Campus protests have strong student support. What about hate speech?

Two-thirds of students polled said they support the protests against Israel's invasion of Gaza.

It may not surprise higher ed leaders that students overwhelmingly back the wave of pro-Palestinian campus protests taking over colleges and universities. What may be startling is a poll that shows how some college students feel about hate speech and violence.

Two-thirds of the 750-plus students polled told the college search firm Intelligent that they support the protests against Israel’s invasion and bombing of Gaza while just more than half have experienced a protest on their own campus. TikTok is the most common source students are using to get information on the war in Gaza, followed by TV news and Instagram.

As concerns about anti-Semitism surge, more than one-third of students who stand behind the protests also favor of the use of violence and hate speech and the cancellation of commencement ceremonies. About half of the protest supporters said it’s OK to block students from attending classes and three-quarters back the use of encampments.

President moves: How these colleges successfully de-escalated campus protests

One in 10 of the protesters admitted viewing Jewish people unfavorably and more than half sympathize with Hamas, the terrorist organization that launched the Oct. 7 attacks.

When it comes to consequences, only about one in five students oppose punishing protestors who break the law or violate campus policies. And just 4% of students said they felt unsafe on their campus.

Graduation ramifications

Some universities have worked with students to de-escalate protests before their campuses end up in the national spotlight. Brown University saw encampments taken down after five student protestors were invited to present their case about divestment to the Corporation of Brown University, The New York Times reported. A similar deal was struck at Northwestern University, while the University of Minnesota disclosed its financial holdings.

Kennesaw State University has been the site of relatively peaceful protests thanks to a coordinated panel discussion between college staff, students and law enforcement, Fox 5 Atlanta reported.

Columbia University and the University of Southern California have canceled their main commencement ceremonies, citing safety concerns. USC students took particular offense to this decision; administrators had just canceled its valedictorian’s planned speech after students aired their concerns about her pro-Palestinian slant.

Emory University is relocating its ceremony to an off-campus arena, WSB-TV reports.

Alcino Donadel contributed to this report.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is the managing editor of University Business and a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for University Business, he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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