Jack Palkovic, a graduate student of Yale's Divinity School destroyed posters supporting Christine Ford and other sexual assault victims.
I reflected previously on the reaction to Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault trials on campus here at Yale, Kavanaugh’s alma mater. In summary, students protested and sat-in on the law school, and covered campus bulletins with papers to show solidarity with Dr. Christine Ford and other survivors.
Not much has changed. Though the hearings are over, Kavanaugh is still the main news story—dining halls are filled with hushed whispers of news of Trump mocking of Dr. Ford, students walk between classes while debating the actions of Senator Jeff Flake, and Facebook is flooded with #StopKavanaugh profile pictures and phone banking events.
But at the same time, a lot has changed. Just a few days after the moving bulletin was posted, the papers were torn down. Brought to attention by a viral Facebook post by one of my friends, it was soon found out that a graduate student at Yale’s Divinity School, Jack Palkovic, was the one tearing the posters down which read ” “We Believe Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, Julie Swetnick, Anita Hill, Fernanda Lopez Aguilar, Naomi Wolf and All Survivors,”
This isn’t the first time many have heard of Jack Palkovic. Identified by numerous blogs as an alt-right white nationalist ( e.g. here and here ), he was assaulted for wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat during a protest against right-wing troll Milo Yiannopoulos as an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley.
A few hours later, another undergraduate student posted a video to the Yale Facebook page. The video, 8 minutes long, documented her walking up to Palkovic as he was tearing the posters down and questioning his behavior.
“Tearing down a sign is a part of free speech,” Palkovic claimed. “You have to have this view, or else you are not within the orthodox view on campus.”
Palkovic’s view is ironic: tearing down signs seems like censoring free speech, instead of promoting it.
He also took issue with the words “We believe… a plural ‘we’ for everyone here”—Palkovic is right, his actions show that we aren’t unified, even in our support of assault victims. Even in a notably liberal campus like Yale— and we’ve been called special snowflakes enough by mainstream media to identify that Yale is perceived as a liberal campus— political thoughts are met with controversy, backlash, and rebuttal.
It’s pretty clear how I feel if you read my first reflection on the Kavanaugh hearings, but I firmly stand behind the fact that sexual assault hearings ought to be entirely separate, entirely excluded from any partisan narrative. Without taking Dr. Christine Ford’s statements with utmost respect and gravitas, we’re doing every citizen an injustice.
So, no. I don’t think Palkovic was taking political action, I think he was allowing politics to color his viewpoint on an entirely bipartisan issue. As a liberal-leaning, female college student, it seems common sense to me that assault transcends political ideology. And the outrage from those who feel similar has been enormous: hundreds of dollars of donations have poured into the organization putting up the posters, and dozens of students have volunteered to reprint and re-paste posters all over campus.
It’s a stand against those like Palkovic who are trying to silence survivors and their allies, a firm statement against something we didn’t realize needed to be fought for.