• Saturday, May 18, 2024

School board cancels openly gay ‘30 Rock’ actor’s talk over his ‘lifestyle’

Pancholy was scheduled to make an appearance in the middle school on 15th April to deliver a speech based on anti-bullying.

Maulik Pancholy (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for A-Game Public Relations)

By: Mohnish Singh

Openly gay actor Maulik Pancholy was disinvited from speaking at Mountain View Middle School in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and the reason behind this action was the actor’s “lifestyle”, and also because he is an activist.

Pancholy, who played the character Jonathan, Alex Baldwin’s devoted assistant, in the sitcom 30 Rock, and also voiced the character Baljeet in Phineas and Ferb, was scheduled to make an appearance in the middle school on 15th April to deliver a speech based on anti-bullying.

But the school board held a meeting and decided to disinvite Pancholy.

“If you research this individual, he labels himself as an activist, he is proud of his lifestyle and I don’t think that should be imposed upon our students at any age,” board member Bud Shaffner said at the meeting, where the decision of disinviting Pancholy was made.

Video footage of the meeting shows several board members agreeing with Shaffner’s objections.

Another board member, Kelly Potteiger, expressed her worry that Pancholy would talk about his books. “It’s not discriminating against his lifestyle – that’s his choice, but it’s him speaking about it. Got it. So, it’s totally okay if Maulik chooses to be gay, but he shouldn’t go so far as to talk about it, especially within earshot of Pennsylvania’s dear, precious children.

A bunch of the board members agreed that “politics” have no place in the classroom.

Member Matthew Barrick was especially passionate about this point, “We shouldn’t have any political activism. Whenever I was campaigning and going door-to-door, what I told everybody that I talked to was, ‘We need to get politics out of our school.’ In this case, why would we invite someone who considers themselves a ‘political activist’ to come and talk to our children at our school? Get politics out of our schools!”

In addition to acting and activism, 50-year-old Pancholy is an author who has written two novels: Nikhil Out Loud and The Best At It. Both middle school-age books have gay lead characters and tackle small-town homophobia.

Pancholy was also on Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (he resigned not long after Trump was elected), is active with several non-profits, and is the Chair and Co-Founder of the anti-bullying organization, Act to Change.

Responding to the entire issue, Pancholy said in his Instagram that, “When I visit schools, my ‘activism’ is to let all young people know that they’re seen. To let them know that they matter. When I talk about the characters in my books feeling ‘different,’ I’m always surprised by how many young people raise their hands — regardless of their identities and backgrounds — wanting to share about the ways in which they, too, feel different.”

Related Stories