Drag show fuels controversy in Middlebrook Hall

Several posters promoting the event have been torn down and stolen.

Eric Swanson

A drag show planned for Tuesday featuring drag queens from the Gay 90s has created controversy among students and organizers in Middlebrook Hall.

The residence hall’s council scheduled the event to represent campus diversity, but some students oppose its use of student fees money.

The council’s diversity committee – which was given $500 to organize six events this year – contributed $100 toward the drag show and found additional funding from the Queer Student Cultural Center; the Residence Hall Association; and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Programs Office.

“The mission of the diversity council is to get different perspectives,” said Phil Hernandez, Middlebrook’s assistant residence hall director. Hernandez said he supports the drag show and its organizers, but students have come to his office to complain about the event.

“I feel like they are pushing this on us. It upsets me a lot,” first-year student Dave Ewart said.

Several posters promoting the event have been torn down and stolen.

“The posters were not specifically intended to be provocative,” said event planner Andrew Halverson, chairman of Middlebrook’s diversity committee.

Students said the posters had pictures of drag queens on them to advertise the show.

“The event has the right to happen, but (the posters) were very offensive to me,” first-year student Patrick McLoughlin said.

First-year student Mike Saxton said one poster “showed a little male cleavage.”

Some students admitted to taking the posters to decorate their rooms, not out of malice for the event.

Many students said they are looking forward to the drag show.

“It’s for entertainment and diversity. That’s what student fees are there for,” first-year student Ainsley Riley said.

This drag show is one of six diversity committee events this year designed to educate students about different groups on campus and in society. The committee also plans a Chinese New Year Festival later in the year.

Middlebrook Hall council is composed of about 35 students. A two-thirds majority vote is needed to pass any council proposal. Students have an open forum during each council meeting when they can oppose council events and decisions, Hernandez said.

“(This event) is a healthy dialogue in the building. They are facing an issue that we need to live with,” he said.

Some students oppose the event on financial, not moral, grounds.

“I don’t think they should be using our money for something like this,” first-year student Justin Bull said. “They should have a fund-raiser or something.”

“I have been to a show at the Gay 90s. You can’t help but have a good time, but I am opposed to the use of student fees,” first-year student Jake Workman said.

According to organizers, the total event cost is less than $1,000.

Supporters said the money is being spent well. An admission charge will benefit the Minnesota AIDS Project and other local charities.

“People opposing the issue are just focusing on the drag show and not the positive aspects of the event,” Hernandez said. “I do not believe the purpose of the program is to preach a lifestyle. Students can choose not to attend.”

The drag show is scheduled for today at 9 p.m. in the Middlebrook Hall dining center. The doors will open at 8:30 p.m.