WT students sue president, Texas A&M University System officials


Jo Early

West Texas A&M University students protest at the “Original Texans” sculpture foundation on March 22 2023 (Photo/Jo Early)

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, is suing the President of West Texas A&M University, Dr. Walter Wendler, after canceling a student organization’s charity drag show supporting The Trevor Project, an organization to prevent suicide in the LGBTQ community.

FIRE is representing Spectrum WT representatives, President Barrett “Bear” Bright, and Vice President Lauren “Laur” Stovall in the lawsuit in Amarillo Federal Court against WT and Texas A&M University System officials.

FIRE attorney Adam Steinbaugh said in the press release Wendler’s actions violated the First Amendment.

“The First Amendment protects student speech, whether it’s gathering on campus to study the Bible, hosting an acid-tongued political speaker, or putting on a charity drag show,” Steinbaugh said.

The court documents state that WT Student Affairs Vice President Christopher Thomas, Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp, and the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents are also being sued.

FIRE states Wendler also violated a campus free speech law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2019. The law states a university “may not take action against a student organization or deny the organization any benefit.”

On March 20, Dr. Wendler sent out an email to students and faculty canceling the drag show and calling drag “derisive and demoralizing misogyny” and compared it to blackface performances.

Since then, students have gathered around the “Original Texans” sculpture fountain protesting the president’s decision. A Change.org petition was created to save the on-campus drag show with more than 10,000 signatures.

A counter-protest occurred in favor of Wendler’s decision with a petition created by WT’s Young Conservatives of Texas. The petition has over 4,000 signatures.