Appendix P



CLGBTQE Commission Reads



 In the 2016–17 academic year, the Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Equity (CLGBTQE) created “Commission Reads,” patterned on the Penn State Reads program. Just as Penn State Reads offers new students a shared text with which to engage, Commission Reads provides an opportunity to engage commission members and the larger LGBTQ community at Penn State with queer historical, intellectual, academic, and literary narratives.

Program Description

 The Commission’s Curriculum Integration Committee (CIC) selected a book pairing two plays by Larry Kramer, The Normal Heart and The Destiny of Me. As summarized by the CIC:

The Normal Heart is a semi-autobiographical story of a writer who cares for his partner as he dies of an unnamed and misunderstood disease in the early 1980s. Themes of injustice, civil rights, love, family, homophobia, resistance, and resiliency permeate the play and resound with current-day audiences, who must still reckon with the ethical, political, and social implications of the virus.

Copies of the book were provided to all Commission members during the Commission’s orientation at the beginning of the academic year, and the Commission publicized a series of Commission Reads events in order to encourage other faculty, staff, students, and community members to read the plays, attend events, and participate in community-wide discussion of the plays and their themes. Although multiple groups on campus organize around LGBTQ identities, the goal of the Commission Reads program is to supplement existing communities in two ways. First, by providing a single themed piece of literature around which events and discussion center, members of the Penn State community from different departments and campuses share in discussion of a single shared experience. Second, the series of discussions and events around an LGBTQ theme provides multiple entry points for members of the broader Penn State community to engage with issues that they may not face in their daily lives.

A series of events were planned throughout the academic year to offer multiple perspectives on the plays as well as grapple with broader questions relating to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Those events include:

From GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) to AIDS: The Emergence of HIV in the 1980s

October 3–December 16, 2016

University Libraries presented a display in conjunction with CLGBTQE’s 2016 Commission Read, The Normal Heart/The Destiny of Me. The exhibit displayed books and other objects related to the emergence of HIV and AIDS in the United States in the early 1980s.

Book Discussion: The Normal Heart/The Destiny of Me

October 4, 2016

Book discussion with Christopher Castiglia, Liberal Arts research professor of English and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies; Kirsten Burkhart, executive director, AIDS Resource; and Christopher Reed, professor of English and visual culture.

An Evening with Larry Kramer

October 13, 2016

Larry Kramer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright and author who became a political and gay rights activist when HIV/AIDS began to spread in the early 1980s. Thirty-five years ago he co-founded Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) in New York City to raise funds and awareness for people at risk for acquiring the disease. Kramer wrote the semi-autobiographical script The Normal Heart, which debuted off-Broadway in 1985. HBO released a film version in 2014.

 Day With(out) Art/World AIDS Day

December 1, 2016

In 1989, Visual AIDS organized the first Day Without Art to coincide with World AIDS Day. A Visual AIDS committee of art workers (curators, writers, and art professionals) sent out a call for “mourning and action in response to the AIDS crisis” that would celebrate the lives and achievements of lost colleagues and friends; encourage caring for all people with AIDS; educate diverse publics about HIV infection; and find a cure. The Palmer Museum of Art shrouded its iconic Paws on December 1, 2016, to remember those who died of AIDS and recognize the profound impact of their loss.

Film Screening: The Normal Heart

January 26, 2017

An introductory lecture on the HIV/AIDS epidemic and legal regulation of HIV/AIDS was delivered by Dara Purvis, assistant professor of law, with Shushan Sadjadi and Brett Atanasio, members of OutLaw.

Paper Views Gallery Talk: “From Realism to Magic: Looking Queerly”

April 28, 2017

Selection curated by Anthony D’Augelli, professor of human development and family studies.


Program Outcomes

The Commission Reads flagship event, An Evening with Larry Kramer, drew over 150 attendees to hear Kramer discuss his work and life. The event was co-sponsored by the LGBTQA Student Resource Center, the Department of English, and the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. The October book discussion had approximately fifteen participants in addition to the discussion leaders. The University Libraries display and Day Without Art were longer-term public displays so do not have clear attendance estimates.

Audience engagement and participation at events has been enthusiastic and well-informed by the plays, indicating that substantial numbers of attendees read the Commission Reads selection before attendance. The Commission is planning to make the Commission Reads program an annual event.


  • Kimberly Blockett
  • Julia Bryan, Vice Chair
  • Dwight Davis
  • Erinn Finke
  • Timothy Lawlor
  • Robert Loeb, Chair
  • John Malchow
  • Adam Malek
  • Karyn McKinney
  • Dara Purvis
  • Eileen Trauth
  • Marcus Whitehurst