For context, here is the Student Activists' official statement:
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. In a meeting that Dr. Johnson called before the beginning of the semester on August 28th, student leaders Autumn Franz (she/her/hers) ‘20, Eddie Jenkins (he/him/his) ‘20, and Leah VanDine (she/her/hers) ‘20 were informed by President Michael Johnson that he has made the decision to not allow the annual drag show to happen on campus this year, citing many conversations with seminarians, Jesuits, and the Catholic Bishop of Cleveland. However, Dr. Johnson’s decision was minimally influenced by students as evidenced by his few meetings with students, even though many have shown support for the event.
Dr. Johnson made it abundantly clear during the meeting that his decision was firm. While he did listen to our counterarguments, he also stated that he believed that our campus needs to focus on neutrality and education on this topic. Leah VanDine, who serves as the John Carroll Student Government Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, loosely cited Elie Wiesel, reminding Dr. Johnson, “Neutrality always lies on the side of the oppressor.” Eddie Jenkins, President of the John Carroll Student Union Programming Board (SUPB), relayed to the room that the drag show, which would have been in its tenth year, has one of the highest rates of attendance of all campus events put on by SUPB. Jenkins also mentioned that SUPB allocated more money than previous years towards this year’s drag show. Jenkins has expressed that SUPB fully supports the drag show and the LGBTQIA+ community, regardless of the administrative decision to remove the drag show from their program schedule, which would have been held on September 14th. Autumn Franz, the President of JCU’s LGBTQ+ Allies (Allies) organization, spoke to Dr. Johnson from the perspective of current students, prospective students, faculty, and staff who identify as LGBTQ+, alerting Dr. Johnson that this can potentially hurt the reputation of John Carroll as an open, accepting, Jesuit community. She also reminded Dr. Johnson of the results of last year’s incidents, which included LGBTQ+ persons feeling unsafe, unwelcome, and unsupported by administration on campus. These feelings and beliefs were first expressed directly to Dr. Johnson during a meeting with Allies last semester.
Many current students and alumni have expressed support for the drag show and are willing to participate in any student-led action on campus. While we are very disappointed in Dr. Johnson’s decision, we will remain respectful towards the University, the President, and to the students’ academic success during this time. However, we will not be silenced. Our priority is to serve, protect, and preserve the rich and growing community of diverse individuals on John Carroll’s campus. While we plan to fulfill Dr. Johnson’s request for an educational series about the LGBTQ+ community, drag, and its relationship with Catholic and Jesuit teachings, we plan to put our energy towards other events and protests as well.
Please share this on social media and use the tag #DragforJCU !
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