Campus demonstrations 2024

Written by  //  May 15, 2024  //  Education, Rights & Social justice  //  1 Comment

28 April
David French: Colleges Have Gone off the Deep End. There Is a Way Out.
(NYT) … There is profound confusion on campus right now around the distinctions among free speech, civil disobedience and lawlessness. At the same time, some schools also seem confused about their fundamental academic mission. Does the university believe it should be neutral toward campus activism — protecting it as an exercise of the students’ constitutional rights and academic freedoms but not cooperating with student activists to advance shared goals — or does it incorporate activism as part of the educational process itself, including by coordinating with the protesters and encouraging their activism?
The simplest way of outlining the ideal university policy toward protest is to say that it should protect free speech, respect civil disobedience and uphold the rule of law. That means universities should protect the rights of students and faculty members on a viewpoint-neutral basis, and they should endeavor to make sure that every member of the campus community has the same access to campus facilities and resources.
That also means showing no favoritism among competing ideological groups in access to classrooms, in the imposition of campus penalties and in access to educational opportunities. All groups should have equal rights to engage in the full range of protected speech, including by engaging in rhetoric that’s hateful to express and painful to hear. Public chants like “Globalize the intifada” may be repugnant to many ears, but they’re clearly protected by the First Amendment at public universities and by policies protecting free speech and academic freedom at most private universities.
Still, reasonable time, place and manner restrictions are indispensable in this context. Time, place and manner restrictions are content-neutral legal rules that enable a diverse community to share the same space and enjoy equal rights.
The Columbia Protests Made the Same Mistake the Civil Rights Movement Did
What happened this week was not just a rise in the temperature. The protests took a wrong turn, of a kind I have seen too many other activist movements take. It’s the same wrong turn that the civil rights movement took in the late 1960s.
John McWhorter, Columbia University linguist, explores how race and language shape our politics and culture
(NYT John McWhorter newsletter) After the concrete victories of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, a conflict arose within the movement between those who sought to keep the focus on changing laws and institutions and those who cherished more symbolic confrontations as a chance to speak truth to power.
The conflict played out most visibly in what became of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. SNCC began with grass-roots activism in the form of sit-ins and voter registration, but in 1966 John Lewis, a veteran of the Selma demonstrations who spoke at the March on Washington, was replaced as the group’s leader by Stokely Carmichael, who spoke charismatically of Black Power but whose political plans tended to be fuzzy at best. The term “Black Power” often seemed to mean something different to each person espousing it. It was, in essence, a slogan rather than a program.
This new idea — that gesture and performance were, in themselves, a form of action — worried the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who regarded some of the group’s demonstrations as “expressions of rivalry and rage, without constructive purpose,” according to the historian Taylor Branch.

15 May
Ian Bremmer: A message for those graduating in toxic times
Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, a school where I teach a class on applied geopolitics, invited me to deliver this year’s commencement speech. It was a privilege – and a challenge – that I took very seriously.
…let me describe the experience.
Yes, there were protesters – of course there were. A number of students in the audience wore the keffiyeh, the scarf that has become a symbol of solidarity with Palestinians, particularly those trapped by the war in Gaza. Many brought Palestinian flags on stage with them as they collected their diplomas. More still passed out “diplomas” calling on Columbia University to divest from Israel in protest against the continuing conflict.
But not a single student walked out. Not one turned their back. When I began speaking about the war, there were rumblings in the audience for me to go into more depth. I stopped the speech briefly to assure them I intended to do just that. And then I did.
At no time did anyone try to disrupt the event or to shout me down – or anyone else.
The protesters were visible, creative, constructive, and respectful of the importance of the event for the graduates. They made themselves seen and heard, but they allowed everyone else to be seen and heard too.
In short, it was a beautiful thing, and I was proud to see it, particularly for the reasons I laid out in my speech. Here it is … in its entirety.

