On April 14th Gettysburg College YAL hosted their National Freedom Day celebration with a very special guests, political satirist Vermin Supreme. Vermin Supreme was invited to campus as a private individual to help promote free speech rights on campus. Mr. Supreme’s presence helped draw student interest for the event and made Gettysburg College’s event probably one of the most unique free speech forums in the country. Gettysburg College YAL took precarious steps to assure the success of this event with plastering posters all around campus relating to free speech and why the idea of safe spaces on campus is absurd.
Although the advertisement that Vermin Supreme was coming to campus might had been enough to attract students, YAL still hosted a Free Speech Ball for two days on the main quad at Gettysburg College. The Free Speech Ball was a great item to get students engaged in the event, since the week prior Gettysburg College was going through the preliminary steps of reforming the “Free Expression and Public Demonstration Policy” and YAL deemed it important to notify students regarding the parts of this policy that could threaten their right to free speech.
With Gettysburg College YAL building up hype for the event the entire week, Thursday turned out to be even more fun and exciting than initially anticipated. Vermin came to campus around noon and the chaos began shortly. Besides taking pictures with students, YAL members walked Vermin around campus to the main cafeteria where he continued his antics as well as interrupting the Political Science Department and even stopped by President Eisenhower’s old house on campus.
It became apparent that our initially reserved venue that could seat around 200 was going to be too small, so YAL VP Liam Kerr coordinated with the Gettysburg College Department of Public Safety to assure a larger auditorium where seating capacity was not an issue, consequentially YAL was provided the largest venue on campus the College Union Building Ballroom. From here our chapter attracted nearly 350 students to this event.
As students filed in to see Vermin, YAL members started a couple chants to get students pumped and excited. The purpose of YAL’s “Can We Take a Joke?” McCully wanted students to know that, “there are no safe spaces in life, so there should be none at Gettysburg College. Once Vermin went up on stage the crowd was silent, as he roared the “theme song of America”, the Star Spangled Banner. Vermin continued his talk with his typical political stump speeches, but eventually rounded his lecture into a more serious note about the importance of free speech. Providing a slideshow to go along with his talk, Vermin discussed the history of free speech in America and especially college campuses. At length Vermin Supreme narrated the events in Berkley California during the 1960’s and the student demonstrations that took place.
Bringing in Vermin was a strategic move that avoided partisan politics and instead YAL aimed to challenge students’ humor by having someone, who obviously is not being cruel, poke fun at topics that people are often too sensitive to. During the Q & A, students asked unique questions with often hilarious answers. After the Q &A a quick 10 minute intermission was held, where students could grab selfies with vermin and stick around to watch the screening of “Can We Take a Joke?”
Over the course of the week, YAL Gettysburg had collected over 200 signatures, added 4 more clubs members, and showed to Gettysburg College why YAL is the coolest political club on campus.