A “NEVER FORGET” poster shares wall space with previously blank poster board inviting reactions to it.	         Tim Lyke photo
A “NEVER FORGET” poster shares wall space with previously blank poster board inviting reactions to it. Tim Lyke photo

     Ripon College is ineffective when it comes to banning posters.

     But it’s not so bad at promoting free speech.  

     A conservative group, Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), claimed in an Aug. 29, unsourced blog post by YAF spokesman Spencer Brown that college officials banned the hanging of posters around campus that depicted incidents of Muslim terrorism.

     Ripon fired back and said, “There was no ban.”

     It appears YAF was deliberately provoking the college so it then could elicit moral indignation from its supporters. YAF played to its base, truth be damned. The fact that the lie was repeated by the Washington Examiner, tweeted by Sean Hannity and published in Newsweek suggested YAF achieved its 15 minutes of infamy.

     What actually occurred is that in 2017 Ripon YAF students hung posters around campus, created by their Washington, D.C.-based national organization, that showed Muslim extremists’ acts of terrorism. Titled “Never Forget,” the posters were distributed before 9-11 although only one of the eight images involved the twin towers.

     The posters upset some Ripon College students as they depicted terrorist acts conducted by members of only one religion, Islam, seeming to imply Muslims have cornered the market on evil.

     The college’s Bias Incident Response Team ... had a wide-ranging discussion with YAFers that lasted more than an hour and included, but was not limited to, the notion that the poster could be perceived to be biased against Muslims in its singular, exclusive focus on them. Again, it made no referral, offered no edicts, fulfilled its educational mission and did so only because a YAF student sought it out.

     The team did not restrict students from hanging the posters, and doesn’t have the authority to do so. Nor did it ask the dean of students to take any action.

     A YAF student recorded the conversation without telling the team, one might suspect, so the recording could later be released to the YAF national organization. Call it false entrapment, a misguided stunt or an immature set-up. But someone tipped off Mr. Brown that all was not right (pun intended) in Ripon.

     Claims the college had driven the conversation are untrue. Nor did administrators take the bait of the scheme to prove it politically correct. Like most colleges, Ripon College is less receptive to independent thought than it likes to think it is. And its bias — generally reflected in programming and faculty — tilts to the left.

     But the fact is the posters went up and were on display for 9-11. ...

                              — Tim Lyke    

     To read the entire editorial, including how Ripon College students reacted to the 9-11 posters, see the Sept. 20, 2018 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.