8 May
Andrew Caddell‘s always timely column The Right to Protest Doesn’t Come without Consequences (read on Facebook) “The concept of civil disobedience is as old as time itself. The early Greek philosophers grappled with it. In the nascent stages of democracy, the question was: should the authority of the majority always be respected?
In the 19th century, Henry David Thoreau coined the phrase in his essay On the Duty of Civil Disobedience in refusing to pay his taxes for wars and slavery. Mahatma Gandhi undertook unlawful activities against the British in India many times. Martin Luther King Jr. led civil rights protesters in marches that broke the law. And Saul Alinsky counselled leftists on how to develop strategies that defied the authorities.
But in each of these actions, it was acknowledged breaking the law meant consequences. Indeed for many, going to jail was a badge of honour. As protests and occupations have taken over Canadian streets and university campuses of late, this is pertinent to issues of free speech and the right to protest.”

7 May
A Thank-You Note to the Campus Protesters
Bret Stephens
Dear anti-Israel campus protesters:
Though it may take a few years before you realize it, supporters of Israel like me have reasons to give thanks to militant anti-Zionists like you.
Recently, a friend asked what I would have made of your protests if they had been less fervently one-sided. If, for instance, pro-Palestinian student groups at Harvard and Columbia hadn’t castigated Israel immediately following the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. Or if Jewish students and professors hadn’t faced violence, harassment and antisemitic imagery from you or your allies from Harvard to Columbia to Berkeley to Stanford. Or if you had made a point of acknowledging the reality of the Oct. 7 rapes or the suffering of Israel’s hostages and their families while demanding their safe return. Or if you consistently condemned and distanced yourselves from Hamas. Or if all of you had simply followed rules that gave you every right to free expression without trampling on the rights of others to a safe and open campus.
In short, what if your protests had focused on Israel’s policies, whether in Gaza or the West Bank, rather than demanding the complete elimination of Israel as a Jewish state? What if you had avoided demonizing anyone who supports Israel’s right to exist — which includes a vast majority of Jews — as modern-day Nazis?

3 May
University endowments show few signs of direct Israel, defense holdings
School investments are targets of Pro-Palestinian groups calling for “divestment,” even if the ties aren’t always clear.
(WaPo) As some universities strike deals with pro-Palestinian student groups to discuss calls for school endowments to stop investing in Israel and defense stocks, an examination of available public documents by The Washington Post finds few direct holdings in either by the largest public school endowments, underscoring the difficulty in any potential attempt to ultimately satisfy protesters’ divestment demands.

Debates on campus safety in response to Palestine solidarity activism show we need strategies to navigate discomfort
Natalie Kouri-Towe, Associate Professor, Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University, and
Sara Matthews, Associate Professor, Department of Global Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University
(The Conversation) With student protests — including at the University of Toronto and University of British Columbia — pressuring institutions to divest from Israeli militarization, the question of safety has come under scrutiny.
In Québec, a recent injunction request to clear a student encampment at McGill University was rejected by a Superior Court judge who ruled that “the plaintiffs have not personally been subjected to harassment … and their fears are for the most part subjective and based on isolated events.”
How we respond to concerns about student safety can set the stage for learning or encourage its opposite: divisiveness and censorship.

University of Chicago’s Leader Says Encampment Must Go as Video From Dartmouth Draws Ire
(NYT) The University of Chicago, a model for free expression, is being closely watched in higher education. The arrest of a 65-year-old Dartmouth professor intensified the debate over policing on campuses.
Police treatment of a Dartmouth professor stirs anger and debate
(NYT) Annelise Orleck, a labor historian who has taught at Dartmouth College for more than three decades, was at a protest for Palestinians in Gaza on Wednesday night, when she was knocked to the ground. Dr. Orleck, 65, was zip-tied and was one of 90 people who were arrested, according to the local police.
The professor walked away with a case of whiplash. But a short video clip of the episode flew around the internet, intensifying the debate over the relatively swift decision by Dartmouth’s president, Sian Leah Beilock, to call in police to arrest students and clear out an encampment. (See Comment)
Dartmouth shows it has no patience for peaceful protest
(Valley News) … Before Wednesday night was over, 90 people — the vast majority of them Dartmouth student activists — were placed under arrest for criminal trespass. An undisclosed number were also charged with resisting arrest. All 90 were handcuffed with zip ties and hauled away in Dartmouth College vans to police stations in Hanover, Lebanon, Haverhill and even Manchester.
… Through the mighty show of force, [Dartmouth President Sian Leah] Beilock reminded Dartmouth students that if they choose to exercise their rights to free speech and peaceful assembly, they do so at their own peril. At Dartmouth, campus policies aimed at shutting down nonviolent demonstrations trump the U.S. Constitution.

