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Why Are College Students Protesting in 2024?

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Written By Miranda Zavala  |  News, California  |  0 Comments | June 7, 2024

Why are college students protesting? This question pops up as we see images of young people marching, occupying buildings, and demanding change. But student protests aren’t new at all.

If you’ve ever protested like I have, you’d understand it’s more than loud chants or disruptions; it represents fighting relentlessly for core values against all odds. Nowadays, many college students engage actively in protests aiming at significant improvements around us.

But people still may be confused as to why are college students protesting now.

Table Of Contents:

Why Are College Students Protesting

In response to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, thousands of students are holding protests on college campuses all over America. More than 130 universities have seen these student-led movements spring up.

With more than 2,000 arrests already made, the escalating protests are far from over. As graduation ceremonies near, demonstrators show no signs of letting up.

Overview of Recent College Protests

Student activists are pushing for their universities to sever financial ties with Israel. They want schools to stop investing in Israeli companies and end academic collaborations with institutions there.

Protesters argue that companies doing business with Israel, and colleges investing in those companies, are complicit in the war in Gaza.

University endowments, funded by investment returns, cover everything from research projects to scholarships. Student protesters argue this financial backing makes their schools responsible.

Reasons Behind the Protests

Tensions over the conflict between Israel and Hamas are once more causing friction on college campuses. Student groups supporting Palestine have consistently called upon universities to join them in advocating for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) initiative.

Divestment might not directly affect the war, but protesters think it can shine a light on those making money from the conflict. They view it as taking a moral stance.

Impact on Campus Life

Protests have thrown campus life into chaos. Some universities are trying to strike deals with the demonstrators, but others are cracking down hard and making arrests.

School leaders are finding it tough to balance free speech with creating a safe and inclusive environment. The Israel-Hamas conflict has made things even more tense, splitting students based on their political and religious beliefs.

As graduation season kicks off, the impact of ongoing protests on commencement ceremonies is still unclear. With some demonstrations expected, many campuses are left wondering what their celebrations will look like.

Protests Over the Israel-Hamas War

On college campuses, the Israel-Hamas conflict has ignited a surge of pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Students have organized sit-ins and rallies, with some even setting up encampments to show their support for Palestinians.

Student Demands and Grievances

Protesters are urging universities to cut ties with companies involved in business with Israel. They believe these financial connections make the schools part of the conflict and human rights violations against Palestinians.

Many students are pushing their universities to cut academic ties with Israeli institutions. They believe these partnerships support and normalize the policies of the Israeli government.

University Responses to the Protests

University administrations have shown mixed reactions. Some schools, in response to student demands, are now reviewing their investment policies.

Some took a tougher stance, calling in police to break up pro-Palestinian camps and occupations. At Columbia University, over 100 protesters were arrested after authorities cleared an academic building and dismantled the campus encampment.

Controversy and Debate Surrounding the Issue

The protests have sparked heated arguments between pro-Palestinian and Jewish students. Some Jewish students say they feel targeted and unsafe, claiming that some demonstrations have turned antisemitic.

Critics claim that protests have turned environments toxic while activists insist they’re engaging in rightful political discourse. With the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas conflict, debates over what’s considered free versus hate speech are intensifying alongside discussions on university involvement in world events.

Free Speech and Antisemitism Allegations on College Campuses

The Israel-Hamas protests have reignited controversies over free speech and antisemitism allegations at universities.  Pro-Palestinian activists say they are simply criticizing the Israeli government.  However, some Jewish students feel targeted by hateful rhetoric. 

Balancing Free Speech and Inclusivity

Universities are trying to find the right balance between protecting free speech and creating an inclusive atmosphere. Even speech that is offensive or inflammatory usually falls under First Amendment protection.

Some people believe that antisemitic remarks at protests turn into hate speech, creating a hostile environment for Jewish students. School administrators have found it tough to balance these conflicting issues.

Addressing Concerns of Discrimination

While some universities have spoken out against antisemitism and emphasized their dedication to inclusivity, many Jewish students and organizations feel these actions fall short of what’s needed.

Some people argue that anti-Zionist comments often cross into antisemitism by blaming all Jews for what Israel does. Others say this is just a tactic to unfairly label critics of Israel and silence valid activism.

Fostering Open Dialogue

Even with all the division, some colleges think of these protests as a way to spark conversations. They’ve planned various events and talks that bring opposing views into one space.

Balancing free speech with student safety and a sense of belonging is tough, especially when emotions run high. Finding common ground has been anything but easy.

Administrative and Law Enforcement Responses to Protests

The growing intensity of Israel-Hamas demonstrations on college campuses has left both administrators and law enforcement in a bind. Responses have included attempts at negotiation as well as more drastic measures like arrests and physical intervention.

