Hate symbol on ball riles campus

Kaelia Neal, Editor-in-Chief

The Linfield Young Americans for Liberty group’s free speech ball outside of Walker Hall on April 12 received attention from students and faculty when a student drew Pepe the Frog, which has recently been appropriated by white supremacist groups.

Linfield College posted a picture of the ball on its Instagram account but was later removed because of the frog’s association with alt-right groups.

“As soon as it was pointed out that the photo included the image, the Instagram post was removed,” President Thomas Hellie said.

The free speech ball event, the first event in the Speak Freely Series at Linfield, encouraged students to express themselves by writing and drawing on the ball to promote free speech.

Pepe the Frog is a popular Internet meme that has often appeared in humorous ways. The Anti-Defamation League has listed Pepe the Frog on its Hate Symbols Database.

“I only heard about it second-hand, and I understand that it is a place for free speech but in all reality, it was certainly done in very poor taste,” junior John Christensen said.

According to its website, the YAL’s mission is to “ identify, educate, train, and mobilize youth activists committed to “winning on principle.” Our goal is to cast the leaders of tomorrow and reclaim the policies, candidates, and direction of our government.”

A member of YAL drew the Pepe the Frog on the ball, but asked to remain unidentified.

“I know the person who drew Pepe. He didn’t draw it to be negative. He drew it to be funny,” senior Parker Wells, a member of YAL, said.

“We understood some groups appropriated the image, but any image can be appropriated,” he said.  

Wells said his goals with the free speech ball were to get people thinking about their rights to free expression and to bring more attention to the YAL group.

“I understand that it’s necessary to set limits, but I don’t think this cartoon frog is a limit to set for free speech. I find it unfortunate that people can’t enjoy this event because of the frog image,” he said.

Wells said that this was an “overreaction” and “it doesn’t make the college look particularly strong or open-minded.”

Lucas Carter is the president of YAL at Linfield, and the group is working toward becoming an official club. Approximately 20 students are signed up to receive emails.

“Young Americans for Liberty prides itself on free speech,” Carter said. “We believe that it is a natural and fundamental right for everyone to be able to express their views openly to engage intellectual discussion and prevent echo-chamber situations.”

As a part of its Speak Freely Series, YAL is bringing Dr. Jordan Peterson to campus on Monday, April 24. The group is also showing the documentary “The Red Pill” on Tuesday, May 2.

“I find both the invitation of Jordan Peterson and the screening of the documentary “The Red Pill” by the “Young Americans for the Liberty” club extremely problematic. Problematic because neither Peterson nor the film will be promoting dialogues about gendered inclusions but rather be promoting a dangerous and offensive logic of gendered exclusions,” Professor of English Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt said.

“The promotion of such exclusionary practices greatly threatens “safe spaces” for our students, staff and faculty who belong to marginalized groups and violates our ethos of upholding “mutual respect” on our campus,” Dutt-Ballerstadt said.

The Presidents Diversity Committee will hold a discussion at 5:30 p.m. on Monday in the Pioneer reading room titled “Free Speech: What it is, and What it is Not.”

The discussion will examine free speech, and members of the Linfield community are encouraged to attend.