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University President Who Banned Drag May Have Violated Texas Law

University President Who Banned Drag May Have Violated Texas Law

A drag queen and West Texas A&M President Walter Wendler

In a matter some might call ironic, the conservative administrator’s unilateral action banning drag performance from campus may violate a free expression law signed by the Republican governor.

As a result of his involvement in the Republican culture wars, West Texas A&M University's president is in hot water after he forced the cancellation of a drag performance on campus and banned all forms of drag at the school. According to the conservative administrator, he's protecting women's honor.

Organizers planned to put on a drag show to support the Trevor Project on March 31. Nevertheless, the school's president announced that drag would not take place because he finds it offensive.

To support his decision to cancel the student drag show, Walter Wendler argued Monday that such performances degrade women and are a form of “derisive, divisive, and demoralizing misogyny.”

Wendler emailed students, faculty, and staff titled: “A Harmless Drag Show? No Such Thing.” The same document appears on his public blog.

In the missive, the school president invoked his Christian beliefs. He positioned himself and Republicans as defenders of and fighters for the rights of women, feminism even.

“Forward-thinking women and men have worked together for nearly two centuries to eliminate sexism,” Wendler wrote. “Women have fought valiantly, seeking equality in the voting booth, marketplace and court of public opinion. No one should claim a right to contribute to women’s suffering via a slapstick sideshow that erodes the worth of women.”

In an attempt to get a sense of Wendler’s understanding of drag history and whether he is familiar with queer history, The Advocate reached out to him but did not hear back immediately.

Toward the conclusion of his explanation for his school-sanctioned bigotry, Wendler seemingly recalls that the event was to raise money for a good cause and appears to lend the cause a tacit endorsement.

“I will not appear to condone the diminishment of any group at the expense of impertinent gestures toward another group for any reason, even when the law of the land appears to require it,” he wrote.

“Supporting The Trevor Project is a good idea. My recommendation is to skip the show and send the dough,” Wendler wrote.

It’s possible the conservative school president won’t be able to implement the censorship he wants thanks to a piece of legislation signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, reports.

Abbott signed SB 18 in 2109, which protects speech on school campuses in Texas. Added to the Texas Education Code was a clause titled “Protected Expression on Campus,” which sought to “insure that all persons may peaceably assemble on campuses of institutions of higher education for expressive activities.”

The regulation states that “the university may not take action against a student organization or deny the organization any benefit generally available to other student organizations at the university on the basis of a political, religious, philosophical, ideological, or academic viewpoint expressed by the organization or of any expressive activities of the organization.”

While it’s unclear how the president’s unilateral mandate squares with the law, reports that the university refused to comment further, citing ongoing litigation after the publication requested clarification.

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