John Carroll University: Administration Cancels Student-Organized Drag Show


Case Overview


In August 2019, John Carroll University President Michael Johnson announced to student leaders that the university’s administration had unilaterally decided to cancel an annual, student-organized drag show set to take place just a few weeks later. As justification for canceling the event, administrators cited concerns about “divisiveness.” The show, postponed in 2009 due to its “controversial nature” and criticized in a viral student newspaper opinion column in 2018, has a contentious past. On September 10, 2019, FIRE wrote to JCU’s administration to explain that its public promises to respect students’ freedom of expression prevent the administration from prohibiting students from hosting events for fear of controversy. On September 17, the university responded that it disagreed with FIRE’s analysis, and the show remained canceled.