By Layla Quran for the SOHP
I sat in the massive lobby of the UNC Friday Center on October 31, 2013 waiting for Donald Boulton to enter. At 3:30pm on the dot a friendly-looking, professional dressed man walked in with a friendly smile. “You were right!”, I said to the receptionist as he had assured me Boulton would be there soon. Boulton and I walked into a smaller office and began the task of unraveling 26 years of student affairs at UNC, focusing on the creation of the Carolina Gay Association.
Boulton grew up in a small town and won a fellowship to travel after he graduated from a small university in upstate New York. The fellowship was for him to study religion in Germany, where he eventually became fluent in German and then traveled to the Middle East to live there for 2 weeks and study the newly discovered Dead Sea Scrolls. Boulton says “I saw the world in many different cultures”. Upon returning to the US, he began his doctorate at Columbia where he would met gay and lesbian students kicked out of their families for their sexual orientation. I mention these experiences because they contributed to his understanding and approval of the Carolina Gay Association years later. As he studied different forms of love in an academic setting, he also began to ask others about their value systems, and if they had a basic spiritual love for all of human kind.
Boulton describes entering UNC was like entering a time warp as female students were just beginning to be accepted into the freshmen class, and there were separate deans from men and women(which he got rid of by creating deans of students). One of his responsibilities as Dean was to recognize student organizations, and when he mentioned this that began our discussion on the Carolina Gay Association.
He was called into the chancellor’s office after his recognition of the CGA, where the chancellor said to him, “Don, do you realize what you just did? This is Bible country”. Boulton responded to the chancellor as well as to the several letters he would eventually receive from alumni, parents, and some members of the Board of Trustees by saying that he did understand the Bible and he was responded to the ‘law of the land’. Several other universities, including University Virginia and University of New Hampshire would come to reject the recognition of gay associations and be appealed by federal courts for doing so.
Boulton describes the CGA as becoming more comfortable over the span of 15 years, from being a group that was understandingly defensive at first to having more students come out and be more open of their sexuality. Barry Nakel, who was the advisor for the CGA for 10 years, was a tremendous source of support and continuity.
Boulton also spoke on different forms of love today. He said that the problem with the decisions made by individuals is the dismissal of a value system where love is the main component.
He said, “It is the lack of love. And it has no place in a college campus. It has no place in society, but it shows you, as one of my professors said, there’s a cyclical view of history that we come to acceptance and then we revert, we tend to repeat. But then he said even though we repeat, we tend to make a little movement forward. Like people are saying racism is being to come back, well it never left. But it has moved forward.”
Come see the Southern Oral History Program interns at the Love House on December 5th, at 3pm to hear more stories on the Carolina Gay Association and the sexual revolution at UNC.