School should be ‘mindful’ of children on campus, says prez
A university president is under intense criticism for his decision to remove a pro-LGBT sign on campus, citing concerns of both the university’s “institutional voice” and the possibility that children on campus might see the sign.
At the University of Central Arkansas, the university’s library recently displayed a pro-gay Lady Gaga quote on an outdoor sign. The quote read: “Being gay is like glitter. It never goes away.” According to Inside Higher Ed, the sign “was up for one day before President Houston Davis ordered it removed.”
In an email to the campus community, Davis defended the decision to remove the sign, citing concerns about the university’s adopting a political position:
It is a core university value that we support our entire community and its diversity. Advocating for our LGBTQ community is not only appropriate but very important. I believe that the intent of the message was to show support for LGBTQ students, faculty and staff, but it was not OK for the university sign to be used to make a personal statement or advocate for a personal viewpoint. That is the line that the sign itself crossed. Unlike our student groups or other organizations, the library is an official arm of UCA and when it ‘speaks’ on that sign which serves information regarding library hours, it speaks officially. We do have to be very careful that we walk the fine line between individual freedom of speech and institutional voice.
Davis also expressed concern that the sign might have been witnessed by children on campus:
Timing of the sign in the summer also was considered. We have to be very mindful of the hundreds of minors that are on campus during the summer which further complicates an environment that is normally programmed for adults and our very meaningful conversations about ourselves and our world.
Reactions to Davis’s announcement were highly critical. On the library’s Facebook page, one user wrote: “This is absolutely shameful. As an alum of this university, I am disheartened by the actions of the university administration and the subsequent ‘excuses’ provided for why this sign was removed.”
Another said: “As an alum of UCA and LGBTQ, I am simultaneously proud of the library staff that created this sign and embarrassed of the administration for being so obtuse and tone deaf. Apparently, glitter and gayness are so offensive to minors they must not be seen or spoken about. Shame on you UCA!”
In a subsequent email, Davis wrote that it was “never [his] intention” to start “a debate about UCA’s values and commitment to diversity.” He stated that the university is “absolutely committed to supporting our LGBTQ students and our entire campus community.”