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LGBTQ 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

About the Researcher

Dana McLachlin, ’14
Major: Sociology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Hometown: Darien, Conn.