Larry Kramer ’57 presented his concerns about the future of the Larry Kramer Initiative for Gay and Lesbian Studies in a meeting with top Yale officials yesterday, who promised to address some of the issues raised.
With two of his close friends, Calvin Trillin ’57 and William Schwalbe ’84, Kramer laid out his concerns about LKI at a meeting with History Department chair Paul Freedman, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and psychology professor Marianne LaFrance and four University administrators — Provost Andrew Hamilton, Assistant Provost Emily Bakemeier, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey, and Development Manager Donna Consolini. The meeting, which lasted nearly three hours, was a follow-up to Kramer’s stormy visit in November, which concluded with the administration’s decision to deny his request to move LKI into the History Department.
Kramer’s concerns included LKI’s funding, LKI executive coordinator Jonathan D. Katz’s job insecurity and the program’s long-term stability. Although Kramer said he did not walk away from the meeting with anything “in his hands,” he said he viewed the meeting as fruitful.
“I feel that it was a good meeting in that I think we’re all on the same track now, and that certainly wasn’t the case before,” Kramer said. “There will be a lot of meetings before anything concrete happens, but it is forward movement.”
Deputy Provost Charles Long, the administration’s designated spokesperson for the meeting, said LKI — which was founded in 2001 with a $1 million gift from Kramer’s brother, Arthur Kramer ’49 — is in danger of running out of funds if the University does not continue to raise money.
“We have pretty solid programming for this year and the year after,” Long said. “But if we were to raise no more money, the program would be about half of what it is now. The program will not go away, but it may have fewer resources to work with, which means we will have less staff, and fewer faculty, if we don’t find further funding.”
The University has raised funds from other donors “interested in the program,” Long added, and said it will continue to do so.
But Kramer said he does not believe the University has been supplementing his brother’s gift, and said he will not donate any more funds to the program until Yale demonstrates its support concretely.
“I feel that I don’t want to put up more money until they show me something that they’re putting on the table,” he said.
Each year, LKI brings two visiting faculty members to Yale to teach a range of gay and lesbian studies courses to undergraduate and graduate students. But the program’s stability cannot be ensured until the University appoints tenured professors, Kramer said.
“What we’re doing is very much right now the equivalent of an extracurricular activity,” Kramer said. “We’re trying to move it towards a program, to make it much more academic, and we want to have a couple of full-time faculty employed with tenure.”
But adding faculty is a complex process, Long said.
“Larry wanted the University to create and hand him faculty slots, which is not the way faculty slots are created,” he said. “It takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of effort and it takes a lot of money.”
Kramer said one of his primary concerns is the future of Katz’s position at Yale.
“They seem to more than indicate to [Katz] how really pleased they are with him, and what a fantastic job he has done keeping it going and building it up,” Kramer said. “I don’t understand a place that is so rigid that it can’t find room on an individual basis to help people who are doing terrific jobs.”
Katz declined to comment.
Kramer said he will continue to push the administration to shape LKI in a direction more along the lines of his own academic views — which include a focus on gay history rather than theory.
“There’s no question that we’ve come a very long way in a short time. LKI has a very strong presence on campus right now,” Kramer said. “A lot of what happens depends on the students and how much they let themselves be heard on what they want.”
Kramer and Katz will meet with administrators again in the spring to discuss Katz’s five-year plan for LKI’s academic direction and financial future, Kramer said.