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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Joseph A. Herzenberg, November 1, 2000. Interview K-0196. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

UNC-CH cracks down on gay sexual encounters to protect property

Herzenberg remembers some of the places on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where gay men met for romantic encounters. These meetings became an issue, not because of discrimination, but because gay men chose to meet in a building that housed expensive computer equipment. Herzenberg remembers the awkward meeting with the university official who was trying to restrict this behavior.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Joseph A. Herzenberg, November 1, 2000. Interview K-0196. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Did you ever know, or have you heard of any places where gay men tended to meet each other on campus or anything of that nature?
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
Well, of course, not me [said in a very coy, sarcastic tone] [Laughter] But let's—well, I was aware of a few such places, the one that I was most aware of was the basement of Wilson Library.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Right.
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
You see I worked, either doing my own research or I even had a part time job once in the Southern Historical Collection, which was in the basement, and there used to be a kind of smoking lounge down there outside of the men's room, and that was clearly one such place, and I believe, I mean, it wasn't a matter of me going there, but I had to walk through it.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Right.
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
—A couple of times a day.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Right.
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
And I think that there was also one in some men's room in Bingham Hall. But the most famous one would have been Carol Hall.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Would that have been in the basement as well?
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
I don't really know.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
did you ever hear anything about Murphy Hall?
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
Nope.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Great. So did you ever—
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
I know that the one in Carol Hall was in International Guide Books [Laughter] The Sparticus Guide.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Did you ever know of anything that you ever knew of in terms of Campus Police cracking down on those places? Did people ever get into trouble—you know for cruising in those places? Was there any ruckus on campus that you saw as a result of the cruising?
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
No, but I was aware that some people thought there was. That is to say, since I didn't really participate in it, and I don't mean to say that I never did that, but I was so uninvolved with that sort of phenomenon. I had friends who were, and they would say that at certain times University Police were more interested than others. The University Administration even got interested at one point. I am trying to remember when that was, it was after Sitterson Hall was built. Sitterson Hall had a lot of very expensive computer equipment in it and the University was concerned about theft or even damage to that equipment and I remember a meeting that I went to—I don't have any idea why they asked me to go to it, because I wasn't even really a student anymore, I think—In the university attorney's office, in South Building. Susan Ehringhaus had a meeting, the leaders of CGA were there for example, to talk about what she called, 'trysting'
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
trysting?
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
Yes.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
And this was the word for cruising?
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
But gay male bathroom sex. [Laughter] And she somehow thought, I mean, I don't want to be critical of her, because she acknowledged that straight people did the same thing, they did it in other places, however, and they were right then concerned with Sitterson Hall and nearby buildings, and Carol Hall was right next to Sitterson.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
What was her name again?
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
Her name still is Susan Ehringhaus.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Oh, okay.
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
She is the legal advisor to the chancellor.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Ah, I have spoken to her before.
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
And she somehow thought that this group of gay and lesbian leaders—
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
[Laughter] Would be able to talk to them—
JOSEPH A. HERZENBERG:
Would be able to do something about this, I think. The student body President was also there, it was a strange meeting. We drank a lot of coffee. [Laughter] In an office that is much smaller than this room. Anyway, by and large I think, the University police were not too interested in this.