When It Goes Too Far: The Growing Number of Violent Protests on College Campuses
College is dubbed the time in one’s life to experiment. Students from around the world flock to American universities to get a college degree and “find themselves”. Often times, this results in increased interest and knowledge about the world around them, thus increasing political activism.
With the divisive and angry climate our country now finds itself in, it is not hard to find protests and speeches on many campuses. The re-emergence of neoliberalism and the alt-right has led to increased tensions among student bodies and the communities surrounding college campuses. In footage from the U.C. Berkeley protest against Milo Yiannopoulos, one can watch a young Trump supporter get pepper sprayed by a protester while giving a news interview. The protests against Gavin McInnes at NYU resulted in eleven arrests and the pepper-spraying of the keynote speaker (again by a protester).
The point of a university education is to allow every student to learn and to promote healthy dialogue among contrasting groups. While I support free speech and the right to assemble peacefully, protests like what we have seen at NYU and UC Berkeley are completely unacceptable. When protests become less-than-peaceful, universities have to step in. Universities with no security clearance needed to be on/near campus property (such as NYU) leave their students, of all political backgrounds, vulnerable to outside organizations who care little for the well-being of the young people on campus. Moreover, these groups often are the ones who get violent, endangering not only the students/groups being protested, but the students who are among protesters. Not one of the eleven arrested at the NYU protest of McInnes were students; that is a frightening to the notion that universities are designed to provide the utmost in safety and education to students.
While I understand that it may be difficult for universities to stop people from protesting on public property or know how violent a protest or speech will become before it occurs, there needs to be better groundwork to combat individuals not affiliated with the university from endangering students, faculty, and staff who are. Moreover, universities need to start enforcing their policies on inappropriate assembly and violence. It may be bad for a university’s image to be seen publically criticizing or punishing their own students, but it is the best way to keep legitimate protests from being undermined and criminalized. In establishing and implementing policies to restrict violent protests, universities will be able to expand the constitutional rights of speech and assembly, while protecting the opportunity for education among all students.