By Daniel Burnett
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a national civil liberties and free speech organization, intervened on behalf of University of Central Arkansas librarians who were censored by their university for displaying a pro-LGBTQ library sign featuring a quote from Lady Gaga. FIRE's letter to President Houston Davis explains how the First Amendment doesn't allow such censorship at a public university, and calls on him to rescind his censorship of the Lady Gaga library sign.
"We see President Houston Davis' poker face and are calling his bluff," said Adam Steinbaugh, author of FIRE's letter. "Librarians at UCA are entitled to expressive rights — and FIRE will defend them."
Censoring the librarians’ sign amounts to viewpoint discrimination prohibited by the First Amendment and principles of academic freedom in several ways:
• As a public institution, the University of Central Arkansas is bound by the First Amendment.
• The expression is by librarians or the library, not the university as an institution.
• The expression takes place in a designated public forum.
Librarians at UCA are faculty members entitled to the full spectrum of expressive and academic freedom. That’s especially true in Arkansas, where the legislature recently passed — and the governor signed — a law discouraging its public universities from censoring campus expression, including by faculty members, that others might find inappropriate.
The Arkansas Times reported last week that President Davis communicated with Republican Sen. Jason Rapert and university trustees before ordering the sign's removal.
FIRE urges President Davis to quickly restore the sign as Pride Month draws to a close. I am happy to connect you with a FIRE representative to speak on this further.
P.S. FIRE has set up a form where you and your readers can write directly to President Davis to tell him to respect expressive rights. Help FIRE fight back against censorship.