Gay history scholar may be recruited

In a move that could reinvigorate last year’s debate over the place of gay and lesbian studies at Yale, the University may be in the early stages of an effort to hire George Chauncey ’77 GRD ’83, a scholar of gay history currently teaching at the University of Chicago.

Larry Kramer ’57, whose brother Arthur Kramer ’49 provided $1 million to start the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale in 2001, told students of a possible future offer to Chauncey at a dinner event in honor of Jonathan Katz, the departing LKI director. Several administrators declined to comment on the possibility of bringing Chauncey to Yale because he is currently a tenured professor in the history department at the University of Chicago, a school that is known for a gay and lesbian studies program that emphasizes historical analysis.

Last year, Kramer unsuccessfully asked the University to move LKI to the history department from the women’s, gender and sexuality studies program.

Chauncey is one of the most distinguished scholars of gay history working today, Kramer said, and New York University has already made him an offer to join their faculty. Chauncey, a personal friend of Kramer’s, has not said whether he would accept an offer from Yale, Kramer said.

“For Yale to get him would be such an enormous plum,” Kramer said. “He and I have the same view on gay history, as against gay gender studies, … and we want to expand [LKI] to include more gay history.”

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey and history chair Paul Freedman declined to comment on any possible effort to recruit Chauncey to Yale, because he is still employed at another university.

“George Chauncey is a very distinguished scholar, and many universities would love to have him on their faculty,” Freedman wrote in an e-mail. “Since he is currently a professor at Chicago, it would not be appropriate for me or for others at Yale to comment on a possible recruitment effort.”

With funds from Arthur Kramer’s original donation running out, Larry Kramer said a $10 million fundraising campaign for LKI is set to begin soon, and he has also offered to donate money for a new professorship in gay and lesbian history.

Jamie Kirchick ’06, who attended the dinner this weekend, said LKI programs should focus on gay history rather than queer theory, a goal which could be bolstered by bringing Chauncey to the faculty. Hiring a major scholar like Chauncey might also attract contributions from other alumni, Kirchick said.

“I think the idea is that if they get someone like George Chauncey to come, … you’re bound to get more alumni to give money because he’s a very big, reputable name that a lot of people know,” he said.

Kirchick is a columnist for the News.

Kramer said Deputy Provost Charles Long told him that the possible appointment has been approved by many of the committees that consider an appointment before an offer is made, but resources have not yet been approved for the position. Long could not be reached for comment Monday.

According to University policy, the process for hiring a senior professor begins when a department chair proposes the appointment to either Salovey or Graduate School Dean Jon Butler. The advisory committee in the appropriate academic department assesses the proposal, including the available resources and the possible impact on other departments. If the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Steering Committee accepts the advisory committee’s recommendation, it commits the University to funding the position.

Once the Steering Committee approves financing for the slot, the department can advertise for candidates. But if the department is trying to hire a specific candidate, the step of advertising may be skipped and letters may be immediately sent to scholars at other universities requesting evaluations of the candidate. Then the department, senior appointments committee and the entire faculty must approve granting tenure to the individual.

Katz will leave his post at the head of LKI after this semester to return to the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Katz said he is leaving because the administrative burden of running LKI prevented him from focusing on his scholarship, and Yale did not offer him a leave of absence to finish a book he is writing.

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