Campus protests, what’s next?

VN War protests had a broader base of support, on campuses as elsewhere, than the pro-Hamas/anti-Israeli protests and occupations leading the news over the past week.

When anti-VN War protests began to lose steam, students moved on to various campus issues—many false. College administrations resisted calling local police to the scene and for the most part dealt with the protests and building occupations internally. After many months, the protests finally lost support and subsided.

This time around the protesters have no other issue. It was not surprising that, a couple nights back, NYC police reported that more than half the hundreds arrested at several local campuses were not students. It also is clear that the protests did not spring up spontaneously, campus by campus. The chants and signs are the same, campus to campus. Several leaders have been identified as paid organizers.

The disorders’ objective clearly has been to radicalize more general American opinion in favor of Hamas/Palestinians and against Israel. A certain segment of our population—especially in places with Arab and Muslim populations—has in fact been so affected. But certainly not a majority and certainly not in places with many Jewish citizens.

Americans watching TV news have seen American flags taken down and replaced by Palestinian flags. They have seen counter demonstrations in some places by Jewish students. Film footage of classroom buildings vandalized by occupiers. Fights with police. Not actions likely to gain adherents to the demonstrators’ cause.

Attention now likely to shift from the protesters fo the reactions of various public officials. NYC Mayor Adams responded with strong law-and-order talk and action. President Biden, yesterday, finally issued a statement both favoring free speech and denouncing violent disorders and both antisemitism and Islamaphobia. (Leaving a continuing impression that his handlers continue to harbor hopes of carrying states with Arab/Muslim communities).

What are the secondary, campus-related issues to which protesters now can turn? Divestiture of university investments in Israel has been one. But hardly a battle cry to mobilize large numbers of adherents. It is hard to identify others. The broader public desire for more order and less chaos is likely to assert itself quite soon.

Ted Van Dyk