May 1, 2024

Campus Protests

New York City police raided Columbia University late on Tuesday to arrest dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators, some of whom had seized an academic building, and to remove a protest encampment the Ivy League school had sought to dismantle for nearly two weeks…

“The occupation began overnight when protesters broke windows, stormed inside and unfurled a banner reading ‘Hind's Hall,’ saying they were renaming the building for a 6-year-old Palestinian child killed in Gaza by the Israeli military…

“A day earlier, the university said it had begun suspending students who defied a deadline for vacating a protest encampment, as school officials declared that several days of talks with protest leaders aimed at dismantling the tents had reached a stalemate.” Reuters

More than 1,000 protesters have been arrested over the last two weeks on campuses in states including Texas, Utah, Virginia, North Carolina, New Mexico, Connecticut, Louisiana, California and New Jersey. AP News

Here’s our previous coverage of the protests. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left defends the protests, arguing that students have the right to express their opinions.

“Republicans’ calls for troops to be sent in to repress peaceful student protests are incredibly chilling. They also reflect the GOP’s generally extreme attitudes on the Israel-Hamas war and intolerance of rhetoric remotely critical of Israel

“Manufacturing the spectacle of college campuses overrun by unhinged leftist thugs allows the GOP to distract the public from Israel’s brutal and indiscriminate operation in Gaza, support for which has declined significantly among Americans.”

Zeeshan Aleem, MSNBC

[Sending in armed troops is] a terrible idea, with a deadly history in the U.S. It was the Ohio National Guard that killed four unarmed students and wounded nine others at a rally against the Vietnam War at Kent State University in 1970. Since then, there have been uncountable examples of armed responses to nonviolent activities ending with innocent people getting hurt or killed.”

Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times

“Many [students] do seem ignorant of important historical events. My father and all of my uncles served in the military during World War II. The Holocaust happened before I was born, so it is history to me — but it is ancient history to the current generation of students. I am also old enough to remember the important and supportive role Jewish allies played in the civil rights movement that delivered African Americans from second-class citizenship…

The students do know some truths, though: that Palestinians were dispossessed of their homes and property; that Israel is strong and the Palestinians are weak; that the Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shows no interest in a just peace; and that tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians have been killed in Gaza… The tent cities will eventually go away, one way or another, but I have the feeling that this passion for the Palestinian cause will endure.”

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post

“The hallowed notion of a university as a bastion of discourse and learning does not and cannot exclude participation in contemporary debates, which is what students are being prepared to lead. From Vietnam to apartheid to the murder of George Floyd, universities have long been places for open and sometimes fiery debate and inquiry. And whenever universities themselves have been perceived by students to be complicit or wrong in their stances, they have been challenged by their communities of students and teachers…

“Universities do have a serious obligation to protect Jewish students from antisemitism and to maintain order, but it is to their students and teachers that they must answer, not to Republicans eager to score points against woke ‘indoctrination’ at elite colleges or to megadonors seeking to push their agendas onto institutions of higher learning.”

Serge Schmemann, New York Times

From the Right

The right is critical of the protests, arguing that protests which cause substantial disruptions or descend into violence must not be tolerated.

The right is critical of the protests, arguing that protests which cause substantial disruptions or descend into violence must not be tolerated.

“Other universities should take note of what happens when a firm hand is taken with protesters. While there were of course calls on UT president Jay Hartzel to resign [after police arrested protestors], they do not appear to be going anywhere, and life on campus has resumed normality, with only a few events being canceled because of the disruption. Compare this with the University of Southern California, which had to cancel its graduation, or Columbia…

“President Hartzel put it well the day after the protest when he wrote he was thankful both ‘that our campus has seen 13 pro-Palestinian events take place during the past several months largely without incident — plus another one today,’ but also ‘that everyone is safe after yesterday, we continue to hold in-person classes, and that today’s events followed our long-standing campus standards for allowed demonstrations.’”

Jackson Paul, National Review

“University complicity in chaos isn’t unusual… At Oberlin College, administrative facilitation of ugly and defamatory student protests outside a local business ultimately cost the school $36 million in damages…

“At Columbia, hundreds of sympathetic faculty members staged their own protest in support of the student encampment on the quad, and there are reports that other faculty members have attempted to block members of the media from access to the student encampment…

“[This] creates a culture of impunity for the most radical students. Disruptive protesters are rarely disciplined, or they get mere slaps on the wrist. They’re hailed as heroes by many of their professors. Administrators look the other way as protesters pitch their tents on the quad — despite clear violations of university policy. Then, days later, the same administrators look at the tent city on campus, wring their hands, and ask, ‘How did this spiral out of control?’”

David French, New York Times

“The anti-Israel—and often antisemitic—protests sweeping college campuses these days are an old story with a new cause. That story is the increasing resort by America’s political left to protests in the streets as a form of intimidation and rule by the mob… Political and other leaders have a duty to call this out and enforce public order, whether the violators are on the left or right…

“All of this bodes ill for the country’s political future, not least if Mr. Trump wins in November. The protests are likely to be widespread and perhaps violent if the election is close. Democrats and the press keep warning about a repeat of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which was a disgrace and for which hundreds have been rightly punished. But the political left is more organized for mass protests and more likely to take to the streets.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

A libertarian's take

“The best hope that activists have of changing Israel’s behavior isn’t fiddling with university endowments; it’s changing U.S. government policy on weapons sales to Israel. The best hope of doing that lies in convincing ordinary American voters that policy should change. And as political writer Matt Yglesias keeps pointing out, ‘The median voter is a 50-something White person who didn’t go to college.’ Is this protest going to change that person’s mind?…

“Hardly. It’s difficult to imagine anything less likely to appeal to that voter than an unsanctioned tent city full of belligerent elite college students whose chants have at least once bordered on the antisemitic. There’s only one real customer for that sort of performance: the participants themselves.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

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