One conservative student at Yale faced intense backlash after he tore down anti-Kavanaugh posters around campus. Jack Palkovic, 22, had his identity released to the public by the student newspaper and was forced to deliver an apology to his fellow students at Yale Divinity School.

But Palkovic never anticipated finding himself in the middle of a national controversy surrounding then-Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

When Palkovic moved to sleepy New Haven, Conn., he thought it would be a welcome change from his time at the University of California, Berkeley, where he graduated in May 2017.

He had been a member of the Berkeley College Republicans and was physically assaulted while giving an interview to a local television station after Milo Yiannopoulos’ speech was canceled amid violence on campus. Several anti-fascist websites published articles on him and other Berkeley College Republicans, asserting without evidence that they were “fascists” and “Nazis.” They even posted “wanted” posters around campus with the faces of him and his friends printed on them.

Protests over allegations of sexual misconduct levied against Kavanaugh (an alumnus of Yale) once again landed Palkovic in hot water. After the allegations broke, Yale students, faculty, and alumni canceled classes and signed letters opposing his nomination.

In the midst of this contentious atmosphere, Palkovic noticed what he told Red Alert Politics was a double-standard.

“I was told [by other students] that if I put up a sign supporting Kavanaugh it would be taken down,” Palkovic said.

So when Palkovic saw the large anti-Kavanaugh signs posted around campus in late September, he thought the political status quo on campus was unfair.

Palkovic said he thought the signs sent the message, “‘We believe survivors, and if you don’t, you don’t belong.’” Palkovic also said he thinks the signs were meant as a challenge to those who disagreed with the majority of the student body on the Kavanaugh issue, like a "giant provocation.”

According to The Yale Daily News, the signs had been posted on four bulletin boards across campus by a group of anti-Kavanaugh undergraduates on Sept. 27, a few days before Palkovic tore one of them down on Sunday, Sept. 30.

The signs read: “We Believe Christine Blasey Ford[,] Deborah Ramirez[,] Julie Swetnick[,] Anita Hill[,] Fernanda Lopez Aguilar[,] Naomi Wolf [and] All Survivors,” and covered the entire bulletin board.

Kavanaugh Sign at Yale
Courtesy of Jack Palkovic

Palkovic began tearing down the signs not long after he came across them.

The Yale Daily News reports that around 7 p.m. Kyung Mi Lee, a Yale student, noticed Palkovic’s actions and posted two photos of him to the popular Facebook page Overheard at Yale, where he was quickly identified from the anti-fascist articles posted about him back from his Berkeley days.

Another student, Gabriella Limón, later posted an eight-minute video of her confrontation with Palkovic, who argued that his tearing down the signs was an expression of his right to free speech, and that the posters did not accurately reflect the views of the entire Yale community — including himself.

“They use up the whole board, they are public places, tearing down a sign is part of free speech,” Palkovic said in the video. “[The signs are] making a statement that you have to have this viewpoint, or else you are not within the orthodox view on campus.”

"You don’t have the right to put up signs, saying ‘we believe,’ using the possessive ‘we,’ a plural ‘we’ for everyone here.” Palkovic continued. “I don’t believe it, so I want to take it down because I want to disagree.”

Palkovic told Red Alert Politics that “the Yale College students I spoke with acted like they’d never met anyone who disagreed with them on big issues in their life.”

“When I explained to one student who confronted me how it was hypocritical that signs supporting Kavanaugh were removed regularly and she didn’t care, she responded by saying ‘fuck you,’” he added.

Palkovic told Red Alert Politics that the anti-Kavanaugh signs were in violation of university regulations because they were not properly sized. He also noted that all other signs on the bulletin boards had to be torn down in order to make room for the anti-Kavanaugh sign, which took up the entire face of the bulletin board and included multiple blank pages of paper.

“It’s obnoxious to take up a whole board with a poster, removing everything in the process, and then act outraged when someone takes it down,” Palkovic said.

Palkovic told Red Alert Politics that he still stands by his decision to tear down the posters. "I wanted to oppose a monolithic perspective,” he said. Palkovic also said the reaction from the student body and divinity school proves his point.

"They treated it like it was a heresy. It proves my point that if you don’t believe survivors, you’re a heretic at Yale."

Palkovic also added that he thinks that the persons offended by his actions are being disingenuous as to why they were offended.

“Taking down a sign is totally expected and not illegal,” he said. “They’re not outraged because I took down the sign, they’re outraged because I don’t support the whole Kavanaugh thing and #MeToo.”

He said he doesn’t believe his actions stifled the free speech of the anti-Kavanaugh students in a significant way.

“It’s not as if their message didn’t get out there,” he added, referencing the number of days the posters were up before they were torn down.

According to a second article on the incident published by The Yale Daily News, several members of the divinity school, including leaders in its student government, signed and published a letter condemning Palkovic’s actions.

Yale Divinity School Dean Gregory Sterling also issued a statement praising freedom of expression.

“I hope that this event will challenge all of us to reflect on freedom of expression and the need to treat one another with respect,” Sterling said in the statement. “This has proved more and more difficult in our country. May we illustrate how to discuss and debate differences, not silence them.”

After meeting with Sterling on Oct. 1, Palkovic issued an apology for his actions in an email to members of the divinity school.

As a member of the Yale community, I believe strongly in the right to free expression. I apologize for taking down the sign in support of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers. My intention was not to deny anyone their right to free expression, but oppose what I see as a monolithic perspective. I categorically denounce and condemn any movement or ideology, including White nationalism, which denies the equal dignity of every person, especially the dignity of those with whom we disagree.

“I’m apologizing for possibly violating freedom of expression, but I’m not apologizing for opposing the left-wing narrative on Kavanaugh and #MeToo,” he explained to Red Alert Politics in a phone interview. “I categorically do not believe all alleged ‘survivors.’”

Three days after the student newspaper reported on the incident, it published a letter by Palkovic criticizing the newspaper’s choice to cite a website (Northern California Anti-Racist Action) run by people whom Palkovic claimed physically harassed and stalked him and his fellow College Republicans at Berkeley. The website bills itself as run by an organization composed of “anti-fascists and anti-racists” from Northern California.

In his letter Palkovic demanded an apology from The Yale Daily News and said that not even the Berkeley student newspaper had quoted from antifa websites as credible sources.

“The groups responsible for the sources utilized by the Yale Daily News do not believe in the equal dignity of every person and manifested this belief week after week by advocating and putting into practice illiberal and violent behavior in response to the activity of the Berkeley College Republicans,” Palkovic wrote.

Palkovic also noted what he perceived as hypocrisy on the part of The Yale Daily News’ coverage of the incident.

“They asserted that tearing down a sign is an act of violence, but thought that quoting from antifa articles calling for violence was acceptable,” he said. “That’s not how aspiring journalists, especially at Yale, should behave. It’s lazy and unprofessional.”

In an editor’s letter appended to The Yale Daily News’ publication of Palkovic’s letter, the newspaper acknowledged Palkovic’s concerns, but stood by their decision to cite the antifa website.

For his part, Palkovic says he was taken aback by the private outpouring of support he received from members of the Yale community.

“I was surprised by how many fellow students and faculty privately reached out to me with support,” he said. “A lot of professors and students are intimidated by the Left on campus.”

“It seems like the student who said, during the Halloween costume controversy a few years ago, that ‘this is not about creating an intellectual space’ at Yale was absolutely right.”

This story has been updated to fix minor copy-editing errors.

Troy Worden is a recent graduate in English and Philosophy from the University of California Berkeley, where he was president of the Berkeley College Republicans in 2017.