X Close

Campus protesters don’t represent Gen Z

Pro-Palestinian supporters at Columbia University last week. Credit: Getty

May 7, 2024 - 11:50am

Unruly protests at US universities have inspired a great deal of concern about Generation Z’s radical politics and penchant for disruption. But on campus, protesters may only represent a minority.

Columbia’s protests led to more than 100 arrests occurring during a weeks-long student occupation of various campus properties. But about 30% of those arrested were not actually students, lending credence to the school’s claims that outside agitators were at least partly to blame for the unrest.

The protests are not merely an organic expression of popular opinion on campus, but rather have been organised by activists funded by Left-wing groups including those tied to investor George Soros. The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, a Soros-funded group, pays student fellows to engage in activist activity such as pressuring Government entities to cut financial ties with Israel. At least two of their fellows have been involved in headline-grabbing protests in recent months. Columbia students, meanwhile, received months of training from activists including former Black Panthers prior to the mass protests of this spring.

So far, protesters’ actions have resulted in delayed final exams, confrontations with the police and two congressional hearings on campus antisemitism. They’ve also derailed the semester, resulting in the cancellation of cherished traditions, including the university’s graduation ceremony. For many departing students, it’ll be the second graduation they miss out on, following Covid-related cancellations in high school.

Several Columbia seniors, including the student body president, have spoken out. “I wish they didn’t cancel. I feel like they had other options,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “It reflects, really, a lack of commitment to student experience and a lack of concern for students’ accomplishments.”

A week earlier, the University of Southern California cancelled graduation, and over the weekend protesters disrupted the University of Michigan’s graduation ceremony with chants accusing the institution of being complicit in genocide. Far from supportive, their fellow students can be heard shouting at them. “You’re ruining our graduation!” one yelled.

At some elite universities, administrators’ tolerance of rule-breaking protests, including encampments, has drawn criticism from the student body. Fraternities, for instance, have faced strict penalties for minor rule violations resulting in the cancellation of social events at the insistence of universities. “Why is it only the crazy tent people who get to have their fun?” one Columbia student asked in an interview with Tablet.

Ordinary students’ frustration with protests has sparked several viral moments, including a group of frat brothers holding up the American flag as protesters throw water on them and young men helping the police clear out an encampment.

While Gen Z is more sympathetic to Palestine than older generations, only 2% of voters aged 18-34 view the Middle East conflict as the most important political issue. The same proportion of 35-54 year olds chose the conflict as their top priority, according to an April Gallup poll. Meanwhile, a combined 41% of young voters chose an economic problem, such as inflation or unemployment, as their top issue.

The antics of campus protesters, far from symbolising Gen Z’s supposed radicalism, may in fact expedite the Rightward drift that each generation experiences as they age by turning their peers against the progressive cause.


is UnHerd’s US correspondent.

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

22 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
13 days ago

Bravo! to the frat boys. If you click on the link at “…young men helping the police clear…” you’ll find a very cogent and heartfelt quote about what they did and why; far more positive and progressive than what their Progressive classmates have been up to.

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
12 days ago

Chanting Black racist chants ?
The one Bro was already suspended .

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
12 days ago

The frat boys at Ole Miss making monkey gestures at the black lady? That’s what you are cheering?
They are doing what they are doing because they are racist scumbags, obviously. And so are you…

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
11 days ago

Was not aware of this. Where did you see/read about it?

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
13 days ago

I have lots of favorite moments from the campus “protests”, but the best has to be the little LARPers rushing the police with their plastic garbage can shields and literally hitting a wall of human reality – adult cops in arrest mode.

I can only hope that the howling kid (another great moment) being carried off by a strong, compact state trooper regards this as the moment he put away childish things and grew the h*ll up. I doubt the same will be true for the girls, who will just glom on to the next stupid fad.

Santiago Excilio
Santiago Excilio
13 days ago

trying

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
13 days ago

But about 30% of those arrested were not actually students,
Leaving 70% who are students. History has a lot of “they weren’t all…….” regarding the issue of the time, but they don’t all have to be in order to cause problems. These events were allowed to happen, usually by administrations who at least tacitly supported the message.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
13 days ago

I don’t think most people believe these protestors represent a majority of students on campus. Again, we see the destructive and pernicious influence of NGOs at work here. There needs to be a reckoning here.

