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Opinion: Oldham cancels student Organization events over drag show

Treasurer of Lambda, Cadence Miller, helps set up Lambda’s bake sale held on Sept.9 to raise funds for future projects. Photo by Elliot Payne.

On Wednesday, Tech’s official Instagram account posted a letter by President Phil Oldham referencing a video that was shared by several social media accounts of a drag show at the Backdoor Playhouse.

Oldham wrote, “As of now, all public events scheduled on campus by these sponsoring organizations are canceled pending a review.”

Although Oldham did not reference them by name in the letter, the two organizations that sponsored the event are Tech’s LAMBDA club and Tech Players.

Oldham claims these groups are under review but gave no further comment on the nature of the review or who would be conducting it.

E Vigil, president of the LAMBDA organization, stated, “As far as we know, we haven’t been reached out to about canceling our events. When I talked to Dr. Stubbs, I explicitly asked him, ‘Are we okay to have this bake sale because this was already scheduled?’” Dr. Stubbs responded saying they could still have their bake sale. 

Oldham’s letter was a response to Robby Starbuck and his wife, Landon, — a  Nashville politician who was removed from the Republican primary ballot while running for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District. Starbuck is known to attack institutions of higher education throughout the state for so-called “woke” values and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Starbuck took to social media, demanding Tech administration to take action after misrepresenting a drag show put on by Upper Cumberland Pride, a non-profit organization who strives to educate the Upper Cumberland community about issues faced within the queer community. 

Starbuck tagged the university in a Facebook saying the following:

“Tennessee Tech had a drag show with kids in attendance on their campus with a theme mocking Christianity. Tennessee Tech University should be ashamed this took place on their campus. Do they condone drag shows for kids and using school resources to mock Christians? It sure looks like it. Wow. Does Lisa Zagumny, Dean of TTU, condone this? Do tuition or alumni funds contribute to these “backdoor playhouse” events? Tennesseans deserve answers,” Starbuck said in a Facebook post.

“We gave the left control of these schools, even in red states. They use the schools as indoctrination centers for their belief systems. They’re all infected on some level. Want this to stop? Alumni at every school need to use their time and $ to demand leadership changes across the board to get people in power who reflect the values of the vast majority of our state and our citizens,” he continued. 

The drag shows are held at the Backdoor Playhouse in partnership with the student organization, Lambda Gay-Straight Alliance (Lambda GSA,) and can be attended by all ages. All donations made go to the organization and their efforts on representing the marginalized group; many of whom are students, were students or will be students.

Oldham describes the show as “disparaging mockery” that was pointed towards a religious group. Oldham then distanced the university from the event that was held at the Backdoor Playhouse by stating, “To be clear, this was not a university sponsored event. No university funds were used.” 

Upper Cumberland Pride’s Executive Board put out a statement Thursday and said the accusations made on social media are false and harm all who are involved.

“We are disheartened and dismayed by the recent misrepresentation of our event held at Tech,” the statement said. “Our hope is to resolve this misunderstanding with the university and continue to educate the community about our organization and the LGBTQIA+ community.”