HOPS: 1 year old, but learning life fast



Collegian Senior Reporter


News analysis



The Homophiles of Penn State is one year old -- but unlike most infants, HOPS in its first year has learned the hard facts of life -- fast.

On March 15, 1971, HOPS submitted its constitution to the Undergraduate Student Government, and this group, delegated to approve student charters, approved HOPS’ charter on April 21.

Three weeks later, then Acting Vice President for Student Affairs, Raymond D Murphy, suspended HOPS’ charter, going over the head of USG and angering student organizations from Concerned Veterans to Women’s Liberation.

Student groups held an Old Main picket in support of HOPS. Suddenly, HOPS was big news.

Before the suspension of its charter, HOPS had worked quietly on campus and in town, trying to fulfill the goals set down in its constitution. These goals are: to aid the homosexual in his or her orientation; to promote greater harmony and understanding between homosexuals and the community; to encourage members to engage in political activities for the purpose of reforming statutes concerning homosexual behavior; and to provide as many opportunities for meaningful social interaction among homosexuals as permissible under existing state laws.

Surely, Students for a Democratic Society or the Weathermen, in their heyday, posed more of a threat to a campus administration than a group quietly trying to educate a University community on a subject long suppressed.

Yet Murphy chose to see HOPS as a threat -- claiming on Sept. 1 when the group was officially denied its charter, that after a three month investigation, chartering would “create a substantial conflict with the counseling and psychiatric services the University provides to its students.”

HOPS remained undaunted in its attempt to fulfill its goals, and despite bountiful publicity, or perhaps because of it, membership in HOPS grew. Militant homosexuals, angry over HOPS’ adverse treatment, joined its ranks.

Last Spring Term found HOPS conducting a Free University class, participating in Colloquy, lecturing, to classes, attending gay rallies in New York and holding its own lesbian conference in State College.

HOPS continued to function, but was forced to function mainly through the sponsorship of other organizations such as Graduate Student Association and USG, which, among other things, secured University rooms in HOPS’ behalf.

Fall Term HOPS began to seriously look into court action to take against the University, but it was not until Winter Term this year that things exploded.

After months of behind-the-scenes legal activity, HOPS filed suit against the University on Feb. 15.

The list of defendants read like “Who’s Who” in Old Main: University President Oswald, Murphy, William Fuller, then manager of Associated Student Activities, M. Lee Upcraft, dean of student affairs, the University Board of Trustees and Albert Shoemaker, chairman of the board.

HOPS defense rested on violation of two of this country’s basic rights it affords most of its citizens: First Amendment rights to speak freely in and around a University community and Fourteenth Amendment rights to “equal protection of the law.”

These rights, HOPS vehemently maintains, have been grossly violated at Penn State;

New insight into the oppression of gays became more apparent to even students unconcerned with HOPS, when, three days after HOPS announced its lawsuit, Joseph Acanfora, a plaintiff in the suit, was dismissed from student teaching at the Park Forest Junior High School.

Questions from all segments of the University and State College community began to be asked -- only to be left unanswered by the College of Education at Penn State and the State College Area School District where Acanfora taught.

The biggest offenders were Dean of Education Abram VanderMeer, Madison Brewer, head of student teaching at the University, Assistant Superintendant of Pupil Personnel Service Donald Cameron, Assistant Superintendent for instruction Robert Campbell and Lewis Rodrick, principal of the Park Forest Junior High School -- the people directly involved in the dismissal and the ones who day after day refused comment.

Acanfora sought an injunction and was reinstated by Centre County Court Judge R. Paul Campbell on Feb. 22, in what a Collegian editorial the next day claimed was “the first official decision to go in favor of HOPS since it began to seek a charter from the University last year.”

It also stated that: “The college, in keeping with a reportedly standard procedure, informed the host school of Acanfora’s recent activities; that is, that he is one of the plaintiffs involved in HOPS’ suit against the University.”

But the crucial question remained: Would Brewer have informed the host school if the party involved was in Campus Crusade for Christ or the University Concert Committee?

And so HOPS, despite court suits involving great drains on what little funds it has -- continues on campus.

They are restructuring their organization, according to Diane Whitney, HOPS president. “We are trying to broaden our appeal,” she contends, “to the non-militant gays who we want to feel welcome in the group.”

For an unchartered organization, HOPS’ plans for the future are extremely optimistic -- creation of a community center, an office on campus, expansion of HOPS to Commonwealth campuses and finally, if possible, University recognition -- which would allow them use of facilities as well as funds.

But HOPS seeks approval from no one, its members contend. The one-year-old feels that it is growing in the right direction.