schools again they would not have chosen the University of Richmond a second time.”

    The articles also suggested that one way gay students would meet each other was through graffiti on men’s bathroom stalls. However, “these messages are usually written in such vulgar terms that some of the members of the Lambda Coalition said they may be written by gay bashers hoping to lure a gay man into the bathroom.”

    Making connections in such a closeted environment was difficult, especially without certain technology. As Michael Coe, ’98, remembers, “It was much harder to make those connections because of the lack of the Internet and dating apps on phones; rather, you had to use telephone chat lines and classified ads in newspapers or meet people out at clubs or bars.” Matt Beams, ’94, recalls, “I would occasionally go down to VCU which had a much more vibrant and active LGBT group and life than Richmond. Many gay students were also very closeted; I remember one gay friend of mine who was so scared, concerned and closeted that I was not allowed to acknowledge him on campus.”

    The gender binary of the climate and the coordinate system also frustrated students. Jenny Marshall*, ’97, describes, “The coordinate college made it really hard, and didn’t give me a as much of a chance to interact with men except for at frats, drinking. A different structure would have given me more opportunities to build healthier relationships with men. It was just really separate; women were more often on the men’s side of campus for classes, but within the women’s dorms when men around it felt like they weren’t supposed to be there.”

    As a result, LGBTQ students often reached out to other communities and groups off-campus. Coe said he started going to the VCU queer organization as a junior and met people that way. He also started to go to DC on weekends his senior year and became involved in the social scene there. He stated, “when I graduated there still wasn’t much of a gay social scene on campus, but there was a bit more visibility as the Safe Zone project had taken hold and at least brought the topic to the forefront. During my junior year while serving as a resident assistant, I came out to my area coordinator when he asked if I was gay. When I asked him if he knew of others like me he said no, but that surely there must be. By my senior year there were a least a few other students who were out, but overall I still had the feeling at Richmond that I was alone.”

    The small campus size also impacted LGBTQ visibility. Peter Goldin,’98, remembers, “It was a small school, so everybody was very aware of everyone’s business. The culture at the time was still transitioning to people being aware of LGBT issues, and since the student body was so small the people who were there and were LGBT weren’t necessarily willing to be the first person to be out and continually be recognized as being that one gay person.

    “There really wasn’t any LGBTQ life on campus. Towards the second half of my time there, there may have been one or two committees started to kind of promote awareness and acceptance but I don’t recall there ever being a LGBT presence on campus or anything that was actually out with many other people. I don’t remember the Lambda Coalition; if it was there I wasn’t involved with it.”


  • Campus Culture

    Michael Coe, ’98, reflects: “The school I attended first year before transferring to Richmond had co-ed floors, so coming to Richmond was a complete 180 with the lake dividing the genders. However, what inhibited me from making friendships was not the housing or the divisive lake, but being gay; it was the stigma around my homosexuality and personal apprehensiveness which made me reticent to reach out to other students, especially guys.”

    He continued: “There was a certain politeness, one might even say southern genteelness, at Richmond. Any backlash to LGBTQ visibility, if at all, was perhaps the lack of acknowledgement of our very existence; people were never in your face or homophobic or heterosexist. The topic was never around, never there, never present, never talked about. It wasn’t out of disapproval or discomfort, surely that is why it wasn’t discussed in the first place, but if something doesn’t exist, there is no need to address it.

    “I spent my first year at what was, by all accounts, an extremely liberal school before transferring to Richmond. While I was there, even though I wasn’t out, I was harassed by fellow students on more than one occasion, but at Richmond not one negative word was ever said to me nor did anyone actively make me feel that I didn’t belong. I find it very interesting that in a much more liberal environment that type of behavior occurred, but not at the University of Richmond. I probably wouldn’t have transferred to Richmond if I knew more about the school prior to, but the experience turned out better than I ever thought it would be.”

    School psychologist Elizabeth Stott agrees, describing the culture of the University as “genteel” and as having an atmosphere of “not talking about those things.” She reflects that the “vast majority of gay and lesbian students were in the closet, often coming out right after graduation.” She also remembered an experience with a student in the ’90s who was “very flamboyant and crazy out” who told her that “he felt safer at Richmond than VCU because at least people at the University were polite and wouldn’t harass him walking around.”

    Jane Geaney, associate professor of religious studies since 1997, also described a “culture of politeness among faculty and staff.” Geaney notes that she has not seen much blatant homophobia in the classroom, but she doubts that the classroom is an accurate reflection of how students behave outside of class. She says, “in the classroom environment, even dreadfully homophobic students might behave differently and be more accepting.” However, she states that “University of Richmond would be a hard place to come out, it’s such a heteronormative place—one would have to have a high amount of self-confidence to be out here.”

