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September 28, 2006
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Touro's provost says gay group wasn't dropped
By CHRIS G. DENINA, Times-Herald staff writer

BRYAN HOPPING, right, Touro University's Gay-Straight Alliance spokesman, speaks at Friday's rally. At left are Rebecca Sadun of the American Medical Student Association and Joel Ginsberg of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. Photo: Mike Jory/Times-Herald
A top Touro University official apologized Monday, saying students were mistakenly told that a campus club tackling gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues had lost university funding and had been banned from using the medical school's name.

More than 50 club supporters attended a rally at the Vallejo waterfront, ready to protest the university's apparent decision last week to drop support for the Touro University Gay-Straight Alliance. Instead, they learned from two Vallejo City Council members that Touro had issued an apology.

Councilmembers Stephanie Gomes and Gary Cloutier, who is gay, wrote to the university Monday indicating that without an apology, they were unlikely to support future university projects requiring council approval.

Hours later, Provost and Chief Executive Harvey Kaye sent the pair - and the Times-Herald - a letter of explanation.

"In my capacity as ">provost, I apologize on behalf of the university that this controversy has arisen, and trust that my letter will lay this matter to rest," Kaye wrote.

Kaye said a Touro official who said the club was no longer supported by the university was mistaken that the club was "deactivated."

Last week, Nathan Church, Touro vice president for student affairs and dean of students, told the Times-Herald the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender lifestyle was against the Jewish university's values. Church didn't immediately return calls for comment Monday.

At Monday's rally, students cheered and said they were thrilled to hear the club hadn't been dropped. Still, some were shocked about the whole matter.

"I'm sad and disappointed this happened," said student Bryan Hopping, 30, a club spokesman.

Hopping told the group on the waterfront festival green that his goal in the club is to enlighten people about homosexuality. "I'm looking to change just one person's mind," he said.

Students and faculty in hospital scrubs and white lab coats wore rainbow ribbons and pink triangles

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pinned to their shirts. Someone even brought a sign saying "I support TUGSA."

"It just seems so odd," said club member and first-year medical student Gary Kirkilas, 26. He said it was surprising that a Jewish university would take action against such a club considering the "rich history of persecution" against Jews.

First-year medical student Sarah Nangle said she was inspired by the club. "I'm definitely going to join it," Nangle, 31, said.

In a letter dated Monday to the dean of students, Cloutier and Gomes indicated their displeasure with last week's controversy.

"The fact that Touro has elected to deny the gay student group recognition under a publicly stated rationale that is transparently discriminatory and based on a tired cliché will make supporting future Touro initiatives highly problematic," Cloutier and Gomes wrote.

The council is expected to discuss the development of Mare Island's north end in coming weeks, Gomes said. That includes a proposal from Touro University, she said.

"I have a big problem working with a group of people or organization that discriminates against anybody," Gomes said before the university provost apologized.

A few years ago, a New York college also withdrew funding for a gay club but later changed its mind, said Joel Ginsberg, executive director of the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association.

"We need to be vigilant, because this is not the first time this has happened, and it won't be the last," Ginsberg said at the rally.

E-mail Chris G. Denina at or call 553-6835.


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