LBCC Library’s Statement Regarding Derogatory Comment Found on Civil Discourse Club’s Whiteboard
Sometime late in the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 21, someone wrote a comment on the Civil Discourse Club’s whiteboard that equated Muslim religious clothing with “body bags.” The Librarians discussed whether the comment should stay and decided to hold off erasing it until meeting with club officers and LBCC administrators. In the meantime, the Civil Discourse Club decided on its own to take down the offending comment. Since then we have followed up with various college officials to see what sort of community response might be warranted, which we understand will take place in President Hamann’s regular monthly letter to campus in October.
Until then, this is the Library’s response to the author of the whiteboard comment:
When being invited to write a comment on a public whiteboard, to a question regarding free expression, in a Library that publicly advocates for intellectual freedom, it might be easy to think that the College, the Library, and the Civil Discourse Club might all welcome all forms of expression. This is not the case. The Civil Discourse Club has standards for comments written on its “Etiquette” sign adjacent to the whiteboard. The College’s Administrative Rule 1055 provides “time, place, and manner” parameters around free expression which allows the Library (and other parts of campus) to govern what activity takes place within its walls.
Rather than resort to existing rules to justify our actions, we’d like to take a moment to explain why all forms of expression are not welcome within our facility.
The Library serves everyone who enters its doors. We have athletes using the study tables, future scientists checking out textbooks, and new immigrants in the computer lab learning how to send email. We have real cowboys and cowgirls doing research. The Linn-Benton Students for Life might use our conference room with a group of gamers using the study room next door. The Veterans Club hosted a display honoring fallen soldiers last Veterans Day, near the area where we have offered a presentation on the wearing of the hijab. Transgender and cisgender students work side by side on the computers. The Library can be a busy, chaotic place where people of many different backgrounds, nationalities, genders, faiths and ideologies all gather and, somehow, manage to go about their business and get along. We try to be a campus home to everyone who comes in.
And because we try to be a home to all, there are some things that we cannot allow. Explicitly hostile public expression that directly targets particular groups of people is one of those.
Save for not engaging in criminal behavior, our Library has relatively few rules that we ask users to follow. Keep the noise down in the “quiet zones” of the building. Share scarce materials, like course textbooks. Try to get your checkouts back on time. Above all, make space for others. We don’t know who wrote the whiteboard comment. But if you are reading this response, know that you will still be allowed to access the information you are looking for and you will still be encouraged to make yourself at home here in the Library. And we expect you to act in a way that allows the same for your fellow students.
The Linn-Benton Community College Library Faculty