In early June, a Cornell lecturer, dressed as a drag queen, hosted a seminar on “Queering Agriculture” for Texas Tech students. He told attendees to “sneak” queer examples and books into early education and encouraged the use of opposite sex restrooms.

The event was brought to the attention of Texas Tech University leadership after it took place. Texas Tech officials explained that students inviting an external guest speaker is protected by the First Amendment and does not violate state law. However, the university’s administration has pledged action to ensure a program like this does not happen again and to follow the letter and spirit of state law banning DEI. 

“This seminar was organized and conducted by a Texas Tech University student committee as part of a grant component requiring the promotion of ‘diversity and a culture of inclusion,’” explained Matt Dewey, Texas Tech’s vice president for marketing and communications, in a statement to Texas Scorecard. “The University believes the manner in which this event was conducted lacked transparency and is inconsistent with our commitment to complying with not only the letter, but also the spirit of SB 17. The University will better utilize advisors who can provide guidance regarding holding events on campus in the future.”

The Seminar

The seminar was held by the Center for Advancing Sustainable and Distributed Fertilizer Production. Also known as CASFER, this project takes various sources of waste to create nitrogen-based fertilizers. It is housed at Texas Tech and funded by the National Science Foundation. It has four other partners: Case Western Reserve University, Georgia Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts of Institute Technology, and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. 

The “Queering Agriculture” took place on June 7, 2024, at 11:00 am via Zoom. Multiple Texas Tech employees were alarmed and contacted Texas Scorecard. One provided recordings and screenshots of the event. 

The presenter, Andrew Scheldorf, and his drag queen persona: Tilia Cordata, have made the news before. In June 2022, Blaze Media reported he taught children as young as 11 to become drag queens. This took place at a taxpayer-funded library in upper New York. This trend continued in the CASFER presentation, where he shared how to spread LGBT ideology to minors. He recommended various books for classroom libraries and schools and suggested using same-sex couples as examples in word problems. 

“There’s all kinds of ways to sneak that education in without making it so, like, over the top and in your face,” he said. 

“That’s really good to know,” replied Zaida Gracia, a staff member with both Texas Tech and CASFER. 

Scheldorf expressed support for gender-neutral bathrooms. “Changing bathroom structures or how they’re laid out [are] long-term solutions,” he said.

Dr. Gerri Botte, the Texas Tech employee who runs CASFER, thanked Scheldorf. “I learned so much from this presentation.”

Texas Tech Employees Speak Out

Amy Boren-Alpizar was one of the Texas Tech employees disgusted with the seminar. She participated in the proposal development process of CASFER and has spent the last 10 years as a faculty member with Texas Tech.

“I’ve had enough when we’re inviting drag queens to make presentations that are supposed to be somehow based in the general scientific knowledge,” she told Texas Scorecard. “I can’t imagine at all how it advances their scientific efforts.”

Two more employees shared her sentiment. They requested to remain anonymous. To help differentiate, Texas Scorecard has used pseudonyms for each. “Homosexuality, or whatever term, LGBTQAIO, whatever it is … that has nothing to do with food, and natural resources,” said “Jack.” “What I’m seeing here with this CASFER seminar, [it’s] absolutely unacceptable.”

“Sarah” believed this event was not well known to the higher-ups at Texas Tech. “I think the Board of Regents would not be happy about it,” she said. “I would say that 98 percent of alumni would be shocked and awed.”

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Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.