The Turning Point USA (TPUSA) chapter at the University of Chicago held a pro-free speech demonstration on campus that was met with violent opposition and vandalism by a transgender student. After long, grueling disciplinary proceedings, the student was finally reprimanded for his actions by College Discipline and ordered to pay for his destructive behavior.
On November 29, 2022, members of the new Turning Point USA chapter at the University of Chicago held their “Free Speech Ball” event. The chapter presented a large beach ball and a dry-erase marker to students, allowing them to write any desired message on the ball. The purpose of the event was to encourage university community members to exercise their right to free speech, all in the spirit of the Chicago Principles.
Alongside the beach ball, the chapter offered free hot cocoa to passersby while engaging in conversation about the merits of free market economics, a feature dubbed “Cocoa and Capitalism.”
Within a few hours, the ball had several messages on it from both liberal and conservative spheres of thought. Soon after, Alice Soprunova, a transgender female student, saw the event and became disgruntled. Though Soprunova initially scowled and left the scene, he returned half an hour later with a pen in hand. He then proceeded to jab the ball repeatedly, finally piercing its exterior after several attempts. Upon witnessing this, members of the chapter discovered the pen-shaped hole in the ball.
In the following days, Christopher Phillips, the TPUSA chapter president, initiated disciplinary proceedings with the university against Soprunova. Phillips sent an email to the college-discipline office on December 3 but did not receive a response through winter break. After several inquiries, including an in-person visit to the disciplinary office, Phillips was instructed to forward the issue to Jeremy Inabinet, the associate dean of students in the university for disciplinary affairs, who responded the next day and set up a Zoom meeting.
In the meeting held on January 27, Phillips shared the details of the incident with Inabinet and sent a brief follow-up email describing the event, per Inabinet’s request. In response, Soprunova submitted a three-page, single-spaced narrative to defend himself.
In his version of the day’s events, Soprunova admitted to jabbing the ball in outrage but also suggested that he only intended to leave a mark. He described his dismay at the message, “TRUMP 2020,” scrawled across one side of the ball, which motivated his retaliation. If Trump were re-elected, Soprunova claimed, his family in Ukraine would die, as he identified Trump’s foreign policy as being in support of Vladimir Putin.
He further added that he was being persecuted by “right-wing trolls” and that he should walk away with no punishment. Instead, Phillips should face countercharges for harassment against him.
The proceedings were resolved months later on April 11 when College Discipline ordered Soprunova to compensate Phillips with $30 for the destroyed property. Phillips collected the retributive payment on April 20.
Phillips told the Thinker: “It’s always a shame when triggered leftists are bothered by free speech and choose to destroy instead of engaging in the marketplace of ideas. Your ideology isn’t legitimate if you can’t defend it in a discussion.”
Defending the event as well as the actions of College Discipline, Phillips added, “The whole point of the demonstration was to let anyone write anything on the beach ball, and this vandal could have participated in that way. I am glad College Discipline did the right thing and punished the assailant for his misdeed, proving that the university will not give you a pass to break the rules if your feelings are hurt.”
Soprunova did not respond to requests for comment.