The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa YAF brings Vince Everett Ellison to IMU, protesters raise money for reproductive health care

Protesters raised approximately $770 playing a game of bingo at the event hosted by UI conservative student group Young Americans for Freedom.
Vince+Everett+Ellison+holds+up+a+photo+of+Iowa+City+activist+graffiti+during+a+guest+lecture+at+the+IMU+on+Monday%2C+Feb.+26%2C+2024.+Ellison+is+a+conservative+speaker+invited+by+YAF+who+opposes+DEI+and+abortion.+Two+dozen+protesters+played+a+%E2%80%9Cbingo+board%E2%80%9D+made+out+of+Ellison%E2%80%99s+talking+points.
Ava Neumaier
Vince Everett Ellison holds up a photo of Iowa City activist graffiti during a guest lecture at the IMU on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. Ellison is a conservative speaker invited by YAF who opposes DEI and abortion. Two dozen protesters played a “bingo board” made out of Ellison’s talking points.

As Iowa lawmakers consider legislation to codify the Iowa Board of Regents’ efforts to reduce the number of diversity equity and inclusion offices in Iowa’s public universities, anti-DEI advocate and speaker Vince Everett Ellison upheld the policies to the conservative student group Young Americans for Freedom on Monday night. 

Supporters and protesters packed a small event room in the Iowa Memorial Union Monday night to hear Ellison speak on DEI and abortion. The student organization expected a crowd of about 80 attendees. The peaceful protesters played “Bigot Bingo” during the speech. Listed on the card were a plethora of conservative talking points that Ellison might cover. The organizer of the bingo game donated $5 for every bingo to a local women’s health clinic, up to a maximum of $550. 

Ellison is a self-proclaimed author, speaker, and “challenger,” and is a member of Project 21, an initiative of Black conservatives. He is a former Democrat and was born on a cotton plantation in Tennessee, where his parents were sharecroppers, according to the Young Americans Foundation website. 

He said DEI harms Black students by admitting students not based on their skills but instead based on their race. He said Black students should be considered for admission and given accolades based on their skill and dedication, not because of their status as a minority.

RELATED: Iowa lawmakers advance bill to codify Iowa Board of Regents changes to DEI

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that universities could not use race when considering applicants for admission at higher education institutions. The ruling effectively ended affirmative action at U.S. universities.  

Matt Hohenbrink, a UI second-year student, said Ellison offered contradictory views on DEI and reproductive health care. 

He said Ellison’s stance against government overstep in regards to DEI implementation and Roe v. Wade clash with his call for a nationwide abortion ban. 

“It feels like a ‘rules for thee not for me’ situation,” Hohenbrink said. 

Protesters made handmade signs while Mike Roberts plays guitar during a guest lecture by Vince Everett Ellison at the IMU on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. Ellison is a conservative speaker invited by YAF who opposes DEI and abortion. Roberts made a “bingo board” for protesters out of Everett’s talking points. (Ava Neumaier)

‘Bigot-Bingo.org’  

Michael Roberts, 38, of Iowa City, coordinated “Bigot Bingo,” which raised funds for a local women’s health clinic in protest of the speaker, Roberts didn’t disclose which clinic received the funds.  

The game featured a bingo card filled with potential phrases said by the speaker, such as “DEI,” “masks,” and “affirmative action.” Protesters marked off these lines as they were said, and handed their cards in at the end of the event. 

More on reactions to the event:

Roberts raised a preliminary total of  $770 to be donated in Ellison’s name for reproductive freedom. He said the bingo game is an effort to engage community members who don’t agree with Ellison’s message and turn a “negative” into something positive.

“What motivated me to engage in activism was the awful transphobic and anti-public school legislation that’s coming out of the Capitol,” Roberts said. “That motivated me to go from being not just a keyboard warrior, arguing with people online, but to actually doing something in the real world.” 

This legislative session, Iowa lawmakers introduced measures to legally define “man” and “woman” in Iowa law,  requiring new birth certificates for transgender Iowans that identify their gender assigned at birth and their current identity, and prohibiting educators from being disciplined for not using a student’s preferred name or pronouns

Additional legislation pushes to reduce DEI on regent-controlled campuses. 

Roberts said he does not expect to see changes in the legislation until political leadership changes. 

He does not agree with Ellison’s “intolerant views,” but he supports having opposing viewpoints on campus. 

Roberts encouraged the roughly 30 protesters to honor their commitment to free speech by not interrupting Ellison. He said he was thankful he was allowed to speak his mind during the Q&A portion. 

“I don’t think it’s good to endanger people or make people unsafe to suppress a message you disagree with,” he said. “I think the answer is showing up and voicing your own opinion and using your own free speech.”

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About the Contributors
Liam Halawith, Politics Editor
he/him/his
Liam Halawith is a third-year student at the University of Iowa studying Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Public Policy. Before his role as Politics Editor Liam was a politics reporter for the DI. Outside of the DI Liam has interned at the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Southeast Iowa Union. This is his second year working for the DI.
Roxy Ekberg, Politics Reporter
she/her/hers
Roxy Ekberg is a first year at the University of Iowa. In the Honors Program, she is double majoring in journalism and political science with a minor in Spanish. Prior to her role as a politics reporter, she worked news reporter at the Daily Iowan and worked at her local newspaper The Wakefield Republican.
Ava Neumaier, Photojournalist
(she/her/hers)
Ava Neumaier is a first-year student at the University of Iowa, majoring in English & Creative Writing. She was the Editor-in-Chief of her high school yearbook in New York, and has interned for a New York Times photographer. She enjoys taking pictures of performances and student life.