Gov. Kristi Noem’s Attempt to Ban Drag Shows Raises Free Speech Concerns

AP Photo/John Raoux

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is taking action against the proliferation of far-leftist thought on college campuses in the state. She has established a hotline that would allow people to express their concerns about this issue, as well as others.


In addition to the hotline, Noem also sent a letter to the South Dakota Board of Regents explaining that many other states have allowed “liberal ideologies to poison their colleges and universities.”

The governor also urged the regents to impose a ban on drag shows on university campuses. Noem believes that these shows, which she claims are infiltrated by progressive ideas, have had a negative impact on colleges and universities.

“On campuses across the country, students have been taught the importance of diversity and equity and given access to ‘safe spaces’ instead of learning to tolerate the disagreement, discomfort, and dissent that they will experience in the real world,” Noem wrote in the letter.

“[Gov. Noem] called on the college oversight board to increase graduation rates, remove references to “preferred pronouns” in school materials, cut administrative costs, and ensure universities are not accepting any money from China,” according to the Associated Press.

The governor touted the hotline as a way to “keep our institutions accountable – and ensure that we are all aware of what is happening at our taxpayer-funded colleges and universities.”

Noem’s push to ban drag shows on college campuses raises concerns from a free speech perspective. While Noem argues that such shows promote “liberal ideologies” and hinder students’ ability to tolerate dissent, others would argue that this move infringes upon individuals’ right to express themselves freely and undermines the principles of academic freedom.


The effort to restrict drag shows highlights the complex and ongoing debate surrounding the boundaries of free speech on college campuses. Much of the conversation has focused on universities preventing conservative speakers from giving speeches on campuses and other ways progressives have censored right-leaning viewpoints. But in this case, the proverbial shoe is on the other foot.

By seeking to ban drag shows, Gov. Noem’s approach would suppress forms of artistic expression that do not line up with conservative values. Restricting or banning such events limits the diversity of thought that conservatives claim to value. It would use authority to suppress perspectives that should be discussed and debated in an educational environment.

Colleges and universities have traditionally been regarded as bastions of free speech and intellectual inquiry. Academic freedom is a fundamental principle that encourages the open exchange of ideas, even those that may be controversial or uncomfortable.

The governor’s attempt to ban drag shows raises questions about potential chilling effects on academic freedom. If administrators feel pressured to censor or restrict certain forms of expression due to political pressure or fear of backlash, it could create an environment where individuals are hesitant to explore unconventional ideas or engage in robust debates.


Does this sound familiar? It should. This is precisely what conservatives have been complaining about when the authoritarian left pressures college leadership to crack down on right-leaning opinions that do not line up with progressive orthodoxy.

Rather than attempting to ban drag shows, it is crucial to promote an environment where differing opinions can coexist, and individuals can learn to engage in spirited debate over these issues. If the learning institution is not forcing students to attend these shows, they should not use the university’s leadership to prevent other students from doing so as well. This is the same type of parental attitude for which we criticize the left. Instead of using the government to stop students from expressing their views, we would have a freer society if we engaged in the battle of ideas.



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