Higher Education

Ray Carter | April 26, 2022

College leaders duck question on OSU ‘drag queen story hour’

Ray Carter

The Oklahoma State University Office of Multicultural Affairs recently announced it was hosting a “Drag Queen Story Hour” that was “geared towards ages 2-8.”

Critics said the event amounted to “ideological grooming” of children.

Do officials with oversight of state colleges believe the event was a proper use of taxpayer facilities and aligned with OSU’s mission? And if not, what action do they plan to take?

For the most part, those officials have adopted a “duck and cover” policy in response.

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs contacted several members of the Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical Colleges, which has oversight of OSU, by phone or email seeking comment.

The board members contacted included Billy G. Taylor, Rick Davis, Dr. Trudy Milner, Jarold Callahan, Joe D. Hall, Jimmy Harrel, Rick Walker, and Blayne Arthur.

Only one of those officials provided a response. It came through a public-relations official and was described as “an official response on behalf of the entire Board of Regents.”

“As Regents, we also received a variety of comments, concerns, and opinions,” said the statement from Dr. Trudy Milner, chair of the OSU/A&M Board of Regents. “As such, we have asked President (Kayse) Shrum to look into the matter. We supported President Shrum’s comments in her statement, and we share her commitment to creating a learning environment where people are valued and respected at OSU.”

The statement did not specify if regents felt the event was appropriate, aligned with the university’s core mission, or if any potential policy changes were pending.

The referenced statement from OSU President Shrum said that the event prompted “an immediate and strong reaction from people offering a variety of opinions and comments” with “the attendance of elementary-aged children” being “one repeated concern.”

“We will use this occasion to consider our policies,” Shrum said. “Any adjustments to policies would bring greater certainty, clarity and processes to ensure alignment with our educational mission while adhering to state and federal law. While our look at our policies and practices will be helpful, at the end of the day, we must take into account that the event did not complement our institutional mission, a point we must acknowledge and consider moving forward.”

A request for comment was also sent to Chancellor Allison D. Garrett, the chief executive officer for the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, and Jeffrey W. Hickman, a former speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives who now serves on the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education is the constitutional coordinating board for the Oklahoma colleges and universities responsible for allocating state funds, setting admission standards and academic policies.

Garrett responded with a statement that did not address the key questions raised or whether the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education considered a college “Drag Queen Story Hour” geared towards two-year-old children to be appropriate.

“Our public colleges and universities must make decisions regarding events within the confines of the First Amendment and under the oversight of their respective governing boards,” Garrett responded. “As the coordinating board for the state system of higher education, the State Regents’ responsibilities include prescribing academic standards, determining functions and programs of study at state colleges and universities, granting degrees, requesting appropriations on behalf of state system institutions, setting tuition and fees, approving institutional allocations and, upon review, providing final approval of institutional budgets following governing board approval and submission.”

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

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.

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