Ray Carter | August 14, 2023
As tuition and fees soar, OU features drag queen at freshman orientation
As part of Camp Crimson at the University of Oklahoma this week, new students can participate in a number of activities, including a “Queer Tour” and a drag-queen show.
This on the heels of an Aug. 10 report in The Wall Street Journal that identified OU as imposing the largest tuition-and-fee increases of any flagship university in the nation.
Camp Crimson, which is described as “an orientation experience designed to assist undergraduate students as they transition into their first year at the University of Oklahoma,” runs for eight days.
On Aug. 15, incoming OU students can take the Queer Tour, which the school describes as “a guided adventure through campus that connects students to resources, allies, and queer-friendly spaces across campus.”
The event includes “free drag performances featuring local/student performers with a celebrity host from RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
The celebrity host is Kornbread Jete. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs has filed an open-records request with OU to learn how much Jete was paid to participate in the OU drag show but has not received a response as of publication.
However, a drag queen hired by the university last spring to headline the University of Oklahoma’s annual “Crimson & Queens” drag show was paid $18,000 by the university for that appearance. The “Crimson & Queens” headliner, Yvie Oddly, was also a former contestant on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
On Twitter, Jete recently posted two photos of himself—one from 2021 and one from 2023. In the 2021 photo, Jete is in male attire with a close-cropped haircut while holding a black chicken. In the 2023 photo, Jete is in drag as a female.
Jete tweeted, “2021 vs 2023. But I still carry my big black c--k around. Ya just can’t see it.” (Hyphenation not in original.)
After officials learned that OU had paid a drag performer $18,000, lawmakers responded by giving state colleges, including OU, $130.3 million in new funding, an increase of 14.9 percent that pushed total state spending on colleges above $1 billion.
OU’s continued promotion (and potential funding) of drag performers comes as the college’s financial practices have drawn national, negative attention.
The Aug. 10 article in The Wall Street Journal found that some of the best-known public universities “have been on an unfettered spending spree” with the bill passed on to students, and the paper identified OU as one of the worst offenders.
“The University of Oklahoma hit students with some of the biggest tuition increases, while spending millions on projects including acquiring and renovating a 32,000-square-foot Italian monastery for its study-abroad program,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
Between 2002 and 2022, the Journal found that enrollment at OU increased 15 percent, but tuition increased by 36 percent even after adjusting for inflation. And once student fees were included the combined rate of growth was even more dramatic.
“At the University of Oklahoma, per-student tuition and fees rose 166%, the most of any flagship,” the Journal reported. “The school also borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars to perform building upgrades and erect new dormitories.”
The $18,000 paid last spring to Oddly to perform in OU’s “Crimson & Queens” drag show was taken out of mandatory student fees. OU defended the expenditure, telling Fox News Digital that the university “embraces our commitment to ensuring diverse voices and beliefs are represented across all OU campuses.”
On Aug. 10, the same day The Wall Street Journal article was published, OU President Joseph Harroz, Jr., sent an email to the “OU community” that dismissed concerns about the college’s financial practices.
In his email, Harroz wrote that it is important for OU officials to be “honest, bold, and clear-eyed” and engage in “making candid self-assessments.”
Although the Journal found that OU hiked per-student tuition and fees by 166% over the last two decades, Harroz responded that “the average annual cost of tuition and fees at OU, after factoring in discounts, has decreased by 6% for Oklahoma residents compared to five years ago.”
[For more stories about higher education in Oklahoma, visit AimHigherOK.com.]
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.