Controversial event sparks strong reactions

The Film, Television, and Theatre (FTT) one-credit course, “What a Drag: Drag on Screen—Variations and Meanings,” held a drag performance and symposium in the Debartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC) on Friday, November 3, as originally reported by the Rover.

Hundreds of protesters and counter-protesters assembled outside of DPAC during the show to express their opinions on the controversial event. A student website created in opposition to drag show,, reported that over “250 students, faculty, and community members gathered … for a prayer rally and rosary procession to the Log Chapel” where the group participated in Eucharistic adoration. 

In the weeks leading up to the performance, Notre Dame students launched a campaign against the event through a website 1,264 emails were sent to university administrators via this website requesting that the drag performance on campus be canceled. 

The Office of the President responded to the emails, stating that the show was allowed to take place because of the university’s commitment to “academic freedom.” It read, “We defend this freedom even when the content of the presentation is objectionable to some or even many. The event you reference is part of a one-credit course in Film, Television, and Theatre on the history of drag, and the principle of academic freedom applies.”

NDTV, a student broadcast media organization, reported that a “smaller group of students … many of whom waved LGBTQ flags” assembled outside of DPAC to express their support for the drag show. While the “prayer rally” was officially registered with the Notre Dame Police Department (NDPD) according to its organizer, NDPD did not respond to the Rover’s request for comment on if the counter-protests were similarly registered. 

The performance, which was initially promoted as being open to “ND students, faculty, and staff,” was switched only hours before the performance to being a private event. The original poster advertising the “What a Drag” performance stated, “Tickets will be available one hour before the performance.” Despite this initial plan and no public announcement to the contrary, DPAC employees placed signs in front of the building several hours before the show started, stating, “Sold Out.”

Following the postage of the signs, DPAC box office told the Rover, “Unfortunately, this show is completely sold out and we will not be giving out tickets to the standby line for this event.” Although tickets were not supposed to be available until an hour before the event, the DPAC Media Outreach Specialist, explained “Under the guidance of the Notre Dame Police Department, all tickets have been pre-allocated.” 

In an interview with the Rover, Professor Pam Wojcik, chair of the Department of FTT and host of the “What a Drag” performance explained the change in ticketing policy to the Rover: “It was not censorship. … Security basically told us because there is a plan for people to get tickets and not use them, [they] told us to allocate tickets beforehand, which we did.” 

When asked who the tickets were pre-allocated to, Wojcik told the Rover, “They went to people who were connected to sponsors, or who contacted us and expressed interest. … Some of them were faculty associated with FTT and other departments that were sponsoring it.” The Department of Music, the Initiative on Race and Resilience, Department of American Studies, Gender Studies Program, and the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts co-sponsored the event. 

Wojcik continued, “I wish we could have had them [tickets to the performance] available more freely. Had we not had the threat of people buying them and getting them and then walking out, more people could have come, more different people could have come.” 

While Wojcik claimed that NDPD asked for the ticketing plan to be changed due to the “plan for people to get tickets and not use them,” the The DPAC Media Outreach Specialist, however,  told the Rover that the “Notre Dame Police Department requested that tickets for the ‘What a Drag’ Performance be pre-allocated due to heightened security concerns given the national media attention the event had received.” 

“Our primary objective was the safety of the attendees, panelists, and artists present,” their statement concluded. 

NDPD did not respond to multiple requests for comment regarding the ticketing policy. 

At the start of the performance, Professor Wojcik told the audience, “Welcome to Notre Dame’s first, and I’m betting last, drag show,” according to a report by the Observer. She continued, “If you want more drag shows on campus, by all means, make that noise. Talk to the administration. I’m not going to organize it, but you could. And that would be fabulous, and I think Legends should have drag night, and it would be super, super fun.”

Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend was at the university for the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture’s Fall Conference while the drag performance occurred. On the same evening as the show, Bishop Rhoades celebrated Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart where he condemned the hosting of the drag show on campus. 

He remarked, “We had a beautiful liturgy, a very holy Mass, but there is something very unholy happening on this campus tonight …We have a responsibility to uphold persons, but part of that is protecting the dignity of women.”

An attendee of the Mass described that Bishop Rhoades “deplored the evil taking place tonight on campus and asked the whole congregation to pray a Hail Mary for the change of heart of those promoting it.”

Nico Schmitz is a senior from Los Angeles, California in the Program of Liberal Studies. He can be reached at

Peter Rzepniewski is a sophomore reconsidering his life choices in studying finance. When he is not following Nancy Pelosi’s trading techniques, he can be found at St. Mary’s Lake searching for his ID. For tips and tricks, please email

Photo Credit: Bridgette Rodgers

Subscribe to the Irish Rover here.

Donate to the Irish Rover here.