As part of the ongoing Stonewall 50 celebration at NYU, the university premiered the documentary “What Stonewall Means to Me,” at today’s Streak of Violet: LGBTQ+ History Within New York University event.
The premiere of this documentary, which opened with a message from President Andrew Hamilton, was the last act in a seven-act event that highlighted LGBTQ history within the university.
One such event was the occupation of Weinstein Hall a year after the Stonewall riots. The five-day occupation of Weinstein occurred because the university refused to let the Gay Student Liberation hold a public dance on campus until homosexuality was deemed “morally acceptable” by the university.
John Knoebel, one of the protesters at the Weinstein occupation spoke about his experience at the sit-in.
“Initially, the university cranked up the air-conditioning to maximum in an effort to freeze out the protestors,” Knoebel said. “Two days later, they tried overheating the room.”
NYU Weinstein activist Ron Auerbacher also shared his story via an audio recording of a letter that was published during the Weinstein occupation. It urged NYU students at the time to join in the protests at Weinstein.
“It’s time to come out of the closet, and into the sub-cellar,” Auerbacher said.
Perry Brass, another Weinstein occupier, spoke about the blacklash he received after publishing a gay-themed article while he was a student at NYU. After the article was published, an unsigned Letter to the Editor was featured in the next paper.
“[The letter] said that I had no business at NYU,” Brass said “It said that ‘I lived off the fat of the land’ and I should ‘go back to where I came from.’”
As the gay liberation movement continued, NYU found itself at the forefront of another important civil rights dispute: domestic partner benefits.
As a part of the Association of Lesbian and Gay, Faculty, Admin and Staff, Stephen Pechner and Paul Langland spoke about a resolution they presented in University Senate that provided domestic partnership benefits in 1992.
“After NYU implemented the benefits the following year, one insurer had to be dropped because they refused to administer health care benefits for domestic partners,” Langland said. “That was Kaiser Permanente.”
The event also featured a performance by the Tribe Theatre Company of the off-Broadway show “Hit the Wall” by Ike Holter, and a look at what NYU administration does to help the LGBTQ community today, almost 50 years after the protesters at Weinstein were removed by local police.
“We have much work to do here [at NYU] to improve the community and the conditions of the people who live and learn here,” Lisa Coleman, NYU’s Chief Diversity Officer, said.
Email Mansee Khurana at [email protected]