Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday 2 May 2024

 

Opinion | The ‘Outside Agitators’ of Campus Protests

On Tuesday night into Wednesday, the New York Police Department peacefully extricated protesters who had barricaded themselves into Hamilton Hall at Columbia University as well as those at the City College of New York. Nearly 300 were arrested. More than 30 protesters have been arrested at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, 35 at Cal State, 72 at Arizona State and 100 at Washington University in St. Louis.

Schools are doing the right thing when they call the police to reestablish order over unruly mobs. A robust free-speech policy doesn’t conflict with requiring students to follow campus policies or face consequences for actions that threaten Jewish classmates.

The key is having lines that are clear from the beginning and then enforcing them. In a letter this week, University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos wrote that free expression is a “core animating value,” and the school will act to protect “even expression of viewpoints that some find deeply offensive.” But a line is drawn against expression that “blocks the learning or expression of others” or “disrupts the functioning or safety of the University.”

Clear principles are critical because the protests aren’t likely to end soon. Protest networks are building and looking forward to a summer of love heading into the Democratic convention in Chicago in August. Organized leftist groups are now promoting and sometimes leading the protests as they did at Columbia, according to the NYPD and the school.

New York Mayor Eric Adams explained that the Columbia conflagration was fomented by “outside agitators” who have neither the students’ nor the university’s best interests at heart. “There were individuals on the campus who should not have been there,” the mayor said, noting that those who took over Hamilton Hall were “led by individuals not affiliated with the university,” some of whom were “professionals.”

Videos show protesters using tactics that aren’t known by your average English major. Video from UCLA shows protesters surrounding a Jewish girl knocked unconscious by other protesters. This is what happens when school presidents and other leaders let protests persist and grow. They are infiltrated by today’s professional class of left-wing chaos agents.

The pattern will continue until those in authority put it down, and the schools’ disciplinary process is more important here than any trespassing charges against students. Those joining the mob on the quad may cover their faces with keffiyehs to hide their identity from potential employers, but violating rules after a warning warrants expulsion, not merely slap-on-the-wrist suspensions.

White House Spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre has said that antisemitism on campus is unacceptable, but where is President Biden? His moral equivocation on Israel has the protesters thinking they can change his policies. The protests are a running campaign ad for Donald Trump.

Wonder Land: On April 30, 2024, Columbia’s Gaza encampment invaded Hamilton Hall via Instagram. And unless Joe Biden separates himself from the violence-prone left, his candidacy could die this summer in Chicago. Image: Stephani Spindel/Shutterstock

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Appeared in the May 2, 2024, print edition as 'The ‘Outside Agitators’ on Campus'.

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