Tennessee Tech punishes student groups that engage in hazing activities

Two groups of students at Tennessee Tech University are now facing one. Examination After putting on a drag show at the campus theater. On the 20th of AugustThLocal organization Upper Cumberland Pride and two university student groups, Lambda Gay-Straight Alliance and Tech Players, put on a drag show at the university’s Backdoor Playhouse.

A clip from the show features a kid giving money to a drag artist to lip-sync to “Take Me to Church.” Posted On September 7 on TwitterTh By anti-trafficking advocate Landon Starbucks

“Tennis Tech University Produces Drag Show That Shows Young Kids Paying Drag Queen To Dance, Clearly To Make fun of Christians”. He tweeted. Starbucks. “Every parent paying to send their kids to @tennesseetech needs to know this is what they are allowing on campus.”

The clip quickly garnered outrage, and Tennessee Tech’s administration sprang into action and launched one Examination The joint cancellation of the two clubs and two upcoming events from the organizations. In addition, the clubs have been banned from hosting additional events during the investigation.

University President Phil Oldham wrote: “I am saddened and troubled by the recent incident on the campus of Tennessee Tech in a video that has been shared on social media.” press release. “I don’t think the actions in the video represent Tech’s values ​​and I don’t condone blatant behavior in the presence of minors. I’m also offended by the mockery of any religious group.”

Oldham Added On campus, “programs must not include offensive, sexually explicit or explicit activities” and the investigation will look at “the inappropriate involvement of minors and an examination of our policies and procedures.”

However, there is one problem with Tennessee Tech’s plans—they lack the legal authority to punish student organizations for drag performance.

On September 15ThSent by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. Letter For Tennessee Tech’s administration, the school must inform the school that drag shows are expressive content protected by the First Amendment, and as a public university, Tennessee Tech cannot punish students for hosting them.

“As a public institution bound by the First Amendment, it cannot investigate or punish student groups for their private affairs,” said FIRE attorney Zachary Greenberg of Tennessee Tech. Letter to the university. “Manners are considered expressive when they enter traditionally protected genres such as art, theater, and dance—even if they do not convey a ‘narrow, succinct message’.”

Furthermore, despite Oldham’s claims, the club’s drag performance does not meet the legal definition of obscenity – far from it, in fact. “It’s not just offensive events that are obscene,” Greenberg said. Reason. “Indecent, typically hard-core pornography has no artistic, literary or social value. No reasonable university could say this student drag show is unprotected obscenity.”

Public universities are permitted to set reasonable, content-neutral “time, place and manner.” Limitations Tennessee Tech’s actions on speech fall far short of that standard. Ward v. Rock on racism. Ward He established a three-pronged test for determining reasonable “time, place, and manner” limits on speech. Admissible restrictions are content-neutral, narrowly tailored to the interests of the larger government, and do not unreasonably restrict alternative ways of expressing speech. For example, acceptable restrictions on student speech may include limiting the noise level of protests at night or posting flyers in a manner that causes damage to property.

Punishing a student group for an “obnoxious” drag performance is clearly unconstitutional, not only because it stifles First Amendment-protected speech, but Tennessee Tech’s attempts to limit these performances to acceptable “time, place and manner” limits. Banning drag shows is not only not content-neutral, it also has no governmental purpose and does not provide alternative means for the shows to occur.

Drag shows – including those featuring children – are playing a major role in our culture wars. However, no matter how much the drag show offends Tennessee Tech administrators, the First Amendment prohibits pearl-clutchers from using their personal opinions on an unwilling student body.

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