For Raymond Crossmanpresident of Adler University, a Chicago school for social and health sciencesthe recent weeks under the Trump Administration have played out eerily similar to the years under the Reagan Administration.
That unease led Crossman to make an important decision. On March 11, Salon printed a commentary wherein Crossman publicly disclosed his HIV status for the first time.
"I have lived with HIV for about 30 years, and yet this disclosure is a new one for me to offer in my professional life," Crossman wrote. "I am a university president who has been out as a gay man across my career, but up until now, disclosure about my HIV status has been on a need-to-know basis."
Crossman told Windy City Times that "an uneasy dÃ©ja vu" compelled the article.
"The [current] time really made me feel the same way that the '80s and '90s felt for me as a gay man growing up in New York City," he explained. "With the context of a lot of hate speech being directed at members of my community, government indifference, oppression and all of the resulting consequences."
He eschewed the idea of making comparisons between marginalized groups in past decades and now, but said, "What I can say is, I know how I felt being in a marginalized group in the '80s. I know that I felt that the government had given up on me. We believed everyone hated us, because we heard it all the time. It does make me wonder if the experience of other marginalized groups feels something like mine did in the '80s. That is one of the drivers that led me to want to speak out about this."
He has headed Adler University for about 13 years, which is, by the standards of higher education, a long tenure in a presidency role; the average length is about five years, he said. Crossman said that Adler's culturewhich has a strong component for social justicewas another impetus for the disclosure. Colleagues have been supportive of his decision to go public.
"Other university presidents don't have the privilege of doing this," he said. "I'm very grateful for the context in which I work at Adler."