KU dean: diversity and inclusion a ‘universal value’ of libraries

Librarians, of all people, are becoming some of the most vocal proponents of diversity and inclusion on college campuses, especially at the University of Kansas.

Campus Reform reported earlier this year that the school was encouraging its students to get involved with the Black Lives Matter movement when it provided a pool of student resources on the topic in its campus library.

Around the same time, librarians from all over the country convened for an annual “National Diversity in Libraries Conference,” where attendees purportedly gathered to “contend with the oppressors within.”

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Now, KU’s libraries have launched a “You Belong Here” campaign targeted at undergraduate students who may feel unwelcome on campus, particularly transgender students, according to LJ World.

Indeed, staff members of the school’s several libraries are invited (but not required) to wear nametags displaying their preferred gender pronouns, and are in turn asked to provide such nametags to any interested students.

“We’ve told all of our front-line employees, if a student asks, give them a button,” said Rebecca Smith, KU libraries executive director of communications and advancement, noting that her staff has had to reorder at least once to keep up with popular demand.

A sign located in one of the libraries advertises the gender-pronoun nametags as an important step in preventing the “misgendering” of students, which can “have lasting consequences.”

“Because gender is, itself, fluid and up to the individual,” the sign contends, “each person has the right to identify their own pronouns.”

“[W]e encourage you to ask before assuming someone’s gender. Pronouns matter!” it continues. “Misgendering someone can have lasting consequences, and using the incorrect pronoun can be hurtful, disrespectful, and invalidate someone’s identity.”

Kevin Smith, dean of libraries, defended the practice as part of the historical mission of libraries, suggesting that diversity and inclusion are “a universal value of libraries.”

“A commitment to support the voices of marginalized people is part and parcel to the libraries’ commitment to the values of the First Amendment,” he concluded.

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