Prizm News / September 11, 2019 / By Ken Schneck

In a letter sent to the John Carroll University community on Monday, President Michael Johnson has now publicly acknowledged that the decision to cancel the annual drag show was his, providing little explanation but nonetheless asking for respect.

Johnson—in his second year of his position and the first lay person to hold the role in the history of the University Heights Jesuit university—wrote that JCU “unambiguously supports our LGBTQIA+ community of students, faculty and staff” but said that the drag show was “not the best way to proceed.” He cited the educational mission of the institution and the desire the promote “expression, appreciation, and understanding of the many identities represented at John Carroll University.” The letter asks that everyone “respect the decision.”

Students are quick to highlight that the drag show was the single most well-attended social event on campus. They say that show was more than performers displaying their artistry, and was a distinctly educational event.

“We have guidelines for hosting cultural events on campus,” says Eddie Jenkins, the Student Union Programming Board President, which largely funded the event. “The drag show has a Q&A at the end where people who attend the event are actively engaged and learning.”

Johnson says that university administrators are working with departments to create “more and better” programming, and he invites the campus community to provide their input.

Read Johnson’s full letter to the JCU community below:

Dear Members of the John Carroll Community,

Our goal and guiding principle with respect to student programming is clear. That is to provide students with opportunities that promote the expression, appreciation and understanding of the many identities represented at John Carroll University. Our educational mission remains grounded in the integration of faith and culture and a respect for the dignity of the human person. We welcome and support all of our students.

Back in April, I communicated my concerns regarding the divisiveness on campus related to the Carroll News and the need for respectful discourse. Recently I met with students, faculty and staff regarding my decision to not hold a drag show on campus at this time. John Carroll unambiguously supports our LGBTQIA+ community of students, faculty and staff. How best to do so is the question at hand. In my judgment, the drag show is not the best way to proceed. Rather, we need more and better programming that promotes the awareness and understanding of all identities on campus, especially our LGBTQIA+ students, and creates broader engagement. It became clear to me that repeating what we did last year would only add to the divisiveness and discontent, and fail to advance our goal. I also informed the students that we will re-evaluate where we stand as we get closer to the end of the academic year, but not before.

While I do not expect everyone to agree with the decision, I ask that you respect the decision. Vice Presidents McCarthy and Peck are working with a number of departments on campus regarding our programming. We look forward to hearing from our students, faculty and staff regarding their ideas.

Best wishes,
Michael D. Johnson, Ph.D.
President, John Carroll University