The University of Central Arkansas’s (UCA) President ordered a sign celebrating LGBT Pride Month removed from outside the Torreyson Library.
UCA President Houston Davis took issue with members of the library staff who quoted Lady Gaga on a sidewalk signboard outside the library.
“Being gay is like glitter. It never goes away. — Lady Gaga.” the sign read.
Library staff shared a photo of the sign, as well as a link to the library’s resource guide to LGBTQ issues on the library’s Facebook page.
“The UCA Library is dedicated to maintaining a safe and inclusive space for everyone,” reads that page. “We value the needs, cultures, abilities, and experiences of all individuals, encouraging civility and open discourse in our facilities, collections, services, and people.”
Davis ordered the sign less than 24 hours after it went up, claiming, “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.”
He continued: “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. One outgrowth of that perspective on minors has been a start of a good conversation about best practices how to present or represent issues when minors are on the campus.”
Senior Ashley Nicole Hunter of Conway said Tuesday that the letter so upset her that she was withdrawing from classes, reports Arkansas Online.
“This is doubling down and further insulting us by suggesting we
shouldn’t be exposed to minors,” she said.
UCA tudents, faculty, and alumni have flooded the library’s Facebook page with messages voicing their displeasure with the school’s decision.
“This is absolutely shameful,” wrote university alumni Sarah Zembo. “I am disheartened by the actions of the university administration and the subsequent ‘excuses’ provided for why this sign was removed. I was an employee of the Torreyson Library during my time at UCA and just want to say that I respect and honor the library and the wonderful people who work there who put this sign up- keep doing the great work you do!!
Rachel Winne McAdams thanked the library for their advocacy, writing: “When people are being murdered daily for being trans, and kids are taking their own lives because they’re gay, our institutions, like universities, are in many cases, LIFE SAVING. Creating space on campus for ‘the other’ is never something that should be seen as advancing a personal agenda.”
“I applaud the library,” McAdams added. “I’m ashamed of the administration, but not at all surprised.”
In response to the backlash, Davis said he would be meeting with librarians, LGBTQ advocates, and other concerned individuals over the sign controversy.
“I understand that the removal of this quote has caused fury and sadness across campus,” wrote Davis. “My observation that the library sign is a university platform and should be reviewed as such has morphed into a debate about UCA’s values and commitment to diversity.
Davis added, “I am very sorry that this has been the outcome and that anyone has felt unwelcome or silenced. That was certainly never my intention. We are absolutely committed to supporting our LGBTQ students and our entire campus community.”