    Heteronormativity often pervaded the academic sphere. Geaney reflects, "I’m not proud of this, but before I had tenure, I taught a class about sex, ’Body/Sex in World Religious Literature’, with a focus on heterosexuality because students were not out at that point. I presumed their sexuality—because they were not out, I treated them as straight. I started teaching ’Queers in Religion’ after I got tenure in 2005. In the early years of teaching that class, ’I’m not gay, but…’ was something I heard a lot from students."

    In a Mar., 1996 Collegian article, responding to resistance the Lambda Coalition faced, student Erin Kenny, ’96, described the atmosphere as “an out-of-sight, out-of-mind campus.” Jennifer Slemmer, ’97, stated that “the extreme homophobia on this campus stifles reality and people coming out of the closet…It’s ridiculous. I’m sure there are homosexuals on this campus, but I would be afraid to come out here.”

    Two staff and faculty members were profiled extensively in The Collegian for being out, suggesting the rarity of out LGBTQ community members that it was considered a newsworthy event.

    John DaRos, Richmond College area coordinator, came out in 1993 after two years at Richmond. He revealed in The Collegian, “It’s great to stop acting. People aren’t asking me what woman I’m with this week because they know I’m not.” He further revealed that, “he was nervous about coming out at the University of Richmond because he didn’t know what kind of reaction to expect. So far, he has been pleasantly surprised.” However, he was frustrated by misconceptions that surrounded gay people at the time. “People have said, ‘John it’s nothing against you, I just didn’t know you did that.’ All people can think of is the act of having sex with men. When people find out that I’m gay, they seem to forget everything else about me.”

    Working closely with RAs as an out gay man did pose some challenges. One RA, quoted in The Collegian, stated in response, “I’m pretty homophobic. I’m not afraid to admit it—I’m scared of these people [gays].” According to another RA, “The room got really stuffy [when DaRos came out]. People started to make jokes to try and change the subject. A couple people couldn’t wait to get out of their seats. The guy next to me said ‘Oh my God.’” However, an op-ed in The Collegian wrote in suggesting that RAs intolerable of gay people should not be allowed to be RAs. The student wrote “How can we create an environment in which students feel comfortable with themselves if their RA is admittedly homophobic? … We as a university must re-evaluate the RA selection process so that the racist, sexist, and heterosexist elements of our society are quickly and forcefully weeded out.” The strong reaction suggests both increased vocal support of lesbian and gay individuals and increased understanding of how those who are in positions of power and express heterosexist sentiments should and can be censured.

    The Sharon Bottoms court case, in which a lesbian was denied custody of her child for being lesbian, had a profound impact and provoked much debate. It galvanized Melissa Capers, an adjunct English instructor, to come out in The Collegian despite concerns over her job security. She stated, “I’m coming out to you because the truth is neither a year’s contract nor a full-time position nor even tenure is much security when our children can be taken away from us….Gays and lesbians are not just strangers on the news. We are people in your classrooms, on your campus. We are people you know. So if you believe we are immoral, believe, believe that to our faces…And if you support the right of gays and lesbians, that support is sure needed now.” In a later feature on her in The Collegian, she revealed that the reaction had been mostly positive and supportive, however people have dropped her classes since coming out and she doesn’t necessarily know why.

    Despite some increased visibility, campus continued to be an unsafe space for many. In an Apr. 1998 issue of The Collegian, Irby Brown—an English professor and Richmond alum who helped found Safe Zone—characterized the climate on campus as ranging from “homophobia to an intellectualized aversion to gay and lesbian lifestyles on ‘so-called’ religious or moral ground.” In an article concerning a Safe Zone event in Nov. 1999, Stott further described Richmond as an unsafe campus. “It’s extremely rare for people to come out while they’re here. If you are out when you come in, you might make it, but at the same time, if a student is already out and looking for a school to come to, why would they come here? When [an LGB student comes to Richmond] they are either completely in the closet or their social life is totally off campus, even going out of the campus.” She challenged the audience to think of two faculty or staff members on campus who were openly homosexual or bisexual. “What does this say? The climate on our campus is pretty terrible.”

    Misconceptions concerning LGBTQ individuals continued to flourish, and they were often used as easy punch lines in humor articles. In an Apr. 1998 humor column in The Collegian, a columnist described the ‘non-fashionable’ part of the student body as “closet cross-dressers buying cheaper clothing to compensate for the cost of having two wardrobes.” Another 1995 Collegian article joked about the need to “cut class and see Ricki Lake interview transsexual lumberjack gamblers and the women who love them.”

