Some good news about campus protests

As we wallow in the bad news about pro-Hamas demonstrations on campuses, there is good news.

Penn warns, but will there be follow through? (Credit: 6ABC)

The campus encampments have a ‘sell-by” date: The academic year is almost over. Even if nothing is done, the encampments will melt away in the summer heat.

But that does not mean that university administrations should do nothing.

But first — more good news.

On every campus where the tents have gone up, the protesters represent a tiny fraction of the student body, most of whom have finals, beer, and pickle ball on their minds.

When Penn students fill a lawn, it seems like a lot. The Inquirer estimated 400 students on College Green the other night.

But there are 28,000 students at Penn, so the group on College Lawn is a tiny sliver of the student body.

Generally speaking, students have made “demands” of their colleges, many different demands. Some want the school to reveal its investments. Some want the schools to disinvest in any munitions firms. Some want schools to break ties with Israeli educational institutions. Some want statements condemning Israel.

What next — banning Jewish students?

Somehow, because these students’ parents are wealthy enough  to pay confiscatory tuition fees, the students think they have a right to write school policy.

They do not, and is a reflection of the low-information world in which they live. They don’t call it the Ivory Tower for nothing.

Penn, Columbia, Yale — to take three in the news — are private institutions and can write any rules or regulations they care to, as long as they don’t violate U.S. law. 

Public institutions — such as the University of Texas, and the University of Florida — are answerable to the state and — importantly — to the taxpayers and voters.

We all agree on the right of free speech, which includes the right of assembly to redress grievances.

The word the protestors forget is peaceably,  the manner in which you assemble.

Taking over space on campus without permission is a violation of law, and using your freedom of speech to advocate violence against others is also unlawful.

So what are universities to do?

First, announce and publish the guidelines for protest. Second, announce what the punishment will be for breaking the rules. Third, enforce it.

While some universities quickly called in police to disperse trespassers, other universities seemed reluctant to use force. At Penn, the interim president issued a statement that tents were against school policy and demanded they be removed “Immediately.”

They were still there 48 hours later because “Immediately” means nothing. 

This was equivalent to President Joe Biden’s threat of “Don’t” to Iran. The ayatollahs ignored it and unleashed a ferocious missile barrage against Israel. Why? Because the threat carried no consequences.

It was the same for the homeless encampment on the Parkway in 2020, when the city gave the encampment warning after warning to disburse. They didn’t, and responded with a list of demands, mostly unreasonable. Months went by because Mayor Jim Kenney didn’t have the courage to act.

Penn’s interim president should have said, “Remove by noon Sunday or campus police, backed by Philadelphia police, will remove the tents and arrest students. Arrested students will be subject to expulsion.” 

The charges would be trespassing and/or disorderly conduct. I suggest expulsion because I do not believe D.A. Larry Krasner would prosecute the students any more than he prosecutes shoplifters. He has a habit of enforcing only the laws he agrees with.

Faculty who are arrested should face Penn-imposed sanctions. 

Students who obey the rules, who protest peacefully in designated areas, who do not threaten or harass other students, who do not deface the campus, would be free to express their views.

One final piece of good news. The protestors may have to recalibrate their rage, as more Gazans awaken to the realization than the ferocious Israeli response was caused by Hamas’  Oct. 7 massacre, which many of them cheered at the time.

They still hate Israel, of course, but polling is finding an increasing number of Gazans blaming Hamas for their misery.

If they can figure it out, so can the students.

26 thoughts on “Some good news about campus protests”

  1. The problem is the students are ignorant. They parrot all they hear. Their “parents” don’t want to converse with them and feel they are loving caretakers by supporting them in all endeavors. The average non-student is way more informed than the school children. isolating the students and questioning them separately from their peers would generate a much more subdued outlook. Students don’t figure out anything till they are separated from their indoctrinating centers.

      1. And before the Internet people blamed radio, movies, books, TV, and music. Just because you don’t like change does not make change wrong.

