Elon sophomore Noelle Vaught said she finds students at Elon University are “politically sleepwalking.” On April 25, Vaught stood at the Speakers’ Corner holding an upside down American flag with the words “there is no flag large enough to cover up the shame of killing innocent people” written on it. 

Vaught said that she had three main reasons for this protest. 

“My first big reason is that in the Elon News Network I saw someone publish an article about how the Speakers’ Corner was kind of dead,” Vaught said. “Nobody ever comes here, there’s not much political activity on campus.” 

Vaught also said she feels Elon is very “cloistered,” or secluded from the rest of the world. Vaught said her second reason is that she is opposed to the United States’ involvement in the Israel-Hamas War. Though Vaught does not identify as Muslim, Israeli or Jewish and does not find herself choosing a side in this conflict, she is averse to choices made by the U.S. government. 

“I am against what I believe to be the reckless killing of civilians in the Gaza strip,” Vaught said.


Particularly, Vaught mentions America's allowance of Israel to continue its operations into Rafa where there are thousands of civilians in need. She also said she believes this will only lead to more unnecessary deaths. 

Vaught’s third reason for taking this stand is to get other members of the Elon community to question their own beliefs. She said she defaced the American flag in hopes to get other members of the Elon community to question their own beliefs. 

“If they are upset about me defacing the flag, why are they more upset at me defacing an inanimate object than the killing of innocent people?” Vaught said. 

When it comes to her biggest reason for her objection, Vaught said she feels as though the demonstration of protests at other universities and the way those university faculty members are handling it is unacceptable. 

Vaught’s defacing of the flag is protected under the First Amendment as “symbolic speech.” Having a voice through the First Amendment is something Vaught said she greatly appreciates. 

“I would not say I’m a very patriotic person, I feel like that’s pretty obvious,” Vaught said. “The one thing I do appreciate about this country is that we, at the very least for now, have freedom of speech here.”

As for Vaught’s use of “for now” when it comes to her thoughts on freedom of speech, she said she feels the possible re-election of former President Donald Trump and the entire Republican party threatens the First Amendment. 

Spreading her own opinions is something very important to Vaught, as she wanted to be the one to get the ball rolling when it comes to political activity on Elon’s campus.

“One criticism I have of campus culture is I feel like students here aren’t politically active enough,” Vaught said. “I feel like students here are not politically active enough. I don’t think that students here know personally that being at such a small school are brave enough, like you know, to express how they feel.”

In the midst of her protest she was faced with some questioning and disagreement from passersby.

Fiona McAllister | Elon News Network
Students stop to question Elon sophomore Noelle Vaught about her individual protest on Speaker’s Corner on April 25.

“I would say that honestly I don’t particularly care if you disagree with me, this is my opinion,” Vaught said. “I came to this conclusion based on things I educated myself about.”

Vaught plans on protesting for many more days to come, as much as she deems possible and necessary. 

“I’m going to do this however much I can because I think that it is important,” Vaught said.