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South Dakota Higher Ed Policy Hinders Tribal Expressions in Official Correspondence

The University of South Dakota, East Hall.The University of South Dakota, East Hall.University of South DakotaThe South Dakota Board of Regents instated a new policy this year that effectively prohibits the use of gender pronouns and other affiliations by the state’s public university faculty and staff members.

The Board of Regents policy on “communications and branding," which creates standards and expectations for institutional communications and brand management.

The policy prescribes information, graphics, and links that are acceptable for employees to use in official correspondence and, as a result, prohibits the longstanding use of tribal affiliations. South Dakota’s population is roughly 9% Native American.

The policy requires that contact information for an employee originating an official communication be clearly denoted in the communication.

Employees must also maintain consistent branding and message standards across all forms of official communications, limited to about a dozen components of contact information, graphics, or links, such as ones name, job title, addresses, and telephone numbers. The board prohibits components not listed in its policy — that includes pronouns and external affiliations.

News reports indicate that the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota has heard from faculty and students at the University of South Dakota who are concerned about the new policy. The ACLU is considering next steps to address it.

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