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What to Do (and What Not to Do) About the Pro-Palestine College Protests

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Pro-Palestine protests have erupted on college campuses across the United States. Columbia University in New York City was the first to revolt. Weeks later, demonstrations and encampments have popped up at over 40 colleges nationwide, all calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and divestments against Israel.

The impact on college life has been palpable. On many campuses, staff have walked out in solidarity with protesters. Spring graduation ceremonies have been postponed or canceled, including the University of Southern California’s main commencement event. Almost 2,000 people have been arrested.

College heads, law enforcement, the national commentariat, and even Congress have struggled with how best to respond to the protests, which are the biggest America has seen since the 2020 Black Lives Matter riots.

So, what should the country do about these protests?

Here are three things to do and three things not to do.

1. Defund Universities

This might sound like an obscure first response given the time and energy defunding public universities would require. Isn’t something more immediate required? The problem with a knee-jerk reaction to the present protests is that the deeper problems will be allowed to fester until the next radical outburst.

State universities rake in billions of taxpayer dollars every year. What is unfolding at the supposedly best educational institutions in the country should be a wake-up call for every member of Congress. It’s time to turn off the funding faucet.

Private donors should also take note. Many billions more make their way to colleges and universities through bequests and philanthropy from wealthy alumni. The private sector also has a role to play in teaching college administrators who have capitulated to years of bias that their spinelessness comes at a price.

At the very least, all funds currently flowing to “decolonization” studies departments should be blocked immediately.

2. Prohibit Foreign States’ Funding of Colleges

In an article for The Free Press, Bari Weiss highlighted a recent report revealing that “at least 200 American colleges and universities illegally withheld information on approximately $13 billion in undisclosed contributions from foreign regimes.”

According to Weiss, the report “found that the number of reported antisemitic incidents on a given campus has a meaningful relationship to whether that university has received funding (disclosed and undisclosed) from regimes, or entities tied to regimes, in the Middle East.”

She also noted that between 2015 and 2020, institutions that took money from Middle Eastern donors experienced a 300 percent increase in antisemitic incidents than colleges that did not take such money.

Banning these funds should be an easy sell to Congress by a savvy senator or representative.

3. Arrest and Expel Students for Lawbreaking

Students should not be arrested or expelled for exercising their First Amendments rights. But they should have the book thrown at them for breaking the laws.

The University of Florida (UF) has provided a shining example of this approach, warning in a recent statement that many of the protesters on its campus were “outside agitators” and announcing that arrests have been made of individuals taking part in “clearly prohibited activities.”

The UF spokesman added: “This is not complicated. The University of Florida is not a daycare, and we do not treat protesters like children—they knew the rules, they broke the rules, and they’ll face the consequences.”

Though this may be sage advice for what to do, there are a few actions to avoid through this situation.

1. Do Not Ban Certain Types of Speech

It’s bizarre that this even needs to be said. However, in a scramble to be seen doing something about this, the House has voted on a new bill, HR 6090, which officially defines antisemitism in such a way that the federal government can target antisemitic individuals, businesses, and universities.

It goes without saying that spouting antisemitic rhetoric is immoral, unjust, and, frankly, foolish. But it is also protected under the First Amendment. Gutting the First Amendment in a panicked response to petulant protesters is not the way forward.

Republicans came out in force to support the bill, apparently unaware that when the tide turns, their disagreement with transgenderism, climate change, or election integrity may just as easily be outlawed in similar fashion.

The solution to bad speech isn’t censorship. It’s exposure to sunlight—and ultimately, to better speech. Anti-woke advocate Christopher Rufo put it well in a post on X:

Protect their right to speak. Amplify the most unpopular elements of their message. Encourage law enforcement to sit on the sidelines. Let the Ivy League own the pro-Hamas Left.

2. Re-Evaluate Hiring From Woke Colleges

There are millions of employers across the United States. If they all decided to be more cautious about hiring graduates from woke colleges, those colleges would reform themselves in short order as their application numbers tanked.

Market analyst Tom McClellan, editor of The McClellan Market Report, has already shown leadership on this front. He recently announced via X:

Attention job seekers. I will not hire any recent graduate of Columbia, because that school is so tainted that I will not be able to trust in the character nor the educational attainment of any of its students.

Responding to an objection that this is unfair to Columbia students, McClellan added:

In case you are a Columbia alum who might actually be a good person, please feel free to cite this declaration as evidence in your lawsuit against Columbia for having contaminated your personal brand as a graduate, and your employment value. You should definitely seek damages.

If thousands more employers took McClellan’s stance, not only would every college clamp down on the current protests, they would set the conditions to prevent a similar outburst happening for many years to come.

While a blanket ban on hiring from these universities may exclude many qualified candidates, employers like McClellan are clearly considering doing extra due diligence when looking at resumes from these schools’ alum.

3. “Do Not Interrupt Your Enemy While He Is Making a Mistake”

Often attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte, this proverb could not be more apt than in the current situation.

Rufo understands this principle well. He advises people to spread the word about what has happened at these institutions and how the institutions are permitting such lawless behavior. As quoted above, his advice is to “let the Ivy League own the pro-Hamas Left.”

The college protests are a crisis of sorts. But they are a crisis for the cultural revolutionaries who have overrun every major institution in America. Siding with terrorists is bad optics, to put it lightly.

For commonsense Americans to see what is happening at these universities is to shed light on the illness that has infected many of our institutions. That is the necessary first step to restoring true American values to universities.

Image credit: Public domain