Striking deals to end campus protests, some colleges invite discussion of their investments
(AP) — Anti-war demonstrations ceased this week at a small number of U.S. universities after school leaders struck deals with pro-Palestinian protesters, fending off possible disruptions of final exams and graduation ceremonies.
The agreements at schools including Brown, Northwestern and Rutgers stand out amidst the chaotic scenes and 2,400-plus arrests on 46 campuses across the nation since April 17. Tent encampments and building takeovers have disrupted classes at some schools, including Columbia and UCLA.
Deals included commitments by universities to review their investments in Israel or hear calls to stop doing business with the longtime U.S. ally. Many protester demands have zeroed in on links to the Israeli military as the war grinds on in Gaza.
How pervasive is antisemitism on US campuses? A look at the language of the protests
The movement to press for an end to Israel’s war on Gaza has now found itself overshadowed by its loudest voices
(The Guardian) … Columbia’s administration said it called in the police to stop the protest that began on the campus last month, and then spread to other universities, in part to protect the safety of Jewish students threatened by antisemitic actions.
But pro-Palestinian students accuse Columbia of using concerns about safety as cover to shut them down under pressure from politicians and pro-Israel groups with a long history of wielding claims of antisemitism to curb legitimate protest against Israel.

2 May
Starting a global conversation to restore civility and liberal democracy
‘Liberal democracy is the best system for everyone,’ says former Supreme Court judge
(CBC radio Ideas) Civil society is disappearing. Liberal democracy is under threat. It’s impossible to have a real conversation anymore. Such views now seem commonplace, almost mundane.
But the frightening realities they point towards are still with us, and intensifying. The fact that we’re getting inured to hearing about them is itself an added danger.
That’s why an initiative by the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC) is more relevant than ever. They wanted to create an annual discussion series about matters of global urgency, with the aim of reaching as wide an audience as possible.
In early April 2024, IDEAS host Nahlah Ayed moderated the first of a new annual series called Conversations, held at Montreal’s Centre Mont Royal. She was joined by three panellists who are renowned nationally and internationally in law, diplomacy, and the arts.
Luis Roberto Barroso is a Brazilian law professor and outspoken jurist. He joined the Federal Supreme Court of Brazil in 2013, and was sworn in as president in September 2023. He was instrumental in the Brazilian Supreme Court’s 2023 ruling that found former President Bolsonaro guilty of abuse of power, barring him from holding office until 2030.
Former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Rosie Abella, teaches at Harvard University. She was the first Jewish woman and refugee to serve on the Ontario Family Court, the Ontario Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court of Canada. She is a celebrated expert on human rights law.
Vikas Swarup is a former career diplomat from India, and former High Commissioner of India to Canada from 2017 to 2019. His debut novel, Q & A, was adapted for cinema as Slumdog Millionaire, which won eight Oscars, including the award for Best Picture.

How civil rights law distorts the anti-Zionism vs. antisemitism debate
The wrongs of campus protests can’t be adequately righted or even defined by civil rights law.
The First Amendment concerns about this legislation are serious, but put them to one side for a second. The entire civil-rights-based system for regulating the Israel debate is flawed. If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the legislation would imply that the reason the federal government should crack down on anti-Zionist campus advocacy is because it is antisemitic. That misstates the problem in American society that the protests represent.

(WaPo) Is the anti-Zionism espoused by campus activists antisemitic? Israel’s supporters tend to say yes — antipathy toward the existence of the world’s only Jewish state is a form of antipathy toward Jews as such. Israel’s opponents tend to say no — anti-Zionism is motivated by universal values, not prejudice against any group.
Anti-Zionism can be violent and virulent even if those espousing the revolutionary ideology are not antisemites. And the fact that some anti-Zionist arguments are antisemitic does not put them outside the bounds of First Amendment protection. Even if it were possible to draw a Venn diagram of anti-Zionism, antisemitism and their overlap, it would be a poor basis for refereeing America’s Israel debate.
So why does the discussion of campus turmoil keep getting routed through this supposed dichotomy? One reason is U.S. civil rights law and the pattern of thinking it encourages. The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to amend civil rights law as it relates to Jews by defining more anti-Zionist speech on campus as antisemitic. The Antisemitism Awareness Act is a bad bill because it threatens to infringe on constitutionally protected anti-Israel speech. But even if it didn’t, the whole exercise illustrates the inadequacy of civil rights law for righting or even defining modern campus wrongs.

