Columbia Queer Alliance

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Columbia Queer Alliance
Founded: 1967
Recognition: SGB
Membership: ?
Executive Board: Jeanette Clark
Aries Dela Cruz
Joseph Daniels
Learned Foote
Bryan Reid
Peter Gallotta
Laura Torre
Category: Activist clubs
Website: {{{Website}}}
Contact: {{{Contact}}}

The Columbia Queer Alliance (CQA), the oldest LGBTQ student organization in the world, is the central Columbia student organization that represents the lesbian, gay, transgender, and questioning student population. Its original name was the Student Homophile League (SHL).


As an openly homosexual student, Robert Anthony Martin, Jr., pseudonym Stephen Donaldson, CC '70 (July 27, 1946July 18, 1996) was told by Columbia administrators that he would be allowed to register only "on condition that he undergo psychotherapy and not attempt to seduce other students."[1] His first year of college was difficult: he met no other gay students or faculty and had to move from a shared suite to a single room when his suitemates "told the college dean David Truman that they felt uncomfortable living with a homosexual".[1]

After his 1970 graduation from Columbia, Donaldson enlisted in the U.S. Navy. In 1971, the Navy announced its intention to release him by General Discharge on grounds of suspected homosexual involvement. From 1974 to 1977, Donaldson was the Chair of the Student Governing Board. On July 18, 1996, Donaldson died of AIDS-related illness.


The original organization had twelve members, who fought with the Columbia administration for a year before their organization was officially recognized. Columbia refused to recognize the SHL because a public membership was required, and the only gay members willing to provide their names were Stephen Donaldson and James Millham. Eventually, Stephen Donaldson convinced Columbia student leaders to add their names to the list and Columbia was forced to officially charter the country’s first student gay rights group on April 19, 1967.[2] The Spectator ran an editorial praising the chartering of the group and printed letters from students attacking and defending the decision. At this point, there was no apparent opposition from Columbia faculty or staff. The group was advised by the University Chaplain, the Rev. John D. Cannon.

Donaldson was active in promoting other SHL chapters around the country, including the Cornell Student Homophile League in 1968 and later the New York University chapter. By 1971, there were an estimated 150 gay student groups at colleges and universities in the United States.

Over time, SHL underwent many name changes, including Gay People at Columbia-Barnard, before its present incarnation, Columbia Queer Alliance.[3]

Protests and Controversies

On October 29, 2008, the Columbia Spectator editorial board published "Education, not Jubilation," [4] which took Columbia Queer Alliance to task for allegedly failing to emphasize educational events over social events during Queer Awareness Month. The editorial, however, had some errors, including equating Columbia Queer Alliance and Queer Awareness Month as the same group, as well as stating that the Columbia University Marching Band's Giant Penis Ring Toss was evidence of the month's overemphasis on "jubilation".

The editors ran a correction on the website and published the day after, addressing the distinction as well as the giant inflatable penis: "The editorial also misstated that a giant inflatable penis was part of QuAM's opening tabling. It was in fact part of a different campus event."

This led media outlets such as the Bwog, American Spectator and IvyGate to identify the controversy as "Giant inflatable penis-gate." The following day, LGBT groups on campus organized a kiss-in in front of the Spectator's offices.

Events and Tradtions

  • First Friday Dance
  • Queer Sushi
  • Queer Curry
  • Queer Cupcakes
  • Holiday Party
  • Valentines Party


  1. 1.0 1.1 David Eisenbach (2006). Gay Power: An American Revolution. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf, 51-79, 260-262. ISBN 0786716339.
  2. Beemyn, Brett (2003). "The Silence Is Broken". Journal of the History of Sexuality 12: 205-223.
  3. Columbia Queer Alliance Website
  4. Columbia Spectator Editorial Board (2008). "Education, Not Jubilation" Columbia Spectator Oct. 29, 2008.