Danny D
Danny D
13 days ago

> The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, a Soros-funded group, pays student fellows to engage in activist activity such as pressuring Government entities to cut financial ties with Israel.

Same with climate protesters in Europe. Oil heiress Eileen Getty pays them salaries to glue themselves to roads and then pays their fines when they get convicted. It’s no surprise countries like Hungary or Georgia have introduced “foreign agent” laws. I know organisations like Amnesty International push for open borders for refugees in my country, so maybe those types of laws aren’t the worst idea, even if they’ve been decried as authoritarian and anti free press.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
13 days ago

So a majority of GenZ’ers think twenty or thirty eyes for an eye is just dandy?

Sylvia Volk
Sylvia Volk
12 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

That’s one of the best arguments for the Israelis to stand down I’ve read so far. But it’s also dead wrong given that Hamas has not just said but shown they will never themselves stand down. Never. Not until all the Israeli eyes have been gouged out.

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
12 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

No, they just see a war that is miles away in a foreign country, and they have priorities that are much closer to home. They also accept that Israel has the right to defend itself, and that the loss of life is mostly down to Hamas refusing access to shelter for Gazans.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
12 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Why are you misquoting scripture?

edmond van ammers
edmond van ammers
12 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

This is war, not a trial.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
12 days ago

Excellent example of how a committed, loud, and determined minority can create all sorts of false perceptions. Hopefully the election results will establish how much of Gen Z’s supposed sympathy for Hamas is real and how much is smoke and mirrors. If, as the author suggests, it turns out these protests were so much manufactured outrage, Democratic politicians will pay at the ballot box and there will be some political hell to pay.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
12 days ago

I know that Mr. Soros supports left-wing organizations, but I find it difficult to believe that he would support those calling for the genocide of Jewish people. Soros is Jewish and witnessed the Holocaust of his own people. I also find it difficult to believe that he would be an anti-Zionist. After all, he would understand that after six million murders, Jews would want to flee Europe and return to their homeland. It is likely that he, like some Jews, would object to Israel’s over the top war, but still support Israel’s existence.

Cecilia Kalish
Cecilia Kalish
12 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

The accusations against Soros are complete and utter antisemitic b/s. The people who buy into these Soros conspiracy theories (which have been floating around in the wing-nutosphere for a long time now) need to grow the eff up…. How can these people be taken seriously when they counter the antisemitism of the tent people with antisemitic tropes?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
12 days ago
Reply to  Cecilia Kalish

Because it is not anti-semitic to point out something that may very well be true: https://www.politico.com/news/2024/05/05/pro-palestinian-protests-columbia-university-funding-donors-00156135

“President Joe Biden has been dogged for months by pro-Palestinian protesters calling him “Genocide Joe” — but some of the groups behind the demonstrations receive financial backing from philanthropists pushing hard for his reelection.

The donors include some of the biggest names in Democratic circles: Soros, Rockefeller and Pritzker, according to a POLITICO analysis.”

https://nypost.com/2024/04/26/us-news/george-soros-maoist-fund-columbias-anti-israel-tent-city/

The SJP parent organization has been funded by a network of nonprofits ultimately funded by, among others, Soros, the billionaire left-wing investor.

At three colleges, the protests are being encouraged by paid radicals who are “fellows” of a Soros-funded group called the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR).

I brought this up in another post, but Unherd’s system of random moderation removed it.

Cecilia Kalish
Cecilia Kalish
11 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

That the conspiracy theories about Soros are based on anti-Semitic tropes straight out of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion “may very well be true.”
You might as well just say it: Jews have all the wealth, Jews control the media (except for the ones conspiracy theorists rely on, of course*)Jews are behind “the great replacement” plot and so on and so on. Soros wants to – well I’m really not sure what you all think he wants to do. Just because one is against the protestors, many, many of whom are indeed anti-Semitic, doesn’t mean one isn’t anti-Semitic themselves.

*Although Neil Cavuto of Fox pushed back against Nancy Mace’s (R-SC) claim that Soros is behind all of this.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
12 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Marx was Jewish, and he hated the Jewish people. If you read his “communist manifesto” (deliberate lowercase), it is filled with venom towards his own nation. A curious thing ……

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
12 days ago

I’m sure you are all very proud of the racist frat boys at Ole Miss.