Students Protest John Carroll University’s Decision to Cancel Annual Drag Show

drag queen performer
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Students at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, are protesting the university president’s recent decision to cancel the school’s annual “drag show.” The Jesuit university has been hosting the event showcasing local drag performers since 2013.

John Carroll University’s annual “drag show” has been canceled following last year’s performance, which resulted in campus-wide controversy after Carroll News editor Declan Leary published an op-ed arguing that such events are not appropriate for hosting on Catholic university campuses.

JCU president Michael D. Johnson recently told students that he wants to take a neutral stance on the debate surrounding the issue, and that he believes refraining from hosting the drag show this fall might help him accomplish that goal, according to a report by Cleveland Scene.

In response to the backlash garnered from Leary’s criticism of the drag show, the Carroll News had initially stood by its editor, citing the First Amendment as its reasoning for doing so.

That support, however, was apparently rescinded the following semester when the student newspaper released a statement informing the campus community that it would revise its own editorial guidelines in an effort to censor offensive speech.

The newspaper’s statement also mentioned Leary, who in turn, offered his resignation.

Carroll News adviser and journalism professor Carrie Buchanan later reaffirmed the newspaper’s change of direction, telling Breitbart News that as a private university, JCU is not obliged to uphold the First Amendment, and therefore, can ban “hate speech” from the student newspaper.

When asked to define “hate speech,” the professor conceded that she still needs to figure out what that term means.

Now, it appears the issue of free speech on JCU’s private campus has turned on its head for those supporting the annual drag show, as students, LGBT groups, and others organize protests in response to the university president’s recent announcement.

“We, as students of John Carroll University, would like to take this time to express our disagreement with and disappointment in the decision that President Johnson (he/him/his) has made in regard to the University’s annual drag show,” states a new petition, entitled, Bring Back the JCU Drag Show.

Not all students on campus, however, are in agreement with the circulating petition. According to a report by Fox 8 News, the drag show’s cancellation has elicited mixed reactions among the campus community.

“They don’t need to have the university sponsor activities that go against the teachings of the church,” said one student, in concurrence with the Carroll News editor whose op-ed sparked the initial debate on campus last year.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, on Parler at @alana, and on Instagram.

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