    1. “isolating the students and questioning them separately from their peers would generate a much more subdued outlook. Students don’t figure out anything till they are separated from their indoctrinating centers.” Schools teach critical thinking, which means opinions don’t count unless you have verifiable facts to back them up. What you want is a system if education based on blind loyalty which can be found in Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.

  2. Whether let em loose Larry will prosecute them or not isn’t a big deal at this this point, his track record speaks for itself. Expell them. Getting expelled from an Ivy league school like Penn should go very well on trying to find another school, or on a resume. A few less Lawyers will graduate. As you said this is pretty much a sliver of the Penn population, as probably it is in other schools. Yet a firm stand has to be taken. If they want to go further, I’m sure that other schools will lock them up, and let them go through the legal system. Mom and Dad will be be very proud of a mugshot in place of a cap and gown on their wall.

  3. Accountability and consequences were once part of American life. The far left do not believe in the constitution or the rule of law. We have weak and dumb leaders like Biden and the mayor’s and DA’s of our big cities who let the far left democrats run wild and ruin our quality of life. You can see it played out in real time everyday. It’s time to vote these bums out of office and take back our country.

    1. “The far left do not believe in the constitution or the rule of law. ” That’s odd, I don’t remember the far left breaking through 2 police barriers, breaking down doors and windows to enter the Capital building, assaulting police officers, and searching for Vice President Pence and members of Congress to hang. I also recall former President Trump justifying Pence to violate the Constitution, organizing fake electors, filing 60 lawsuits, and threatening elected officials to overturn the vote for President.

      Trump has stated that if he is elected President he will be a dictator on day one and he will use the military to stop any protests against him. Which is violation of the right to free speech and the right to assembly. Clearly this means that Trump is part of the far left.

    2. Judah’s got a point. You can’t say MAGA without Jan 6. And it’s not Biden promising to relieve rioters of any accountability, it’s Trump. Even worse, he is praising them as patriots and characterizing them as “hostages.” The rule of law does not mean that “folks I agree with get to riot without consequences.”

      Heck, it’s not limited to MAGA rioters. So long as your rich, and willing to support Trump, you can defraud investors, not pay your taxes, lie to the FBI or Congress, commit contempt of court, and it’s all good, you get a pardon. He also seems to have a particular affinity for war criminals, literally reported by their fellow soldiers. Despite objections from the Pentagon and military lawyers that he was undermining the rule of law and discipline in the armed forces he pardoned these guys because he has no respect for either the rule of law or military discipline. And then calls them heroes.

      His heroes are all dictators (also criminals and war criminals) precisely because they are never held accountable for anything, and that is what he aspires to be. Face it, you like and admire him because he accepts zero accountability and denies that there should be any consequences for his actions, from defamation, to sexual assault, to fraud, to using his owning charity as his personal piggy bank. He’s a walking, talking affront to accountability and the rule of law, discipline and the constitution.

      I carry no brief for the far left, and have attacked them here many times. But the notion that Trump is some sort of avatar of the rule of law and a defender of the constitution is like claiming a bank robber is someone who deeply respects financial institutions. Please.

      1. Twisting the truth again. Putting all Trump voters in one basket. Always creating your own fairytale. You can never be fair and honest. Typical lawyer.

  4. Nothing new here. I suspect many readers of this column remember the 1960s and the “Filthy Speech Movement,” Abby Hoffman, the SDS, and sit-ins at colleges and universities, where rabble took over the deans’ offices, defecated on the desks, trashed the universities, and on and on. Youth are those who see simple answers to complex problems, and when they do not get their way throw a variety of emotional and physical fits — sort of like when they were little children and threw themselves down and cried and screamed when they didn’t get their way. What makes them seem bigger than life is the adults who are smaller than life and do not do their jobs by enforcing the rules and the law.

    1. But at least we got a lot of classic rock music out of it. What’s the payoff here? They all seem so dour and self-serious.

    2. You mean like on January 6th when a large group of people forced their way past two police barricades, broke into the Capital Building, trashed the Capital Building, and assaulted police officers. Because they thought that they simple solution as to why Trump lost the election was because it was stolen.

