Faculty members at West Texas A&M University held a no-confidence vote against President Walter Wendler after he prevented students from organizing a drag show on campus.
The Faculty Senate—consisting of 25 elected members—initiated a five day voting process in which 261 faculty members participated. Of the 261 employees who voted, 179 voted no confidence in Wendler, while 82 supported the president.
In an email sent to students, faculty, and staff last month, Wendler announced that the planned “A Fool’s Drag Race,” set to be held at the university’s campus event hall, was canceled.
Wendler also condemned drag shows, which often feature men crossdressing as women.
“As a performance exaggerating aspects of womanhood (sexuality, femininity, gender), drag shows stereotype women in cartoon-like extremes for the amusement of others and discriminate against womanhood,” said Wendler. “Drag shows are derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny, no matter the stated intent. Such conduct runs counter to the purpose of WT,” he added, comparing drag shows to “blackface.”
In a letter sent earlier this month, Faculty Senate President Ashley Pinkham informed the university’s staff that the Faculty Senate had lost confidence in Wendler’s ability to lead the school and urged them to help provide “feedback” on Wendler’s performance.
“We do not take this step lightly,” wrote Pinkham. ”However, we believe that the mission to provide intellectually challenging, critically reflective, and inclusive academic programs at a well-respected, high-quality institution of higher education is at jeopardy. We believe we must take action now to restore the reputation of West Texas A&M University.”
The Faculty Senate issued a resolution condemning Wendler for what they believe to be his inaccurate representation of WTAMU’s values.
They accused Wendler of pushing prospective students away from the school by encouraging them to attend a community college before a four-year university. As evidence, the Faculty Senate included a statement from Wendler in which he said, “It is immoral, costly, and cruel to mislead students” into attending a four-year university over community college.
The faculty claimed Wendler violated academic freedom “through prohibiting previously approved on-campus activities contrary to his personal worldview” when he canceled a planned on-campus drag show.
They also condemned Wendler for showing what they claim to be “a pattern of divisive misogynistic, homophobic, and non-inclusive rhetoric that stands in stark contrast to the Core Values of the university.”
In an interview with KFDA, Wendler said he had no plans to leave the university.
“I got here nearly seven years ago, and when I came I thought I’m gonna do the best job I can do to represent WT, to do a good job for students, to treat faculty and staff with dignity and respect, have the community have pride in West Texas A&M University, because we’re here to serve the panhandle first… I did that the day I’ve gotten here, I’ll do it the last day that I’m here.”
WTAMU is a public university overseen by the Texas A&M University System’s Board of Regents. Led by Chairman Tim Leach, all members were appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott and confirmed by the Texas Senate.