    Another op-ed on Apr. 3, 1997 revealed some of the stereotypes of LGB that existed at the time. “When asked to describe someone who is a lesbian, immediately people use terms such as radical, tattooed, body-piercing, hair-dying, man-haters. Likewise, gays are described as limp-wristed, lisping, effeminate, weak, blow-dried blonds. Bisexuals just want to sleep with everybody they meet.” The op-ed also suggested that some on campus vocally expressed support but would often not follow up on that support. “The most ridiculous and most common double standard I’ve heard on this campus is the ‘homosexuals are fine, as long as they don’t come near me’ syndrome. For some reason, it is very trendy to claim to be liberal and accepting of all people, but to privately be disgusted by them.” 

    Peter Goldin,’98, reflected, “one of the things that made it easier with coming out for me was that it wasn’t like I was tattooed or had dyed hair; I was just another guy in khakis and a sport coat and being gay just happened to be the only thing that was different about me. I was the member of a fraternity, and when I finally came out it was to my best friends in my fraternity. I told them and they were kind of like “oh we know”, so it wasn’t a big secret that hurt me socially or affected anything with fraternity life.

    “I think back then it just wasn’t as open or as accepting and talked about as it is now. I don’t think a lot of people coming from their high school experiences knew a lot of gay people. Being gay at Richmond back then was a bit of a novelty; it was strange in that aspect but by the time I came out halfway through my junior year and realized everyone kind of knew anyways so it wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought it would be.”

    The Diversity Commission Report, published in Aug. 1993 revealed considerable ambivalence to LGBTQ individuals. Based on surveying the campus, the report stated that only 40 percent of students believe it is very important that gays and lesbian feel included and accepted and only 40 percent of students supported a lesbian and gay organization. Thirty-nine percent of students would oppose such an organization and only forty-eight percent of students would be comfortable working alongside someone openly gay or lesbian. Sixty-nine percent of students indicated that they would be uncomfortable sharing a space with someone who is gay or lesbian. Shockingly, in a survey of the incoming class of 1991, 36 percent of male students believed that homosexual relations should be prohibited.

    The report also shared a story from a student: “Walking through the Commons yesterday I overheard quite a fascinating conversation. So fascinating, in fact, that I had to stop and pretend to be reading an announcement. There were two students in fraternities discussing plans to haze their pledge-class. Of course, hazing is completely illegal and doesn’t happen at Richmond, but that is another story altogether. Their latest stunt, it seemed, was to take certain pledge class members to Biff’s bookstore in Carrytown—a bookstore like any other, but it has a large collection of lesbian, bisexual, and gay fiction, non-fiction essays, news magazines, etc.—and force them to browse through the section of gay-related literature. I can’t really figure out what the purpose of this was supposed to be, but they seemed to think it would be really funny to try and humiliate the pledges by having others to think that because they were looking at gay-related literature they must, themselves, be ‘faggots.’ They also thought it would be really funny to watch the proprietors of the store make advances at their fellow students.”

  • Safe Zone

    According to Ladelle McWhorter, professor of philosophy, Safe Zone’s history began as “seven members of the University community began to talk to each other about a concern for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students on our campus, as well as for non-GLBT students that may be dealing for the first time with a GLBT members in their families, classes, dorms, etc. These faculty and staff were worried that students had no one to talk to, no safe place to discuss their hopes and fears, no guidance to help them sort through feelings of make decisions, and little or no recourse against harassment and violence. They resolved to make themselves available and visible and to form an institutional support system for such students and for others who might be having difficulty dealing with their own or the sexuality of a family member, roommate, or friend.”

    Safe Zone trainings included a variety of exercises and covered a wide range of topics. In the original Safe Zone training program at the University, designed by Kelly Maxwell and McWhorter in Jun. 1996, the main components of Safe Zone training were awareness, knowledge, skills, and action. Activities and exercises included discussions of stereotypes of LGBT students, an overview of historical context of LGBT people in the United States, and handouts on the Bible and homosexuality. Additionally, participants discussed the coming out process and strategies for minimizing risks for people who come out to you in private. Participants also learned about the complexities of sexuality, discussing the Kinsey scale, differences between behavior, orientation, and identity, and the multidimensional nature of sexuality. Handouts on “becoming an ally” were also passed around, with stages delineated from participating in “active oppression” to “indifference” to challenging oppression” and finally “challenging heterosexist systems,” that encouraged “working to change heterosexist institutional practices” and “training staff to be sensitive to LGBT people and issues.” One of the most unique handouts was a “permission slip” that participants would sign, giving themselves permission “to ask questions that appear stupid” and to “struggle with these issues and be upfront and honest about my feelings.” The slip was designed to allow for truly open dialogue and full participation from all those, especially those new to LGBTQ issues; also allow people to move from guilt for being a product of heterosexist/homophobic society to responsibility for learning as much and making as much of a difference as those individuals can.

