Stephen Donaldson Lounge

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The Stephen Donaldson Lounge is the lounge and library used by the LGBT community at Columbia. It is located in the basement of Furnald Hall. It was originally known as the Gay Lounge until being renamed for Stephen Donaldson.


The successor to the Student Homophile League, Gay People at Columbia, had been using an empty room in Furnald's basement since the spring of 1971 as an unofficial meeting place. They successfully lobbied the Undergraduate Dormitory Council (UDC) of Furnald Hall to give official recognition to the lounge. Columbia administrators, such as President McGill and Dean of Columbia College Carl Hovde had initially expressed opposition to any official recognition of the lounge.

In October of that year, Dean Hovde received a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union urging him to reverse his opposition to a Gay Lounge, calling his position arbitrary and discriminatory because other minority groups were also granted facilities. There was already established the Malcolm X Lounge in Hartley Hall, an Asian lounge in Carman Hall, and a Latin lounge in Lewisohn Hall. [1]

In November, the UDC appealed to the trustees of the university in regards to the administrations decision to refuse recognition of the Gay Lounge. The Spectator noted that this was the first time a student organization had appealed to the trustees over an administrative ruling. [2]. It was also the first time that the trustees had heard from Columbia students on any issue. They upheld the administration's decision not to recognize the Gay Lounge.

During this controversy, while the administration refused to grant official recognition, they took no action to close the lounge.

1972 - The Gay Student Occupation of Low Library

The following summer, in June 1972, Peter Pouncey was named the ninth Dean of Columbia College. In September, Dean Pouncey went against the wishes of the trustees and finally granted official Columbia recognition to the Gay Lounge, making it the first gay student lounge in the world.

In November, a gay alumnus donated $3500 to the Dean's Discretionary Fund to furnish the Gay Lounge, but the Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs for the university stated that it would be highly problematic if the funds were used for this purpose.

The same month, the same alumnus was convinced to donate another $2500 to the Undergraduate Dormitory Council of Furnald Hall, in an attempt to bypass Low Library blocking of the initial donation going to the Gay Lounge.

At the end of November, twenty five students occupied President McGill's office in Low Library.

They threatened to stage a mass demonstration on campus if the lounge were not recognized. After the occupation, McGill wrote a letter to Gay People at Columbia that he would no longer stand in the way of opposing official recognition of the Gay Lounge. [3] In the letter, McGill also expressed support for "homosexual studies" at Columbia, noting that the nature of homosexuality.. homosexual life styles and the full range of social problems experienced by homosexuals" are "appropriate for academic study." McGill conceded that the university can "be said to discriminate unintentionally against homosexuals," because "we develop most of our assumptions from the prevailing attitudes of the larger society."

One notable opponent of the Gay Lounge was Lionel Trilling. "Trilling was opposed to a gay lounge because he thought repressed homosexuals were more neurotic and therefore more creative than gay people who were open about their sexuality," wrote Jonah Raskin. [4]


On Friday, November 15, 1996, the Student Gay Lounge in the basement of Furnald Hall was renanamed the Stephen Donaldson Lounge in Donaldson's memory. Hunter College professor Wayne Dynes gave remarks formally installed the plaque. Another speaker was Dean Peter Awn. President George Rupp, Provost Jonathan Cole, University Chaplain Jewelnel Davis, and Assoc. Dean Kathryn Yatrakis attended the ceremony. [5]