Carl Ratner: […] When I first came to Oberlin and the Gay Union was starting to blossom my freshman and sophomore years, there was a big issue of lesbian and gay. Was the Gay Union a gay male organization or was it a lesbian and gay organization? One of the things that was interesting was that many of the lesbians in the Gay Union felt bulldozed by the men in the group. In many ways I would say that I was one of the guiltiest parties. I mean only that I was very vigorous in stating my opinion and standing up to speak whatever I felt like saying. I was saying it, and it seemed like there were always men in the room who were ready to take the floor. There was not a lot of space that would encourage shyer people, some of whom were lesbians in that group, to speak up and be heard. So there was a lot of discussion.
[Anonymous]: I remember going to the Gay Union meetings and rarely going back. They always seemed like a bitch session. Everybody kept arguing the political stuff and nobody wanted to have any fun; nobody wanted to do anything that was kind of neat.
Ellen Orleans: I have a question about getting that clause in; I remember it being a big deal. I remember once it was in, the whole statement was taken from the front of the Oberlin Handbook and was put to the back.
Carl Ratner: That was a couple of years later.
Ellen Orleans: This was probably 1981 or 1982 when I was working for the Alumni Office. But I do remember something to the effect of, ‘We don’t want to encourage them,’ being said. What a stupid thing to say, because why not encourage? You know what a great bunch of people are already here anyway. Also it was said with the assumption that I wasn’t listening, which is very interesting. I know that our politics have grown up tremendously in the last ten years; some of the things that people said blew me away. We don’t want to encourage THEM, making clear who is us and who is `them.’
Carl Ratner: Now that you mention that, I would like to say a little more about the anti-discrimination clause. Although I wasn’t here for some of the events that I’m going to mention, my understanding was that they were here before I got here. They hired for the first time a student in the Admissions Office to pre-screen applicants. They would have a first interview with this student and the student was asked to indicate by a letter or some other code on their sheet whether the applicant appeared to be either:
a) Communist or b) homosexual.
Elizabeth Wright: Really, Communist!?
Carl Ratner: Well, maybe it was a different word, but leftist radical of some sort. This is during the days of (President) Emil (Danenberg) — sounds like a movie, The Days of Emil, like a sequel to The Omen. It was immediately after the Patty Hearst event. The Admissions Office decided that Oberlin was gaining a reputation for being too radical and too homosexual.
Ellen Orleans: Excuse me, but what does that have to do with Patty Hearst?
Carl Ratner: She was in hiding, staying with Jack Scott, when she came to Oberlin.
Ellen Orleans: The police didn’t know about it? I guess not. Who is Jack Scott?
Carl Ratner: He was on the athletic faculty, right?
Ellen Orleans: This was after she was released?
Carl Ratner: No, this was before she was captured; she was on the lam from the police. And the FBI had a presence here as a consequence for quite a while. They would ask questions about her whereabouts.
Elizabeth Wright: My RC, as a freshman, was investigated by the FBI because the name she used was similar to a name that Patty Hearst was supposed to have used.
Carl Ratner: That would have been around 1973?
[Anonymous]: Jack Scott had to leave in the middle of the year 1973-1974. They said that there might have been criminal charges.
Carl Ratner: The Admissions Office was afraid that that event was going to further attract radicals to Oberlin and continue to advance its reputation as a hotbed of radicalism. We were between 1973 and 1975, so this is a little earlier. The person hired by the Admissions Office walked directly from the Admissions Office to the Review. This published apology was issued and the Admissions Office affirmed that it would indeed never discriminate against radicals or homosexuals again. That event was the thing that really precipitated the passing of the anti-discrimination clause, although it took several years to occur. After that, it was sometime around 1979, it was ultimately passed. That was sort of what set people in motion, that combination of things, that people on the faculty that have some sort of consciousness were aware of it.
Julie Kaufman: I have a question about a very `heavy’ topic. I cannot remember what year it was, but there was a homecoming when [name deleted], a math professor, was named homecoming queen. I don’t know anything about that and I wonder if anyone else does; if that was a joke by the Zeke guys or if anyone knows?
[Anonymous]: That would have been probably the fall of 1979.
Carl Ratner: No, it would have been earlier than that in 1978 or 1977. Around the middle of my time, it seemed that Oberlin did begin, despite the promises of the Admissions Office, to get much less Bohemian, and homecoming suddenly became a real event, a Spring Fling and a Fall Ball. Oh yes, they were definitely aimed at heterosexual coupling. And it was very strange to me, the Spring Fling and the Fall Ball cost $3 or $5, and no other event cost more than 75¢. And the thought of homecoming, too, was just a complete departure from all…
[Anonymous]: Exactly. It was always a satire.
Gay Man: We dressed up in tuxedos and found dates.