CLAGS Receives $250,000 Rockefeller Grant

This June, CLAGS received word from the Rockefeller Foundation that its application for a four-year, $250,000 Humanities Fellowship had been successful! The grant is the largest foundation award ever given to a non-AIDS gay or lesbian organization. The news created ripples of astonishment and excitement. To win the grant on the very first try is a triumph for CLAGS and especially for its development consultant, Eli Zal.

But the ramifications of the award go far beyond CLAGS itself. The vote of confidence in gay/lesbian studies from one of the most prestigious foundations in the country is likely to go a long way in certifying the field and in opening up the mainstream foundation world to the legitimacy and importance of funding gay/lesbian scholarship.

CLAGS itself will get to keep very little of the money for its own operating expenses (over the four-year period of the grant, less that $15,000). We emphasize this lest the word now go out that CLAGS has become wealthy and is no longer in need of your contributions. Far from it! With our projected expenses for 1992-1993 budgeted at more than $82,000, we will need your help more than ever if we are successfully to meet our ambitious plans for the coming year.

But what the Rockefeller grant will allow CLAGS to do is enormously exciting. The Humanities Fellowship program will make it possible for CLAGS to award two grants per year over a three-year period, from 1993 to 1996, to support scholarly research in the field of gay and lesbian studies. The awards will carry an average stipend of $35,000, plus $2,000 toward travel, benefits, and relocation costs. The scholars chosen will typically be expected to take up six- month residencies in New York City, where each Fellow will join CLAGS’s ongoing monthly colloquia, (in which scholarship in progress is presented for criticism to a gathering of scholars), and to give one public presentation of his or her work-in-progress.

Since CLAGS believes that much of the pioneering work in gay and lesbian studies has been done by community-based scholars without formal connection to any university, and since it further believes that tenured faculty are able to rely to a greater extent than many others on their salaries to subsidize their research, preference throughout the duration of the award will be given to non-university-affiliated and non-tenured scholars who by their prior work have demonstrated excellence in the field.

CLAGS will also consider the possibility of having each Fellow offer a mini-seminar (a two-credit course that meets for just one month in 4 two-hour sessions) at the CUNY Graduate School. This would allow the Fellows to present and, through exchange, refine their work. And it would also make it possible for graduate students to participate in some of the cutting-edge scholarship in gay/lesbian studies. A mini-seminar would only be offered, however, if theFellow felt that such an experience would enrich, rather than hamper, his or her research. CLAGS wants to be on guard against over-scheduling the Fellows; it is essential to reserve the bulk of their time for their own research.

The first year of the Rockefeller grant, July 1, 1992-June 30, 1993, will be devoted to setting up the Fellowships: creating a brochure describing the awards; advertising them in national, professional, and gay publications; and soliciting proposals. Each year preference will be given to proposals related to the stated theme for that year. The theme in 1993-94 will be “Race and Class in Gay/Lesbian Communities.” For 1994-95, it will be “Self-Concepts in the Gay/Lesbian World,” and in 1995-96. “The History and Practice of Gay/Lesbian Politics.”

To avoid any possible taint or charge of “cronyism,” CLAGS will administer the awards, but will appoint an outside jury of gay/lesbian scholars to actually judge the incoming proposals and decide on the two winning applications each year.

Further details of the competition will be published here in future editions of the CLAGS newsletter. In the meantime, we hope you will join us in rejoicing at this extraordinary bonanza for gay/lesbian studies!