YAF’s Conservative Speaker Posters Cause Controversy on Campus
Suffolk’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), a newly formed conservative organization on campus, is facing pushback from students for inviting a right-wing speaker to the university. Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where she studies the politics of feminism and freedom of expression, among other topics.
Hoff Sommers is a former philosophy professor, author of Who Stole Feminism?, and host of video blog: The Factual Feminist. Her writings claim to debunk a number of common beliefs about society, including the wage gap and the prevalence of domestic violence. At Suffolk University on April 18th, Hoff Sommers will be speaking on the presentation and validity of the wage gap, male privilege, intersectionality, and free speech.
Suffolk’s YAF, headed by Chairman and Suffolk University junior Anthony DiMauro, recently posted flyers around campus advertising the event. The advertisements depict Dr. Sommers paired with statements regarding her political theories, including “Anyone who says America is a white-supremacist society is distorting reality,” “Feeling oppressed by ‘the patriarchy’? You’re not,” “Check your facts – not your privilege,” and “The ‘gender pay gap’ is bogus.”
According to DiMauro, these statements were deliberately chosen “to encourage political conversation within the university community,” yet led students to rip down 40 flyers in the first hour and a half of being posted. In fact, inquiries determined the posters were primarily removed by Student Leadership and Involvement (SLI), who oversees the marketing material of student organizations.
While many students criticized the language used on the posters, the reason for their removal last Wednesday was possibly more apolitical. The posters had been hung before the event was officially approved by SLI, and per their policy, “posters should not be hung until the event is approved.”
The lack of event approval was brought to SLI’s attention when a student brought a flyer to the Center for Student Diversity & Inclusion, and a representative from this office asked for more details. When SLI realized the posters had been mistakenly approved ahead of the actual event, the flyers were removed. After discussions with SLI late last week, YAF had the event properly approved and the posters were taped around campus once again on Tuesday. YAF used packing tape to secure the posters as an attempt to prevent students from ripping them down, although YAF is replacing any that have been torn down.
DiMauro, however, says that SLI approved the posters on Wednesday, March 21st and then gave mixed messages as to the reason for their removal later that week. He says an administrator at SLI stated that the posters were removed when students told SLI they felt “triggered and offended.” Additionally, while DiMauro says the event was approved last Friday, SLI produced an official contract just this Wednesday.
“I don’t know what the threshold is for approval,” said DiMauro. “The entire process seemed confusing and arbitrary. However, we have tried to comply to Suffolk/SLI standards to the best of our ability and knowledge.”
At the time of this article’s publication, SLI could not be reached for comment on this topic.
Some students did more than take down YAF’s posters. Tuesday evening, students taped flyers reading “This Y’all President?” with an October 2016 photo from DiMauro’s personal Instagram account next to YAF’s own posters. In the image, DiMauro wears a blond wig with a “make America great again” baseball cap. He’s standing beside another man wearing a sombrero and poncho, and the caption reads “Met a bad hombre, will be gone if I get your vote! #MAGA.” These posters were never approved by SLI, and were therefore removed by the next morning.
While the student who hung these posters has chosen to remain anonymous, they shared their motivation with The
Suffolk Voice: “We cannot have people in positions of leadership, especially on campus, who publicly humiliate any group of people. It only contributes to the prejudicial and dangerous stigma associated with minority groups. Racism, however subtle, is still racism.”
DiMauro responded to the personal attack, saying “I was mocking the Trump campaign during the election for using the term ‘Bad Hombres’ because it was ridiculous and unhelpful language… I recognize that not everyone who was viewing the poster could clearly see it was satirical, however it would require someone with great incompetence to construe the satirical message that I was promoting as something I was supporting or was taking seriously. Assuming that the individual or individuals who created these posters smearing me as if I were racist are not incompetent, then it only leads me to believe they have cynically put up these posters in a petulant and juvenile attempt to defame me and my organization.”
DiMauro says he encourages these individuals, and anyone who feels similarly, to approach him for a civil discussion about his beliefs. YAF held tabling outside the Sawyer library this past Tuesday to welcome such conversations.
Many students told the Suffolk Voice they feel strongly about this controversy, but do not wish to name themselves for fear of being singled out for their political views.
“In light of women’s history month,” said one student, “flyers about the falsehood of intersectional feminism seems really insensitive. The flyers themselves aren’t necessarily hate speech, but that doesn’t mean the intent of them is innocent… I think people should stand up for what they believe in and going to the event would actually be a perfect opportunity to do so.”
The Center for Student Diversity & Inclusion has called for students to stop pulling down YAF’s flyers, as this act of censorship only proves YAF’s thoughts on the silencing of free speech. Ripping down posters and responding with unapproved flyers is an unproductive form of disagreement, says the Center for Student Diversity & Inclusion. Instead, students are encouraged to open a civil discourse with each other at the upcoming speaker event. This kind of action will be discussed at the Center’s Protesting 101 course during their Social Justice Summit on April 7th.
“If [there are] those that feel that they should be protesting the event, then it is certainly their right to do so,” says DiMauro. “However I would rather see those who disagree come listen and voice their opinions in the Q & A section of the event.”
Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers will be speaking at 7:00 PM on April 18th in the Somerset Cafe.