Full Statement: UCA President responds to concerns over gay pride sign removal

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University of Central Arkansas - UCA_-6183351054008432544

Faculty, Staff, and Students:

I wanted to provide an update to all of you of what has occurred, and what I have learned, since my email to you yesterday regarding the Torreyson Library sign.

I understand that the removal of this quote has caused fury and sadness across campus. 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.

I have appreciated the emails and phone calls regarding the matter — as well as conversations within and between meetings on the subject. I met with the library faculty and staff yesterday with regard to this issue. The sign has been a very important vehicle for the library to provide information and celebrate and support various groups and causes. I did learn that they have in the recent past had internal procedures that ensured that the sign was limited to library programs and services. We talked about short- and long-term strategies as well as best practices for making appropriate use of the sign. Also, today I will be meeting with PRISM leadership to hear their concerns. Our Student Services and Student Government Association leadership are also in discussions today regarding this subject. I am very appreciative of all of these groups and their willingness to share their candid thoughts and suggestions. I look forward to continued conversations.

Nothing about the communication yesterday was meant to imply that minors should not be exposed to the LGBTQ community. This is absolutely not how that was intended, but a great deal of feedback has made it clear that some interpretations led to that conclusion. We get numerous complaints in the summer about a host of issues because of the large number of minors on campus. Regardless of the subject matter, we do have to be mindful about all information and debate that typically is designed for students, faculty, and staff.

I also want to address the conclusion that some have come to that, because of this event, UCA does not value, support, and protect our LGBTQ community. That is simply not true. The university offers numerous services, programs, and events in support of this community each year. The Counseling Center collaborates on projects regularly with the PRISM Alliance; provides programming during October, which is LGBT History Month; participates in the Campus Pride Walk and the Little Rock and Conway Pride Parades; offers a safe space to discuss gender and sexual affinity; and provides programs to departments to increase understanding of our LGBTQ community. In addition, our office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion has an LGBTQ+ Affinity Group that has been in place since 2015. The office hosts an annual lavender graduation dinner; a UCA Pride Walk; a PRISM Drag Show Reception for queens and attendees; and it offers transportation to the Little Rock Pride Fest, among other things. You will find me at many of these events, supporting our students and their programs.

Related to the above, I also want to speak for our leadership team and the attention that we pay to defending the importance of every activity and event in the prior paragraph. It probably does not come as a surprise to many of you that we receive a limited amount of inside and a great deal of outside criticism regarding those programs. While I find myself defending them on a predictable annual cycle, I am proud to advocate for all of these programs and services and will always. While I know not to take the criticism personally, my professional record and the record of my leadership team does not merit some of the names that are being hurled nor the label of anti-LGBTQ. Those UCA faculty and staff close to day-to-day administrative operations are vigilant in defending and supporting our LGBTQ community. Not only do we defend, but we also form a large portion of the core group of faculty and staff attendees and participants at these events.

Thank you again for your time, attention, and thoughtfulness about these core values and our efforts to serve our students and community.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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