West Texas A&M Faculty Vote ‘No Confidence’ in President Who Canceled Drag Show

In a symbolic vote, the faculty senate voted 179 to 82 to condemn West Texas A&M President Walter Wendler weeks after he canceled a campus drag show citing his personal beliefs.
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Updated on April 28, 2023
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  • West Texas A&M President Walter Wendler canceled a student-organized drag event for charity in an email that cited his personal beliefs.
  • Faculty senate leaders said Wendler had abused his role as president and had a pattern of "divisive, misogynistic, homophobic and non-inclusive rhetoric."
  • The weeklong no-confidence vote had 179 votes to condemn Wendler and 82 not to.

Faculty at West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) have voted "no confidence" in President Walter Wendler following his decision last month to cancel a campus-organized drag event.

About 69% of eligible ballots cast by faculty condemned the president, The Texas Tribune reported. The final tally was 179 votes to 80 votes.

Twenty ballots were considered invalid because they were submitted incorrectly or received after the Friday deadline, according to Faculty Senate President Ashley Pinkham.

While the weeklong vote was non-binding and mostly symbolic, the message to campus leaders and the Texas A&M University system is clear: Wenfler does not have faculty support.

According to The Texas Tribune, faculty senate leaders' concerns about Wendler went beyond his decision to cancel a student-organized drag show. Faculty senate members said he had abused his role as a president of a public university by inserting his personal religious beliefs and had a pattern of "divisive, misogynistic, homophobic and non-inclusive rhetoric that stands in stark contrast with the Core Values of the university."

The WTAMU imbroglio revolves around a planned March 31 drag show that was organized by students at the Canyon, Texas, university to support The Trevor Project, an advocacy group focused on suicide prevention efforts for LGBTQ+ youths.

Wendler canceled the event March 21 via a 740-word email to students and faculty in which he called drag performances "derisive, divisive and demoralizing" and cited his personal religious beliefs, saying that there was "no such thing" as a harmless drag show.

Spectrum WT‚ WTAMU's student-run LGBTQ+ organization, the group's president Barrett Bright, and the group's vice president Lauren Stovall, filed a federal lawsuit on March 23 to stop Wendler from censoring the organization, to make sure the drag show can continue, and to get damages for the violation of their First Amendment rights, according to court documents.

The lawsuit also accuses Wendler of violating a Texas law that states that a university "may not take action against a student organization … on the basis of a political, religious, philosophical, ideological, or academic viewpoint expressed by the organization or of any expressive activities of the organization."

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk denied the group's request for immediate relief; however, the show went on at a nearby park.

The lawsuit remains ongoing in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.