Yale looks pink dollar gift horse in the mouth

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The Independent Online
Yale University, the quintessentially Ivy League crucible of American academe, rarely objects to offers of money from generous benefactors. It pauses, however, when the dollars involved come in a bright shade of pink.

This we learn from the unusual, and highly public spat that has broken out between Yale and one of its more famous - and certainly more controversial - alumni, the militantly gay playwright and novelist, Larry Kramer.

Mr Kramer, 62 - whose works include the acclaimed The Normal Heart - has promised a gift to the university of several million dollars. But as things stand, Yale is saying "thank you, but no thank you".

The problem, it seems, concerns the conditions that Mr Kramer is attaching to his offer. His former place of learning - where, by the way, he was so unhappy as a student in the early Fifties that he was driven to attempt suicide - will get the money only if it promises certain things.

Specifically, he is insisting that Yale use the money either to establish a permanent course in gay studies, with a tenured professorship, or to found a student centre on campus for the benefit of gay and lesbian students.

Putting Yale on the spot was probably the point of the offer in the first place. Mr Kramer has spent most of his life confronting the Establishment in his quest to improve the social lot of gays. In the early Eighties he founded Act Up, an organisation that campaigned for Aids research.

His antagonist is the university Provost, Dr Alison Richard, an anthropologist. She accepts that Yale could use the money for gay studies, but balks at the permanent status of the arrangements sought by Mr Kramer.

"Larry Kramer is clearly a passionate advocate and a very creative writer," she told the New York Times. "But my task is not to honour or give in to passionate advocates. My task is to figure out what is in Yale's interest".