A sign baring a Lady Gaga quote was up for no more than a day before the university president ordered for it to be taken down.
President of the University of Central Arkansas Houston Davis removed the sign – put up to celebrate LGBTI Pride month – as there is a ‘fine line’ between ‘individual freedom of speech and institutional voice.’
Moreover, the president expressed concern that ‘minors’ attending summer school programs may see the sign, which simply read: ‘”Being gay is like glitter. It never goes away.” – Lady Gaga.’
But unlike glitter, this sign did go away, and people weren’t happy about it.
There’s always a sign outside Torreyson Library. Sometimes, library staff use it to display crucial information, such as opening hours and their return policy.
At other times, the sign is used to celebrate times of year – birthdays, national holidays, or campus sports activities.
This month, according to Inside Higher Ed, library management placed the Lady Gaga quote to celebrate LGBTI Pride month.
Moreover, the library posted a photo of the sign to its Facebook page. Alongside the message ‘We have so much love and respect’ for ‘the LGBTQ members of our community.’
But just after a single day, 11 June, the university president ordered for its removal.
Supporting LGBTI people is a ‘personal viewpoint’
In an email sent by the president to library director, Dean Covington, under the subject ‘Library Sign Issue,’ David expressed that while he supports the college’s diverse community, younger students on summer schools should be shielded from it.
He wrote: ‘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.’
Davis said that as the library is an official arm of the university, it must conform. ‘We do have to be very careful that we walk the fine line between individual freedom of speech and institutional voice.’
Furthermore, he added: ‘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.’
The email was later shared to the wider faculty and students, on Davis’ request.
‘Shame on you, UCA!’
While the sign is gone, the library’s Facebook pade has continued to drop pro-LGBTI posts. From recommending queer movies (which can be checked-out from the library) to ‘Pride Month Books.’
Across this, UCLA alumni and current students have expressed their frustration over Davis’ wishes.
‘As an alum and a library worker I’m sending all my love and support to everyone at Torreyson! Y’all are awesome!’ wrote Katilyn Townsend-Gray, an alumni and current library worker.
Another alum wrote: ‘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!’
UCA president responds to removing
After many on campus criticized Tuesday’s email, Davis sent another on Wednesday (12 June). He said he was meeting groups of librarians, LGBTI advocates, and others to hear their concerns.
‘I understand that the removal of this quote has caused fury and sadness across campus,’ he wrote in the second email.
‘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.
‘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.’