YCT ‘communist cookies’ tabling event sparks campus-wide conversation

Identical tabling was done in 2018, which garnered extensive student response

On Wednesday, Oct. 13, students from the Young Conservatives of Texas hosted a tabling event where they passed out fortune cookies and discussed Chinese communism. Oct. 1 is the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, so these students decided to raise awareness for the crimes committed there. This event was met with mixed responses from Trinity students.

From 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., students were standing at the door of Coates Student Center handing out fortune cookies. These cookies had fortunes detailing the horrors of communist China, with phrases such as, “You will bury dissenters alive” and “You will kill 40-80 million people.”

Ellis Jacoby, member of the Young Conservatives, spoke to the goals of the tabling event.

“The goal of the event was to raise awareness about the horrors being committed by the Communist Party of China (CCP) against the people of Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet,” Jacoby wrote in an email. “The fortune cookies contained different terrible acts that Mao Zedong did against his own people, showing the long history of the CCP’s human rights abuses.”

Jacoby reported little vocalized pushback against the event.

“The vast majority of feedback was positive. Only one individual expressed disapproval at our messaging,” Jacoby wrote. “I believe we helped raise awareness about the CCP’s human rights abuses amongst our student body. I enjoyed handing out fortune cookies and flags and seeing the tremendously positive reaction.”

However, the tabling event was received poorly by some, who found the messages offensive and trivializing to the people who were affected by the Chinese government.

“A lot of people tried to find the humor in it to make it seem somewhat better, but it’s one of those things that you can’t make seem better,” said Ava McAlister, first-year marketing and ancient Mediterranean studies double major. “I think that it was extremely offensive and was very harmful to a large number of people.”

Additionally, Nicholas Cipolla, first-year biochemistry and molecular biology major, found the fortunes to perpetrate harm, rather than spread awareness.

“I think it had the potential to go very very badly if certain people were to get a fortune from the cookies. It definitely could’ve been taken the wrong way,” he said.

A similar tabling event was put on in 2018, where it gained a fair amount of pushback from students. At the time, multiple articles were published in the Trinitonian detailing how these tabling events perpetrated Chinese caricatures and racist stereotypes regarding China under Maoism. This was met with pushback, claiming that the issue was just to raise awareness. Despite its checkered past, the Young Conservatives decided to host the same tabling event this year.

Ian Dill, class of 2020, was one of the students who wrote a column critiquing the “commie cookies.” He reflects on his negative feelings in 2018 around the Young Conservative’s lack of engagement with the questions they brought up in the tabling event.

“They didn’t really answer the core of our question in the articles in 2018: Is it valuable to be an anti-communist these days? Is it even worthwhile to raise awareness about Maoism? What was the actual purpose of what they were doing? There isn’t a popular understanding that Mao is an acceptable figure,” he said. “The undertones there promote a kind of a bad attitude toward politics and lack of nuance. There’s absolutely no assessment or depth of knowledge around history or culture or politics going on.”

The Young Conservatives attest that their event was within the parameters of free speech on campus and urge students who do not agree with them to reach out.