      1. How many got locked up? many, how quick was justice ( so called) quickly. Apples and oranges here. if it were Christians fighting Jews, this would be a tottaly different story. Than k God it’s not, but it could be. You’r making this a Trump Biden thing , and it’s not. It’s humanity.

        1. You’re right. It’s not a contest. And, like Jan 6, it shouldn’t be partisan. Breaking the rules is breaking the rules. Trespassing is trespassing. Some schools have moved demonstrators away from areas that obstruct other students to “free speech zones” and that’s fine–I, and the schools, shouldn’t have a problem with them there. I believe in free speech, even if it odious and disgusting.

  5. This poll from March 24 is not all good news, but it is interesting.

    It is summarized in the Jerusalem Post here:

    It shows that Palestinian support for Hamas (vs other parties) has fallen to 49% from 54% 3 months ago. (see just before item 3, i.e. end of item 2) But the Oct 7 attack had bumped them up from an unimpressive 27% 6 months ago.

    The really startling finding though is that Gazan support for the two-state solution has increased from 35% three months ago to a whopping 62%, while West Bank Palestinian opinion saw a small increase from 30% to 34%. So, overall, Palestinian support for a 2-state solution stands at 45% for and 52% opposed, compared to 34% in favor 3 months ago. [See item 4]

    “From the River to the Sea” does not seem to have a lot of support anymore with the majority of Gazans. If the students want to support Gazans, maybe they should drop it.

    Similarly the poll indicates “a 17-point drop in support for armed struggle; a 5-point rise in support for negotiations; and a 5-point rise in support for non-violence. The drop in three months in support for armed struggle comes equally from both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” However, support for “armed struggle” is only 39% in the Gaza Strip, while it is 51% in the West Bank. (Maybe because they support “armed struggle” as long as it is in Gaza?)

    So Stu, per usual, is right. Hopefully the students can learn from the Gazans.

  6. Those who are protesting, at Penn, 400 students, are demonstrating to us that the admission’s department needs to be more selective. Maybe the admission’s officers need to be expelled?

    The protestors in their stark ignorance, with merely a high school diploma as their academic standing, are making “demands” about things which they know nothing, investments, and for which they lack knowledge of history, the repeated terrorist destruction by Palestinian organizations since the beginning, and their claims that Gaza is occupied and surrounded, without seeing Egypt next door to Gaza and without acknowledging that Israel fully withdrew from Gaza giving Palestinians the opportunity to make a nation instead of making terrorist tunnels to slaughter 1,200 innocent neighbors, women and children in barbarism not seen since Hitler. And these hopeless students are praising the Hamas slaughterers! These 400 very stupid as in dumb as a post, students were admitted to Penn!

    The student’s protests against the life saving robots, that Penn has so brilliantly developed, also defies humanity, sanity and logic. Who would admit such uneducated, unprepared, gullible, naive, arrogant and backward students to any competitive university?

    Remedy? Expel the protestors for being unworthy of the admission’s slot they are squandering. Nothing to do with Free Speech. Everything to do with them being unprepared, unqualified and far too arrogant brandishing their high school diploma, to listen, learn and to ask questions, the purpose of a university education.

    Instead of asking and learning, they are having temper tantrums because those who are smarter than they are will not bend to their ignorant demands; expel them to rid Penn of insufferable fools, and admit 400 smarter students.

    1. I’d be a little more lenient. Expel the ringleaders, suspend the rest, subject to being expelled for future bad behavior. As you say, these are dumb kids. Give them a chance to learn from their mistakes. I’d feel bad about going all “medieval” on them if it’s a first offense.

  7. “Students who obey the rules, who protest peacefully in designated areas, who do not threaten or harass other students, who do not deface the campus, would be free to express their views.”

    That’s it in a nutshell. Protests are legal and the most American of actions. Violet protests are against the law and the perpetrators should be punished accordingly. Pretty danged simple.

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