Tennessee Technological University: President Punishes Student Groups Over Drag Show


Tennessee Technological University

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Case Overview

On August 20, 2022, Tennessee Technological University’s Backdoor Playhouse held a drag show hosted by Upper Cumberland Pride, a local LGBTQ+ rights advocacy organization, and two university-recognized student groups, Lambda Gay-Straight Alliance and Tech Players. On September 7, a spliced video of the show prompted condemnation online. The next day, Tennessee Tech President Philip Oldham canceled the student groups’ scheduled events and launched an investigation of the event because he was“disturbed and dismayed” by the drag show, which he claimed did not “represent Tech’s values.” On September 15, FIRE sent Tennessee Tech a letter explaining that the First Amendment protects student groups’ expressive events, and calling on it to reinstate their events and to end its investigation into protected expression.