UCA students react to gay pride quote being removed

UCA students react to gay pride quote being removed
The University of Central Arkansas in Conway. (Source: University of Central Arkansas via Facebook)

CONWAY, Ark. (KAIT) -The mood on the campus at the University of Central Arkansas is one of unrest since administration removed a quote from a sign, according to news affiliate KATV.

The quote was from Lady Gaga and said, “Being gay is like glitter, it never goes away.”

A spokesperson for UCA, Amanda Hoelzeman, said the university is focusing on its need to ensure its platform is consistent with its institutional voice.

Students like Dakota Dollarhide are outraged.

“It makes us all look bad as a whole, honestly, because not everyone has the same belief that we should hide these things,” Dollarhide said. “It’s hard to say you're so diverse and that you're welcoming everyone when something as small as a sign is enough to cause such backlash."

According to Hoelzeman, the quote was put up by library staff.

Student Justin Meadows said he felt removing the quote sent a bad message to members of the LGBTQ community.

"I think it kind of hurts them, in a way,” Meadows said. “Because when the years pass more people are coming out, so that kind of hurts them that people are still like against them, not accepting them.”

However, student Josh Nix told KATV that while the university has the right to remove the sign, he doesn’t agree it was the right thing to do.

"I think it should've been left. No big deal should've been made about it,” Nix said.

Since the quote was removed, students have left a number of sticky notes on the popup stand, expressing support for the LGBTQ community.

"The UCA Bear Mascot was allowed to perform at a church function which promotes 'personal views', and we can't have a sign in front of the library," a UCA alumnus pointed out.

According to KATV, UCA President Houston Davis responded on Wednesday with the following statement:

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.

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