The University Record, March 1, 1993

Baker, Duderstadt clash on sex orientation letter, Mandate

By Jane R. Elgass

A letter from Housing Division staff members protesting the “promotion of gay/lesbian lifestyles occurring in residence halls at the University of Michigan” triggered a clash between Regent Deane Baker and president James J. Duderstadt at the February Regents’ meeting.

Just prior to a vote on a resolution stating the Regents’ support of the Michigan Mandate, Baker said he intended to read the letter, which had been sent by six facilities managers and a maintenance coordinator to the Regents and several administrators.

The letter authors cited four areas of concern:

—Sexually explicit photographs of nude men and women engaged in sexual activities were displayed in South and East Quadrangle “by student employees under the auspices of the Housing Residence Education Department.”

—“Non-Traditional Love Relationships” notices were posted in West Quadrangle “to solicit young men and women to participate in a gay/lesbian relationship film series.”

—The East Quadrangle library “is promulgated with gay/lesbian reading material which supports unnatural human relationships.”

—Through the Office of Student Affairs, “the University has contributed financial resources to construct and maintain a highly visible and sumptuous office suite at the Michigan Union known as Lesbian-Gay Male Programs, which adds credence and support to gay/lesbian lifestyles.

“We believe,” the letter writers concluded, “that Housing administrative policies and financial resources at the University of Michigan should be used to promote a service environment conducive to comfortable living and academic learning for our young people and not be used to influence their sexual orientation.”

Baker had brought the letter up earlier in the day, noting that if the display “had been heterosexual, it would have been prevented by [University] guidelines.” He added that the University “should look at the activities of various groups in housing units. We need to examine this.”

Duderstadt, who presides over the meetings, told Baker the “letter does not refer to this particular issue.” Baker countered, saying “I think it does, it’s part of your multiculturalism.”

Duderstadt again said it was a different issue and Baker relented, saying: “To not exacerbate the situation, I won’t read the letter, but will read it in due course.”

Following a unanimous favorable vote on the resolution, with Baker’s support subject to qualifications, Duderstadt said “we very much appreciate your support.”

An angry Baker, taking the comment as sarcastic and directed to him said, “You’re welcome Jim. You’ve got to understand that everybody in this world doesn’t agree with you on every aspect. I think if you took a vote of the campus you’d probably find that about 90 to 10.”

Duderstadt responded: “Regent Baker, my remarks of thanks were expressed to the Board as a whole.”