1-2 May
UAW President Expertly Skewers Response to University Protests
“If you can’t take the outcry, stop supporting this war,” he added, in a stinging rebuke to politicians.
Hafiz Rashid
(New Republic via Yahoo!) The president of the United Auto Workers union, Shawn Fain, on Wednesday condemned the brutal and excessive response to university student protest encampments across the country over the war in Gaza.
…Fain criticized law enforcement actions against protesters and expressed support on behalf of the UAW for demonstrators.
“The UAW will never support the mass arrest or intimidation of those exercising their right to protest, strike, or speak out against injustice,” Fain said. “Our union has been calling for a ceasefire for six months. This war is wrong, and this response against students and academic workers, many of them UAW members, is wrong.”
Union plans strike vote over crackdown on University of California Gaza protests
UAW Local 4811, largest union of academic workers, also says it will file unfair labor charges over university use of LAPD on protesters
The largest union of academic workers, which represents more than 48,000 graduate student workers throughout the University of California system, will hold a strike authorization vote as early as next week in response to how universities have cracked down on students’ Gaza protests.
1 May
Student protests take over some campuses. At others, attention is elsewhere
One thing that has remained consistent over decades of student protests, [Robert Cohen, a professor at New York University who has studied the history of U.S. student protests,] said, is that they are unpopular with the public. But the campus movement is raising public awareness of the Israel-Hamas war.
Cohen said he believes the protests will likely simmer down over the summer, as students return home. They could easily kick off again as the U.S. election season progresses, he said.

(AP) — Boston College students held a protest rally against the Israel-Hamas war last week.
Bullhorns were banned, lest the noise disturb studying for finals. Tents weren’t allowed. Students who’d been arrested at other Boston campus protests were barred. After an allotted hour, the students went quietly back to their rooms.
A student protest movement has washed over the country since police first tried to end an encampment at Columbia University in New York nearly two weeks ago. But while there have been fiery rhetoric and tumultuous arrests on high-profile campuses from New York to Los Angeles, millions of students across the country have continued with their daily routines of working their way through school, socializing and studying for exams.
The protests are demonstrating wide differences among Americans in 2024, even for groups that have tended to unite during divisive times such as the 1960s.
Take Boston, the city most identified with American higher education and a lens onto the diversity of student bodies’ reactions to the Israel-Hamas war.
Students have set up encampments on at least five campuses, including Northeastern University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. But calm has prevailed elsewhere in Boston.
“It’s just not the vibe at this school,” said Emmett Carrier, a junior studying biology at Boston College, a Jesuit institution with an enrollment of 15,000. “I don’t think they’re as committed to it here as they are at other schools.”
Boston College faculty and students had addressed the Israel-Hamas war in class discussions, through a faculty vigil and at a rally last week, “all of which were civil and respectful,” Boston College spokesperson Jack Dunn wrote in an email. …
It’s Not Just Gaza: Student Protesters See Links to a Global Struggle
In many students’ eyes, the war in Gaza is linked to other issues, such as policing, mistreatment of Indigenous people, racism and the impact of climate change.
(NYT) Talk to student protesters across the country, and their outrage is clear: They have been galvanized by the scale of death and destruction in Gaza, and will risk arrest to fight for the Palestinian cause.
For most of them, the war is taking place in a land they’ve never set foot in, where those killed — 34,000 so far, according to local health authorities — are known to them only through what they have read or seen online.
But for many, the issues are closer to home, and at the same time, much bigger and broader. In their eyes, the Gaza conflict is a struggle for justice, linked to issues that seem far afield. They say they are motivated by policing, mistreatment of Indigenous people, discrimination toward Black Americans and the impact of global warming.
Inside the chaos at Columbia
Irie Sentner is a senior at Columbia University and an intern and incoming fellow at POLITICO.
NIGHTMARE ON 116TH STREET — As I write this, I am eating lunch with a professor whose class I have not attended in two weeks. In fact, I haven’t attended any classes at all since April 17, the day pro-Palestinian student demonstrators pitched tents on a campus lawn and declared it the Gaza Solidarity Encampment.
There’s only one thing we can discuss. His Hamilton Hall office had been forcibly entered hours earlier by New York Police Department officers. Here, at Columbia University, we’re in the eye of the hurricane, and the world’s attention is trained on the protests that are tearing our campus apart.
The demonstrations at Columbia have led to a movement that’s spread throughout the city, country and globe. On a more personal level, it’s made for a surreal experience, a bracing reminder not only of the stakes involved in the conflict but of the many forces that are shaping it.
When House Speaker Mike Johnson stood on the same steps on which I have spent many a sunny day and called on President Shafik to resign, I couldn’t believe this was reality. When I received a push notification from the New York Times about a vote by Columbia’s University Senate, I giggled, texting the beat reporter on the student paper I’d once assigned to cover that governing body.

