Respecting the Rights of Others: Nearly a Forty Year History

In September of 1974, Dean of Student Affairs Donald Boulton received a flurry of letters from concerned alumni and North Carolina citizens. Letter writers were “shocked,” “surprised,” “alarmed,” and “concerned.” What led these parties to write to Dean Boulton that September? The official recognition of the Carolina Gay Association by the Office of Student Affairs.

The announcement ran in the Daily Tar Heel on 10 September 1974.

The announcement ran in the Daily Tar Heel on 10 September 1974.

Despite the many letters that he and President Bill Friday received, Dean Boulton and the university stood behind their decision officially to recognize the group as a student organization. As Boulton replied many times to the inquiries, the university had done their research on the related court cases supporting such student organizations. More than this, however, Boulton was keenly aware of what UNC stood for and what it still stands for today.

“I believe in the right and freedom of this group and any other group to organize in our society and to stand for those things in which they believe. I do not ask that they agree with me, only that they have the responsibility to state their beliefs openly and respect the rights of others.”

Dean Boulton's response to a complaint about the Carolina Gay Association. Letter in Folder 305, Box 6, Records of the Student Union of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records #40128, University Archives, Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library.

Dean Boulton’s response to a complaint about the Carolina Gay Association (Folder 305, Box 6, Records of the Student Union of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records #40128, University Archives).

Known today as the Sexuality and Gender Alliance, SAGA has taken on many roles in the Carolina community since its beginnings as the Gay Awareness Rap Group, an alternative and safe meeting place for the Gay community in the 1970s. One of the first of its kind in the South, SAGA continues to be the largest LGBTIQ student organization in the Southeastern United States and has grown to include social, activist, and debate sections.

When SAGA celebrates its 40th anniversary next year, the Carolina community might take a moment to remember the courage of those founding members and the support shown by Dean Boulton. Happy early 40th, SAGA!

Student organizations are the lifeblood of Carolina. Check out our virtual museum exhibit on UNC student organizations.

 

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