Transgender Issue Creates Controversy at UAFS

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Melanie Stout is angry.

The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS) student and managing editor of the school newspaper, said she has tried to follow up with involved UAFS administration in a recent conflict between the university and transgender student Jennifer Braly, but cannot find anyone willing to speak with her.

The issue began when Braly was asked by Dr. Laura King to speak on the issue of gender identity disorder for King’s general psychology classes.

The two planned lectures were on King’s syllabus, according to Braly, and were set to occur on April 20. At 4 p.m., April 19, Dr. Rita Barrett, associate professor and department head in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at UAFS, sent an email informing Braly her lectures were cancelled.

Barrett’s reasoning was that “all of my faculty are now diligently preparing for the closure of the semester.”

The email continued: “They must be in compliance with their syllabi, grading, final exams, graduation exercises, etc. and it is impossible to afford more class time to accommodate an additional speaker at one week before finals.”

Braly’s response inquired why, if it was a time issue, that instructor Charles Rogers was allowed a guest speaker the same week in his philosophy class. Braly told The City Wire that Barrett has not responded to her question.

After speaking again with King, Braly was told she could follow through with the lectures, but before she could, Dr. Henry Rinne, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at UAFS, showed up at the class and prevented her from doing so.

“He said that he was told by administrative staff I couldn’t speak in any classroom settings, period, and that’s all he could tell me,” Braly said.

In a later meeting with UAFS Provost Ray Wallace, Braly alleged that the story had changed from being a “function of time” to being a “question of my credentials to speak on the subject.”

Braly said she is confused by the questioning of her credentials because she has “given 15 to 20 lectures on campus already” and “Dr. Nicha Otero (assistant professor, Department of Psychology at UAFS) has recommended me to speak on this subject at the university and high school levels.”

UAFS officials admit “there were miscommunications,” but that “the cancellation of the class and postponement of the student’s speech had absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter or the student’s status.”

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