Higher Education

OU’s drag-queen spending this year exceeds $56,000

Ray Carter | December 12, 2023

In less than one year, the University of Oklahoma has spent at least $56,000 on three separate drag-queen shows, according to documents obtained through open-record requests.

Mandatory student fees paid for the events, regardless of whether students supported drag-queen shows.

On Dec. 2, OU hosted the “Crimson & Queens” drag show. Documents show the university paid $21,201 for the event, including an $11,000 payment to the headliner, whose stage name is Willow Pill. For that sum, Pill agreed to perform a minimum of two songs with 30 minutes in between the two songs and also participate in a 60-minute meet-and-greet event, according to the contract.

OU has paid similar sums to host two other drag-queen events in the past year.

As part of Camp Crimson, described as “an orientation experience designed to assist undergraduate students as they transition into their first year at the University of Oklahoma,” students could attend Drag Bingo on Aug. 15, which the university described as “a signature event during Camp Crimson.”

The celebrity host of Drag Bingo was an individual whose stage name is Kornbread Jete.

OU officials paid Jete $11,000 for the Aug. 15 appearance out of $17,674 total spent on the Drag Bingo event.

On April 28, OU officials paid $18,000 to a drag-queen performer who goes by the stage name of Yvie Oddly to headline another “Crimson & Queens” event.

On the school’s website, OU officials describe “Crimson & Queens” as “the leading annual drag show in Oklahoma” and the “most attended” collegiate drag show in the United States.

The school touted Pill as “the first openly trans person to win a regular season of RuPaul’s Drag Race in the United States.”

In February, Oklahoma higher-education officials reported spending at least $83.4 million on “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) programs and personnel over the last decade. OU Athletics identified sponsorship of the “Crimson and Queens” drag show as part of its DEI expenditures.

According to OU’s website, the total cost of undergraduate flat-rate tuition and mandatory fees for an Oklahoma student is $4,797.45 per semester with $2,262.45 of that total coming from mandatory student fees.

At that rate, a student would have to attend Oklahoma for just over 25 semesters, or roughly 12-and-a-half school years, before his or her mandatory fees would offset the amount spent on OU drag-show events in the past 12 months.

After conducting a national review of public universities, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that between 2002 and 2022 enrollment at OU increased 15 percent but tuition increased by 36 percent even after adjusting for inflation. Once student fees were included, the combined rate of growth was even more dramatic and ranked among the highest in the nation.

“At the University of Oklahoma, per-student tuition and fees rose 166%,” the Journal reported, “the most of any flagship.”

[For more stories about higher education in Oklahoma, visit]

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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