University Policies and Procedures

Universities often require permits for student protests and impose restrictions on timing, location, and how they’re conducted. However, with today’s massive and prolonged demonstrations, these policies are being seriously challenged.

In response to protests, some schools negotiate directly with those involved as situations arise. Meanwhile, other institutions enforce their policies without exception and order protestors to disperse or face arrest.

Involvement of Law Enforcement

Breaking up protests using law enforcement has sparked a lot of debate. At universities like Columbia and UCLA, police in riot gear have stepped in to forcefully remove protesters from buildings and campsites.

Critics think the police are going overboard to scare student activists, while administrators argue it’s necessary for safety and to stop vandalism.

Balancing Safety and Student Rights

Universities have struggled to balance their responsibility to maintain order with their obligation to protect student free speech rights. While they can place reasonable restrictions on the time and location of protests, they cannot ban them outright.

With the ongoing protests, school officials are increasingly anxious about potential safety hazards, property destruction, and interruptions in daily campus activities. Balancing these concerns is proving both challenging and divisive.

Notable Protests at Major Universities

Across America’s colleges, students are protesting the Israel-Hamas conflict—from elite Ivy Leagues to big public schools. Many of these significant protests have led to people being arrested and gaining attention on a national scale.

Columbia University’s Hamilton Hall Occupation

Student protesters at Columbia University occupied Hamilton Hall, a classroom building, for several days in May 2021. They demanded the university divest from companies that do business with Israel.

Things came to a head with a dramatic police raid that ended in over 100 arrests. Officers forcibly removed the protesters from both the building and an encampment on Low Library’s steps.

Protests at Ivy League Schools

Brown University also saw its share of protests. Students organized a die-in to highlight the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza.

At Cornell University, students recently organized a protest to push for divestment. This event is part of widespread activism focusing on racial and social issues across elite institutions.

Demonstrations at Public Universities

Large public universities have also been a major site of Israel-Hamas protests. At the University of California, Los Angeles, a pro-Palestinian encampment was forcibly dismantled by police, leading to arrests.

At places like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Indiana University, students have been gathering in large numbers. Their protests are marked by how long they’ve lasted and their strong emotions about the issue.

The Future of Student Activism on College Campuses

With Israel-Hamas protests making headlines, it’s clear that student activism is on the rise. Whether they’re rallying for Black Lives Matter or pushing for action on climate change, students today are more vocal and organized than ever.

Lessons from Historical Protests

The activism of today’s students is heavily influenced by historical movements such as the Vietnam War protests in the 1960s. Using methods like sit-ins, building takeovers, and mass rallies just like those earlier protesters did, they aim to grab headlines and push universities into action.

While there are some key differences, social media has made it easier for today’s activists to organize and spread their message faster and farther. The issues they focus on, like racial injustice or the Israel-Hamas conflict, show what matters most to this generation.

Potential for Continued Activism

With the energy and commitment shown by student activists today, it’s clear that campus protests won’t be going away anytime soon. Colleges must find ways to support free speech while also keeping everyone safe and included in these dynamic times.

Some people hope these protests will spark real change, like pushing for divestment from Israel or boosting support for Palestinian rights. But others are worried they might make campuses more divided and drown out different voices.

Role of Social Media and Technology

You can see how important social media is becoming in student movements. Using platforms such as Twitter or Instagram lets activists organize themselves better, pass around key info fast, and create a sense of unity not just on their own campuses but internationally too.

On the flip side, they come with challenges like fake news spreading easily and potential online harassment. To match up with how student activism is changing digitally, universities must revise their policies regularly.

Key Takeaway:

Students across over 130 universities are protesting the Israel-Hamas war, demanding their schools divest from Israeli companies. These protests have led to thousands of arrests and significantly disrupted campus life. Universities struggle to balance free speech with safety amid rising tensions between pro-Palestinian and Jewish students.


So why are college students protesting? Because they care. Because they believe in something bigger than themselves. 

Because they know that change doesn’t happen by sitting on the sidelines. 

Tackling challenges from the Israel-Hamas conflict to defending free speech and fighting discrimination is no small feat for college students today.  Though it’s a difficult journey ahead, I’m confident that these young activists won’t stop standing up for what they believe in.

College students standing up for what’s right, don’t stop now. Keep sharing your voices with courage and determination. Each word you speak holds weight; united, we have the strength to bring about real change.

Student Hires aims to provide students with the resources to learn about recent events. With this knowledge students can form their own opinions and thoughts on subjects.

Last Updated on June 5, 2024 by Miranda Zavala

About Miranda Zavala

Miranda Zavala is currently a student at California State University of San Bernardino earning her degree in Design with a concentration in marketing. Miranda enjoys inspiring students, and helping them find their passion just like her.

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