'Campus is about to get a whole lot gayer': Defunded Draggieland sparks campus conflict

After Texas A&M University refused to fund this year's Draggieland show, student organizations began debating the role the administration has in funding student-led events.

'Campus is about to get a whole lot gayer,' a student group told Campus Reform.

Queer student organizations at Texas A&M University rallied together to bolster a sold-out drag performance after the university revoked support for the event.

The event, known as "Draggieland," was held on-campus at Rudder Theater on Apr. 18. This year marked the third annual performance of the show.

While the event has previously received university support and funding, this year's show faced barriers after the university stated that it would no longer front the money for the event to be held.

According to a university spokesperson, the decision was made due to the financial stability the event proved to have over the past two years.

"The first two years of the event were very successful from a financial standpoint- it was standing room-only," a university spokesperson told Campus Reform. "Since the show had a proven record of being able to support itself, the Division of Student Affairs decided to allow that funding to instead be made available for use by student organizations without such resources and financial success."

[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: University of Arkansas spends $10,000 in student fees on Zoom drag show]

Instead, students were charged with fundraising the money to foot the bill resulting in a collaborative effort from multiple queer-minded organizations to make up the loose ends.

Allied organizations included oSTEM, LGBTQ+ Aggies, Transcend, and Makeup Artist Aggies.

The decision spurred conflicting opinions from political groups across the aisle.

Aggies for Liberty, a student organization that promotes and spreads "the message of Liberty," told Campus Reform that while it is important for students to be able to express themselves on a college campus, it is not the responsibility of the university to fund such programs.

"Public universities should be places of freedom of expression," the group stated. "We also believe that the university should not give funds to any student organization. These funds should be raised privately."

The group furthered their argument by reasoning that there is "no good reason for a liberal students money being used on a YAF event," therefore it does not make sense for "conservatives students money [to be] used on [Draggieland]."

Contrastingly, a representative of Draggieland told Campus Reform that the decision to refuse funding "angered" and "saddened" the group. Additionally, seeking independent funds allowed for multiple groups to form the "Queer Empowerment Council," which will now serve as the host of Draggieland.

"QEC will serve as the new host of Draggieland where we will delegate Draggieland profits to fund lgbtq events on-campus and also future Draggielands," the group explained. "Campus is about to get a whole lot gayer!"

[RELATED: Students stage drag show in university affiliated church]

Texas A&M Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) released a published statement on the drag show, echoing similar sentiments to Aggies for Liberty in that while the group does "support Draggieland's right to freedom of expression" they do not support the event.

"Texas A&M YAF remains committed to promoting traditional gender norms and roles at Texas A&M," the organization wrote, "and is committed to fighting against the breakdown of the family and the line between what is a man and a woman."

The statement continued, stating "It is worth noting that Draggieland's organizers made much commotion for suddenly having their funding canceled. This is a step in the right direction." 

Texas A&M YAF has hosted numerous speakers at the Texas campus to share a conservative perspective, most notably Matt Walsh, Senator Ted Cruz, and Vice President Mike Pence. Still, the group acknowledged that the university should not fund "politically diverse events."

Rather, "students who wish to put them on should have to do the fundraising themselves."

Draggieland responded to the tweet and shared their rebuttal with Campus Reform.

"Being Queer is not politically divisive and the university SHOULD be funding greater representation on-campus!" the group stated. "The fight to be represented on our university should not fall on us, the students, this is the administration's job."

Despite the controversy, Draggieland was performed in front of a sold-out audience. The event featured six Drag Queens, with one being crowned "Queen of Draggieland."

Draggieland organizers accredited community support to the show's turnout.

"The statement we would like to make to the College Station community is thank you for shining through with us," Draggieland told Campus Reform. "We deserve more queer spaces than we think we do."

Draggieland told Campus Reform that they hope to grow the event to be even bigger than the 750-person crowd next year.

Prior to its inaugural show in 2020, conservative students organized a petition that garnered over 1,800 supporters to "Stop Draggieland."

Campus Reform contacted all student organizations involved and the university for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.