    By all accounts, the original working group of Safe Zone was productive, satisfying, and supportive. Bob Rodgers, the University’s catering services manager, reflects, “Being involved with Safe Zone was very community building and so nice to meet other LGBTQ faculty and staff. Safe Zone got things done very quickly.” School psychologist Elizabeth Stott described the group as “ego-less, cohesive, and centered on consensus building.” She further called it “the most gratifying and rewarding work group experience because the people who were there really cared and listened to each other.” Rafael de Sa, professor of biology, found the group dynamics “outstandingly beautiful” and also complimented its commitment to reach out on a university-wide level, approaching faculty, staff, and students.

    However, Safe Zone struggled over the purpose of the organization and faced questions of ‘how activist’ it should be. There were also some tensions with the inclusion of allied members, affiliation with the university, and what the composition of the board should be. Stott recalls, “the overall mode of Safe Zone was ‘let’s make sure we do what’s going to work here’. We didn’t want to create a backlash, so we focused on educational programming and opportunity, not activism. It becomes this question—how long do you make nice?” de Sa also felt frustrated that often, “The group was very good, but didn’t want to risk themselves or stand up to join the plate.”

    He continued, “If anyone came to us about discrimination then we filled out a form, kept it on record, and gave it to both the police and the administration. This was an issue of contention within the organization; some allied members didn’t want Safe Zone to be an activist organization. I was disappointed at times because it felt like the group was not willing to stand up for anything.” In certain ways, Safe Zone was not an activist organization and wouldn’t take policy steps at risk of alienating allied membership; however members of Safe Zone did often agitate within the University and broadened to include more policy issues.

    One way that Safe Zone combatted this tension was remaining independent from the University. Safe Zone wasn’t institutionalized or recognized as an organization, partially because they didn’t want a decision hierarchy to respond to. For a long time, Safe Zone’s board also had a policy that only those who wanted to be in Safe Zone could; they couldn’t be departmentally asked. The goal of ensuring that those involved with Safe Zone were there voluntarily was not always successful. Jane Geaney, associate professor of religious studies, reflects that “If a student asked me to recommend people to talk to about LGBTQ issues, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend some of the people who have been accredited by Safe Zone over the years. So I guess I’m not entirely sure about that program on that score.”

    The original members of Safe Zone also worried that people would use it as predatory tool, however this was more of a worry than a reality. Additionally, according to Stott, during the ‘90s, there was a “cultural fear of the ‘gays are recruiting’ which made faculty very careful of what they say in case they seem like they are recruiting to the cause.”

    In spring 1997, a law student reported being threatened and harassed—personal pictures at her desk were sliced and a threatening note insinuating she was a lesbian was placed there. She ultimately received a police escort to ensure her safety. The incident brought visibility to the dangers LGBTQ individuals often face, as people were outraged that someone was being targeted on campus. It became a force for mobilization and helped to push many people into Safe Zone.

    By 1998, there was discussion on how Safe Zone could adequately manage its exponential growth and continue to work for its initial purposes. As reported in the meeting minutes, at an Apr. 1998 Safe Zone board meeting, Steve Wilborn “cautioned the board not be deterred from its primary objective, which is to be available to students and others in need of private discussion on sexual identity issues.” A debate formed over how much programming Safe Zone should be doing and what direction it should take, and in the 1997-98 year began shifting to more educational outreach. In the annual report for the 1997-98 school year, it was reported that, “the board began to fear that too much growth too quickly would have detrimental effects; therefore, during the academic year 1997-98 we decided to concentrate on educational programming and publicity rather than on enlarging our network.”

    The report further concluded that “In short, Richmond’s chapter of Safe Zone is healthy and growing in both size and influence….The organization seems to enjoy the respect of most campus constituencies, and we have encountered no active or organized hostility to our work or our ideals….Our past two years have been an almost unqualified success. We have accomplished far more than the original nine of use ever dreamed possible in so short a time. Clearly the time was ripe for Safe Zone at the University of Richmond.”

    Safe Zone received publicity from the wider community and was featured in several newspapers, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch. In a profile in Our Own: Community Press, a Virginian LGBTQ newspaper, McWhorter described the organization as “enormously successful at Richmond—both as a support for GLBT students and as a means of educating straights. We want to share what we’ve learned and learn from sister institutions. Ultimately, college should be as fulfilling for GLBT students as it is for heterosexuals.”