The housing staff at University of Wisconsin-Madison regularly puts together bulletin-board displays on such important topics as fire safety, study tips, and career possibilities. But a new bulletin board devoted to sexuality has sparked controversy among students and their parents.
According to Breitbart.com which reported on the story, the bulletin board titled, “Let’s Talk About ‘Sex’uality,” features a series of folded cards in a rainbow of colors defining terms related to sexual orientation. These terms include “Genderqueer,” “Pansexual,” “Cisgender,” and “Ze/Zir/Hir” which are alternative pronouns meant to eliminate the sexist use of such words as “he” and “she.” The center of the board features a list of states that “prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
One of the most controversial features of the board is the card describing “heterosexual privilege” which defines it as “benefits automatically derived from being (or being perceived) as heterosexual.”
The display is controversial not solely for its content, but rather because it occupies space designated by the university for educational purposes and was created by university personnel, not students. There is no corresponding university display reflecting a more traditional understanding of sexuality and related terms.
Breitbart quotes UW Director of Residence Life Fred Fotis who told the news organization that only housing staff are allowed to create the display boards which must be “reviewed by the Residence Life Coordinator, who is the live-in professional staff member in the building.”
While some students interviewed by Breitbart saw no problem with the display’s characterization of heterosexuals as privileged, others disagreed.
Commented sophomore Lauren Kaberlein:
I have never heard of heterosexual privilege until seeing this bulletin board and have no idea where that concept came from… In my opinion that space should be used to display useful information related to resident life, not peddle one-sided talking points.