IT WAS THE KIND of early spring afternoon made for tossing a Frisbee, studying barefoot in the grass, maybe dozing off under the warm sun, but on March 2, 1992, there was little lounging taking place on the Quadrangle. Beneath a stunning blue sky, more than a hundred students gathered like storm clouds, their angry voices rising like the rumble of thunder.

“Out of the closet, into the Quad!” they shouted. “We will never be silent again!”

The protest–which was later featured in both local and national news reports–was sparked by a kiss. In December 1991, College freshmen Alfred Hildebrand and Michael Norris were spotted kissing in a glassed-in dormitory common area where they thought no one could see. Soon afterward, some forty students surrounded the couple, showering the two young men with anti-gay taunts and threats, among them “Die, fags, die.”

After the incident, Hildebrand and Norris lodged a formal complaint. But they and a number of other students were dissatisfied with the initial response. Their primary concern was that administrators had not fired a student advisor who participated in the harassment.

“When we found out what had happened to Michael and Alfred, we were pretty shocked,” says Richard Nyankori ’92C, who was co-chair of the Emory Lesbian and Gay Association and helped organize the protest. “Then we learned that not much was really done about it. A group of us were hanging out in the DUC talking and all of a sudden it all started to come together. We went into a meeting room right then and started to plan, and people were ready to step up to the plate.”

During the protest, “I remember the moment when we were marching into the DUC, up that spiral staircase, and there was the usual talking noise, and then it got really quiet,” says Laura Douglas-Brown ’95C-’95G, a freshman at the time. “We were all chanting, and we were so loud, coming into such quiet–it really felt very powerful. I was young, I had come from high school and was ‘out’ at Emory, but I had never even been to a gay pride march or anything like that. This was the first sense of any empowerment I ever had.”

The students ended their march with a silent sit-in outside President Laney’s office, where they did homework and were served cold Cokes while they waited. Eventually Laney opened his door and met with several of the protesters.

“When I met with those students, I was very conscious of the sense of pain they felt,” Laney says now. “I was aware that this was a group on campus that needed some support and some representation. Like any other minority group on campus, they needed to have their rights protected and to have a full and free life among us in the Emory community. That was the spirit behind it.”

Read about the progress the University has made since 1992 > > >




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