South Dakota Policy Sparks Debate: Pronouns and Tribal Affiliations Disappear from Public University Email Signatures

South Dakota native American tribal affiliation email signature illustration

A new policy by the South Dakota Board of Regents has ignited controversy. Implemented in December 2023, it restricts the information public university faculty and staff can include in their email signatures. While the policy doesn’t explicitly mention pronouns or tribal affiliations, critics argue it effectively bans these inclusions that were commonly used to promote inclusivity.

What Does the Policy Say?

The policy dictates the content allowed in email signatures for employees of South Dakota’s public universities. It provides a specific list of acceptable information, and anything not on that list is prohibited.

Why the Controversy?

While the policy avoids mentioning pronouns and tribal affiliations directly, its critics argue it disproportionately affects LGBTQ+ and Native American staff members. Including preferred pronouns in email signatures has become a common practice for LGBTQ+ individuals to ensure they are addressed correctly. Similarly, Native American staff often included their tribal affiliations as a badge of identity and cultural heritage.

The lack of pronouns makes it difficult for colleagues and students to address faculty and staff respectfully, potentially creating an unwelcoming environment for LGBTQ+ individuals. Removing tribal affiliations is seen by some as an erasure of Native American identity and a step back from promoting diversity within the universities.

Impact and Reactions

Reports indicate that some university employees have already received warnings for violating the policy. This has sparked outrage from faculty associations, student groups, and civil liberties organizations. They argue the policy restricts free speech and creates a hostile work environment for certain groups.

The South Dakota Board of Regents has defended the policy, stating it aims for a standardized and professional email signature format across all public universities. However, calls for revising the policy to allow for pronouns and tribal affiliations continue to grow.

The Issue in Context

This policy comes amidst a larger national debate about identity and inclusion. Including pronouns in email signatures has become increasingly common in workplaces and educational institutions across the US. South Dakota’s policy stands in contrast to this trend and raises questions about the state’s commitment to diversity and inclusion within its public universities.

What’s Next?

The policy is still relatively new, and its long-term effects remain to be seen. Legal challenges and continued public pressure may lead to revisions. It’s a developing situation, and one to watch for those interested in issues of free speech,identity politics, and inclusivity within educational institutions.

Finding Common Ground: MiroSign as a Potential Solution

While the debate around the policy continues, there are email signature management solutions that can help navigate this issue. Tools like MiroSign allow individual users to set their preferred pronouns within their email signatures. This functionality empowers employees to maintain their identity and fosters a more inclusive work environment.

MiroSign also offers the ability to incorporate tribal affiliations within the company logo or a promotional banner displayed in the email signature. This provides a designated space for this information while adhering to a standardized email signature format.

Whether or not the South Dakota policy is revised, solutions like MiroSign can provide a path towards a more inclusive and professional email communication system for universities across the country.

South Dakota Board of Regents clamps down on use of tribal affiliations in email signatures

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