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Mississippi university refuses to fire band director who criticized transgenderism

A Mississippi university interim band director and minister who came under fire for criticizing transgenderism while co-hosting a podcast will remain in his job.

Steven Hugley was hired by Delta State University as its band director in June 2023, but in the weeks that followed a highlight reel of some of his most controversial comments while co-hosting the “Always Right” podcast circulated and led some faculty to demand his immediate firing.

However, the university’s president confirmed in early August that Hugley would remain in his position.

“I acknowledge that this response, which does not include an announcement of a personnel action, will be viewed as insufficient by some and appropriate by others,” DSU President Daniel Ennis reportedly wrote in a campuswide email.

“I would not be worthy of my office if I didn’t accept that free expression at Delta State University means I am subject to your assessment and criticism.”

Ennis wrote, according to Mississippi Today, that the Constitution protects free speech and, in a separate email to marching band students, the university’s “guiding principles” do not allow him to discipline an employee for private comments he made before he was hired.

Delta State University did not respond to The College Fix’s request for comment. Hugley declined to comment when contacted by The College Fix. He has also deleted the podcast episodes.

During one episode of the “Always Right” podcast, Hugley remarked that he wished to “lock up” parents and doctors involved in the gender transition of minors, Mississippi Today reported.

“If you do, not only are we gonna lock you up, we’re also gonna lock up the doctor,” Hugley said.

Hugley also made comments critical of internet personality Dylan Mulvaney and U.S. Assistant Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, referring to Levine as a “dude.”

Additionally, Hugley called transgenderism a “fantasy,” the newspaper reported.

“I’m concerned about these people,” Hugley said. “I know that lying to them and feeding into their fantasy is not going to help them.”

Backlash to Hugley’s remarks began after Delta State library assistant Jonathan Szot, who uses “they/them” pronouns, put together a series of clips from Hugley’s podcast that was circulated.

“Imagine you’re an 18-year-old band kid, probably one of the queerer groups in Mississippi — not to stereotype the whole group but a lot of band kids end up somewhere in that alphabet — and now you’re going to college and you’re like ‘I’m gonna be free for once’ and you wind up with this,” Szot told Mississippi Today.

“If Steven wants to govern his own life by those rules, fine by me. It doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t bother me,” Szot added. “But he should not tell our students how they should behave, and based on his own podcast, I do not feel confident in his ability to separate his role as an educator in a university and as an evangelist.”

In a meeting with marching band students in late July, Ennis said the podcast “preexisted this individual’s hiring at Delta State so in other words, it was up before he was hired here, and now it’s down, so that’s different than if he put it up this week after he was appointed interim,” Mississippi Today reported.

Hugley is not the first university faculty member to come under fire from peers for alleged transphobic remarks.

In August 2021, a Harvard University lecturer was attacked by colleagues after criticizing medical schools for moving away from using “male” and “female,” arguing this was a troubling trend.

“We can be caring and sensitive to the needs and identities of everyone, while also sticking to biological reality,” Carole Hooven told The College Fix at the time. “I will continue to speak out when I think it might have some positive effect on science education and, ultimately, human thriving.”

In May, Professor David Richardson was suspended by Madera Community College and accused of transphobia after handing out Jeremy’s Chocolates, sold by the Daily Wire, at an open house event on campus.

“If you don’t support DEI and CRT and even the transgender ideology, you’ll be ‘taken to the slaughterhouse.’ And it seems like more and more of us are being led to the slaughterhouse than I’ve ever seen,” Richardson told The Fix in June.

MORE: Harvard scholar called transphobic stands strong, refuses to cave on ‘biological reality’

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About the Author
College Fix contributor David Glasser is a rising second-year student at the Florida State University College of Law, with over six years of news and opinion writing experience for various publications. He is set to graduate in 2026.