Chaos erupts overnight on US campuses. What’s next for student protesters?
(GZERO media) Last night, hundreds of New York City Police officers entered Columbia University in riot gear, one night after students occupied a building on campus and 13 days after students pitched an encampment that threw kerosene on a student movement against the war in Gaza on college campuses nationwide.
The crackdown at Columbia came alongside chaos at other campuses. There was a round of arrests at City College in Harlem late Tuesday, and police were responding this morning to clashes between pro-Palestinian and counter-protesters at UCLA. On Monday, demonstrators at The New School took over Parsons School of Design. Meanwhile, police cleared an encampment at Yale that protesters have vowed to reoccupy, and an NYU student has reportedly chained themself to a bench and begun a hunger strike, vowing to continue until the demands of student protesters are met.
Nationwide, more than 1,000 students have been taken into police custody since the original encampment began at Columbia on April 18.
What are the protesters’ demands? The movement aims to isolate and put pressure on Israel to stop its bombing campaign in Gaza by forcing universities to divest from companies with ties to the Jewish state or that profit from the war. While protests on US campuses are being driven by the war in Gaza, their impact is transcending the conflict. Some of the demonstrations have featured antisemitic and intimidating chants and posters, while politicians on both sides of the aisle have made visits to college campuses to either support or condemn them.
300 more arrested in N.Y.; police break up clashes at UCLA
(WaPo) … ‘Outside agitators’ are escalating Columbia protests, officials say
Rebecca Weiner, deputy commissioner for the NYPD’s counterterrorism bureau, said Columbia students were being influenced to change protest tactics by people who have been known to police “for many years for their dangerous, disruptive and, at times, criminal activity associated with protests.” Officials did not specify how many protesters were unaffiliated with Columbia, but they said university officials reported people who were not part of the campus community, some of whom police had known before

30 April
University presidents owe a duty of restraint when dealing with peaceful assembly
Emmett Macfarlane, Political Scientist and constitutional expert focusing on Canadian governance, the Supreme Court, the Charter of Rights, Parliament, constitutional reform, and free expression.
Unsurprisingly, Canadian university administrators are already proving every bit the unprincipled cowards of their US counterparts. McGill is now following the unfortunate pattern of many American universities by calling on the police to deal with the inconvenience of protesters camped out on its grounds. The University of Toronto erected barricades and “no tents” signs to prevent similar protest on its campus.
Peaceful assembly is inextricably tied to freedom of expression. As a right of protest, it necessarily includes a degree of disruption. There are clear limits. Institutions, the state, and the rest of society do not have to tolerate violence, real threats of violence, or wanton destruction of property or vandalism.

