Cancellation of Drag Benefit Show on Texas Campus Goes Against Norms of Free Expression
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(NEW YORK)—PEN America on Tuesday called the unilateral cancellation of a campus drag benefit show in Texas an “abhorrent trampling on students’ free expression rights.”
West Texas A&M University President Walter Wendler sent a letter to the campus community on Monday announcing that a drag show planned by a student group will not proceed on the grounds that drag is “derisive, divisive, and demoralizing misogyny.” The show was planned as a fundraiser for the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention nonprofit for LGBTQ+ youth. Over 3,000 people have signed a petition to reinstate the show.
“This cancellation is an abhorrent trampling of students’ free expression rights,” said Kristen Shahverdian, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America. “It goes against university policy as well as the norms of open expression on campuses. Drag shows are an art form that deserve protection on campus like any other, and the idea that a university president would cancel this event based on his own political views is precisely the kind of action the First Amendment is meant to protect against. President Wendler must withdraw this letter and allow the students to go forward with the event they planned without this inexcusable viewpoint-based interference. Drag shows should be welcome on campus; censoring speech the university president dislikes should not.”