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After their university’s president canceled a charity drag show, students found a new venue

<i>Michael Cuviello/AP</i><br/>Dozens gather on March 21 at West Texas A&M University to protest the president's decision to cancel the student drag show.
Michael Cuviello/AP
Dozens gather on March 21 at West Texas A&M University to protest the president's decision to cancel the student drag show.

By Christina Maxouris, CNN

A group of students at West Texas A&M University have announced a new venue for their charity drag show, which was initially set to take place on campus before it was canceled by the school’s president.

The performance, titled “A Fool’s Drag Race,” will occur at the Sam Houston Park in Amarillo, according to a flyer posted by Spectrum WT, the university’s student-led LGBT+ organization. It is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. local time Friday, according to the post.

Proceeds from the show will support The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ young people, the student group said.

West Texas A&M University President Walter V. Wendler announced the cancellation of the student drag show in an email earlier this month. In that email, Wendler said drag shows “discriminate against womanhood,” compared them to blackface and said there was “no such thing” as a harmless drag show, angering both students and free speech advocates and prompting a federal lawsuit.

But the organization putting together the performance was determined to make it a reality, and it began a GoFundMe page which helped them secure the new venue, a group member said. The GoFundMe had raised more than $5,700 as of Thursday evening.

“Despite the pushback we’ve gotten from the university, we’re holding this show no matter what. It doesn’t matter if we have to be off-campus or not, our primary goal is to raise money for a good cause and celebrate our identity at the same time,” K Klein, the secretary of Spectrum WT, told CNN in a statement. “The show must go on.”

Last week, Spectrum WT and two of its student leaders sued Wendler and other officials.

“We are upset and disappointed that President Wendler does not respect the First Amendment and that the Texas A&M System would not lift a finger to protect our First Amendment rights,” Barrett “Bear” Bright, the Spectrum WT president, said in a statement. “We will be seeing President Wendler in court.”

CNN has reached out to Wendler, the university’s vice president, chancellor and members of the Board of Regents of the Texas A&M University System for comment.

The students are represented by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), which said the president’s decision to ban the show on campus violated students’ First Amendment rights.

That lawsuit is ongoing and “will proceed until the First Amendment is restored at West Texas A&M,” a FIRE spokesperson said in an email to CNN.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Andi Babineau and Jeremy Grisham contributed to this report.

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