A look at the divestment demands by McGill University protesters
(CTV) Pro-Palestinian activists have set up protest camps at McGill and a small number of other Canadian universities, following a wave of action seen at U.S. campuses.
The protesters are calling for an end to the war in Gaza….
As the death toll mounts, some protesters have called for universities to divest any financial holdings in companies linked to the war effort, while others have gone further to call for schools to cut ties with any companies linked to the country.
What are protesters calling for McGill to do?
There are a range of demands, but some are calling for the university to boycott and divest from companies “funding Israeli genocide and apartheid.” The protest camps have echoed calls made for months by some students, who have also carried out hunger strikes to push their demands.
McGill has said many of the activists in the camps are not members of the school community and that it had seen video of some people using “unequivocally antisemitic language and intimidating behaviour.”
Hundreds of Police Officers Marching Onto Columbia’s Campus
Columbia’s administrators have been unable to disperse protesters since another round of arrests on campus almost two weeks ago set off a cascade of campus activism.
Tensions Rise at U.N.C. Chapel Hill After Dozens of Pro-Palestinian Demonstrators Are Detained
By Tuesday afternoon, protesters had broken through the barriers keeping them out of an encampment, and they replaced an American flag in the center of campus with a Palestinian one.
France deploys riot police, cuts funding to quell campus protests over Gaza
Campus sit-ins upend Sciences Po and Sorbonne in Paris as students decry Israel’s ‘genocide’ and university partnerships.
(Al Jazeera) Tensions are rising between the French state and students at top universities who are staging pro-Palestine protests amid Israel’s war on Gaza, inspired by their American counterparts.

29 April
Universities Face an Urgent Question: What Makes a Protest Antisemitic?
Pro-Palestinian student activists say their movement is anti-Zionist but not antisemitic. It is not a distinction that everyone accepts.
(NYT) Pro-Palestinian demonstrators across the country say Israel is committing what they see as genocide against the Palestinian people, and they aim to keep a spotlight on the suffering. But some Jewish students who support Israel and what they see as its right to defend itself against Hamas say the protests have made them afraid to walk freely on campus. They hear denunciations of Zionism and calls for a Palestinian uprising as an attack on Jews themselves.

US advocacy groups back Palestine solidarity campus protests amid Gaza war
Nearly 190 advocacy organisations laud students’ ‘courage’ amid ongoing crackdown on encampments across US universities.
(Al Jazeera) The statement, backed by nearly 190 groups, highlights the growing progressive support for the campus protest movement as it enters its third week, despite crackdowns by university administrators and law enforcement agencies.
While students have been protesting the war on Gaza since its outbreak on October 7, the new wave of demonstrations – marked by protesters setting up encampments on their campuses – has gripped the country and made international headlines.
The students are calling for their universities to disclose their investments and end ties with firms involved with the Israeli military.

Universities Face an Urgent Question: What Makes a Protest Antisemitic?
Pro-Palestinian student activists say their movement is anti-Zionist but not antisemitic. It is not a distinction that everyone accepts.

28 April
Pro-Palestinian encampment grows at Montreal’s McGill university
(CP24) Pro-Palestinian student activists in Montreal have set up camp on the grounds of McGill University, following a wave of similar protests on campuses across the United States.

22-29 April
Scenes of Protests at College Campuses (Photos and Video)
The crackdown at Columbia this month led to more campus demonstrations and hundreds of arrests so far.
(NYT) Protests and arrests spread across some of America’s most influential universities this month, as administrators struggled to defuse tensions on campuses over pro-Palestinian demonstrations.
Since Columbia University started cracking down on pro-Palestinian protesters occupying a lawn on its New York City campus, encampments and protests against the war in Gaza have sprung up at various other prominent universities, including Yale, M.I.T., the University of Southern California and Emory University. Police interventions on several campuses have led to more than 800 arrests.
The flurry of protests has presented a steep challenge for university leaders, as some Jewish students say they have faced harassment and antisemitic comments.

One Comment on "Campus demonstrations 2024"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson May 4, 2024 at 3:44 am · Reply

    Police treatment of a Dartmouth professor stirs anger and debate
    A retired Dartmouth Dean and good friend who lives in Hanover commented
    “Police treatment of the 65 year old Professor Orlick was totally inexcusable and banning her from campus for six months is preposterous overreach which the college now says it will amend. In general, the police treated peaceful protesters like criminals and were obviously not trained for an operation like this. But at the risk of sounding like a reactionary, I believe [President] Beilock is fundamentally right to enforce the rules and thus forestall the sort of thing that happened at Columbia and so many other places.”

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