A Tennessee university president has canceled future drag shows that were previously held on campus, citing “disturbing” content that targeted minors and mocked Christians.
President Phil Oldham of Tennessee Tech University (TTU) issued a statement after a video of a drag show held on campus went viral on Twitter.
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“I am disturbed and dismayed about the activities in a video circulating on social media from a recent event on Tennessee Tech’s campus,” he wrote.
“I do not feel the activities in the video represent Tech’s values, and I do not condone explicit activity where minors are present,” he added. “I also am offended by disparaging mockery toward any religious group.”
TTU frequently hosted drag shows at Backdoor Playhouse theater and advertised them to all ages.
But a video posted on Twitter by child protection advocate Landon Starbuck went viral and caught the attention of the school’s president.
“These all-ages drag shows have been going on for a long time now on campus,” she wrote.
According to the DailyWire, a man dressed as a sad monk comes out onto the stage to a song that mocks faith. The music changes and a drag performer strips down to a bodysuit. Minors with cash in their hand are seen running to the stage and an audience cheers.
In a thread, Landon Starbuck had mentioned that the school planned to host another event later this month and told parents who send their children to the school to contact Oldham and the school’s dean, Dr. Lisa Zagumny.
In his statement, Oldham clarified that the show was not a university-sponsored event and it would be investigated.
Prior events were held at Backdoor Playhouse theater by Upper Cumberland Pride, TTU’s Lambda Gender and Sexuality Alliance, and TTU’s drama club Tech Players.
Upper Cumberland Pride told the DailyWire that the content of their drag show was “misrepresented.”
“The accusations made on social media are not only false but damaging to all those involved. Our hope is to resolve this misunderstanding with the university and continue to educate the community about our organization and the LGBTQIA+ community,” stated the organization.
“No child was put in any sexual situation, nor have they ever been at any event held by UCP,” the organization asserted. “When we hold all ages events, performers are asked to ensure that song lyrics are clean and that there is no sexual connotation to their performances. We want everyone in attendance to feel safe, welcome, and to have a good time.”
University alumni, parents, and students commented on the controversy saying:
“I’m a TTU alum and a Cookeville native. I’m also a Christian. I am so disappointed, disgusted, and ashamed. This can’t happen again,” Alison Hughes Maynor wrote.
“As a tuition-paying parent, I’m disgusted that this sort of event is allowed to take place on campus. I expect University leadership to take action against those organizations hosting such events,” Perry Anderson said.
Others criticized the president’s decision to cancel the drag shows.
“As a former TTU student, I wish that the university and Cookeville as a whole had been a more inclusive environment back then. Nothing inappropriate happened in this video people are talking about, if you’re upset about it just be honest about the fact that you hate LGBTQ+ people so that we can all be clear on that,” Jeff Garretson charged.
“Another alumna here…I’d be much happier to see the university actually sponsoring this kind of event as a signal that they welcome their diverse student body — including LGBTQ+ ones — than continuing to knee-jerk investigate a show that makes some gentle fun of the area’s dominant culture,” Kaitrin Mahar said.
Starbuck’s husband, film director and producer Robert Starbuck, pushed back saying he was glad the president responded and is “taking child safety seriously by canceling all future events”.
“It’s insane that we live in a time where you’re branded as an extremist by some if you believe kids have a right to not be subjected to the sexual kinks of adults and the right to an innocent childhood,” he wrote in another post. “It’s a good thing I don’t care. I’ll never back off of fighting this evil.”
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