Higher Education

After ‘Drag Queen Story Hour,’ OSU president says ‘we will use this occasion to consider our policies’

April 19, 2022

Brandon Dutcher

“At Oklahoma State University, we celebrate LGBTQ Pride during April,” the OSU Office of Multicultural Affairs recently announced. One of the many events and programs offered “in honor of LGBTQ Pride” was a “Drag Queen Story Hour” which was “geared towards ages 2-8.” (The age recommendation was scrubbed from the OSU website after a FOX News reporter inquired about it.)

One of the featured stories was Red: A Crayon's Story. “A blue crayon mistakenly labeled as ‘red’ suffers an identity crisis in this picture book,” according to the book’s description. “Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue.”

Inviting drag queens to read to toddlers seemed like a bad idea to me, but I’m quirky that way. I reached out to others for their perspective.

“It’s deeply disturbing that gender activists are now trying to catechize even preschools with gender ideology,” Jay W. Richards, a research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told me in an email. “People object to the label grooming. But what exactly is it when young children are exposed, in an educational environment, to drag queens—who are, by definition, hypersexualized caricatures of women? They are sexual parodies of women by men. And what should we call picture books designed to teach kids that they might have a ‘gender identity’ distinct from their biological sex? I can think of no better word for these activities than ideological grooming.”

I also sent an email to Irissa Baxter-Luper, Coordinator of Women’s and LGBTQ Affairs in the OSU Office of Multicultural Affairs, asking her for a comment and any available photos from the event. An automated reply indicated that she is traveling and will reply to my message on April 25.

In addition, I reached out to the members of the Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical Colleges: Calvin J. Anthony, Billy G. Taylor, Rick Davis, Trudy Milner, Jarold Callahan, Joe D. Hall, Jimmy Harrel, Rick Walker, and Blayne Arthur. I received a reply from Megan Horton, OSU’s Interim Associate Vice President of Brand Management. “We were forwarded your inquiry to the OSU/A&M Board of Regents regarding this event. You will find below a statement from OSU President Kayse Shrum.” It reads:

I became aware of the event when members of my executive team brought a social media post about the event to my attention. The post prompted an immediate and strong reaction from people offering a variety of opinions and comments. While this event was open to the public, the attendance of elementary-aged children was one repeated concern. I appreciate the many different inputs and perspectives, and will take them into consideration. I also have concerns.

As a state institution, we are committed to ensuring events and programs align with our education, research and extension mission. Additionally, we must consider if events and programs complement our historic values.

We want all students, staff and faculty members to feel welcomed and valued as individuals. In order to do so, OSU must remain true to our core mission.

We will use this occasion to consider our policies. 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.

Regrettably, however, the “diversity” horse is already out of the barn and I’m not sure even the president could put it back in. OSU has a chief diversity official (he is paid $203,520 annually) and a burgeoning bureaucracy (OSU has more diversity staff than history faculty). The diversity staff will be PR-savvy enough next year to nix the drag queens for children, though other events—such as “Dragonfly” (OSU’s annual drag queen show), “Condom Bingo,” a presentation “on the intersections of Blackness, gender, fatness, health, and the violence of policing,” and many others—seem likely to continue.

As will OSU’s practice of lying to its own students, informing them that “gender is a large spectrum and does not only include male and female.”

The drag-queen news cycle will be short-lived, but Oklahoma’s higher education problems remain.