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Student Protests in America Now: Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?

Liberal campuses have long been illiberal with conservatives. Now, entitled students have teamed up with outside agitators to wreak havoc on campuses. Their rabid pro-Palestinian stand is turning off prospective students, billionaire donors and most Americans, including that darling of the woke jet set, Hillary Clinton.

Cambridge, MA, USA – June 29, 2022: Harvard flag is seen outside the Harvard Cooperative Society (the Coop), a collegiate bookstore on the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. © Tada Images /

May 21, 2024 04:12 EDT

On March 9, 2023, student protestors invaded the safe space of what must assuredly be a minority group at Stanford University: the law school’s Federalist Society. Stuart Kyle Duncan, a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, had been invited to speak to a roomful of students, and it did not go well. 

Rowdy protestors joined, and Duncan, as The New York Times reported, “was relentlessly heckled and traded barbs with students. He tried to power through his prepared remarks but was unable to speak more than a few words without interruption.” As for the “traded” barbs: Among other things, the students yelled “We hope your daughters get raped.” The judge called them “juvenile idiots” — not exactly a fair “trade.”

Duncan asked for an administrator to restore order, as a video and the transcript show, but one of the five administrators present had already decided to cast her lot with the protestors beforehand. Tirien Steinbach, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at Stanford Law School, proceeded to give a tendentious harangue using prepared remarks that asked rhetorically, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” This phrase implicitly asked whether Duncan’s speech at the invitation of Federalist Society students was worth the “harm” it caused and the tumult the protestors chose to create. A classic heckler’s veto.

Never mind that Steinbach spoke for students, yet was not one of them, attended a rally she did not have to attend, was not a member of the group that invited Duncan. I could add that she clearly did not speak for those law school students who wanted to hear what Duncan had to say.

Why did she encourage the protestors rather than simply let everyone have his or her say? Quiet the students, create time for the dissenters and let the band play on. Fomenting the whole thing with a citrus-squeezing metaphor made a hash of the proceedings, and you have to wonder if the privileged students in the room understood her meaning. After all, isn’t squeezing juice the job of the maid?

Liberal campuses are illiberal with conservatives

This kind of thing is nothing new for conservative lawyers speaking at Federalist Society events. In another example of such behavior, Yale students used vulgarities to shout down a speaker on a panel discussing free speech, only to claim quieting the heckler infringed on the protestor’s free speech. Does it get any more Orwellian? Is it any wonder conservative judges are now saying they will not hire from certain schools for coveted clerkships?

On American university campuses, “Do as I say, not as I do” has long been the idea of DEI, and woe betide anyone who disagrees. The screaming hordes will label you a racist/sexist/body-shamer and declare that no one should associate with you. It’s a way of achieving by might what has not been won through effort or argument.

When the subjective standards are that silence is violence, speech is violence, but pronouncing orthodox beliefs that cut off, intimidate or even result in physical harm count as speech, there are no grounds for reasoned debate beyond how one feels. How one feels is, of course, justification for whatever is demanded and then it’s just a matter of volume and how many on your side show up to bring the thunder. You know who behaves this way? Children.

Learning how to be an adult, or as some might say, “adulting,” is the age-old social justification for college. Yet that’s not what’s happening on campuses these days. In watching the protests, child psychology — not adolescent psychology — is the most instructive lens. Why is that? There’s nothing prefrontal cortical about the protests. Universities have turned into infantilizing places where students of a certain political persuasion get to have their cake and eat it too without listening, articulating at less than a shout or disciplining themselves.

I have news for these kiddos: In the real world, you shouldn’t expect acquiescence and acceptance when you rail at the world and scream at people you don’t like. You also don’t get to cry for a teddy bear and safe spaces when someone says something mildly upsetting. Actually, I take that back. You do get to do that — up until the age of 4, and even then it’s not a pretty look.

Along those lines, barricading yourself in an administrative building you have “liberated” doesn’t mean you effectively get Uber Eats courtesy of the university. Even the media had to laugh at that one. Asking for “humanitarian aid” (you have to love the terminology) as you squat in a building where you don’t belong and that you’re free to leave at any time is like a child threatening to sit in a Build-A-Bear until a stuffed critter is in the offing. Parents generally don’t respond to this kind of thing by waltzing to the cash register unless they want to raise an entitled little brat. The protestor’s approach is more Tricks for Trustfunders than Rules for Radicals, and the rest of the US watches with skepticism and disgust.

God give me one sentence more

Maybe I just gotta get suspended more?

Hashtag it, get mentions for it

Make you love it, get it trending more

— Chance the Rapper, in the movie Juice

These young people don’t like something, and they will shout and tweet and get suspended and arrested in front of cameras until they get it. They want a cookie (their demands) and a participation trophy (news cameras and friendly ink declaring their bravery). They also don’t want to take exams. But something was rotten in the State of Denmark from the get-go, and the stench wafted up to DC. At a hearing before the House of Representatives, Ivy League school presidents (two of whom are now former presidents) were not even able to say before the US Congress whether calling for the genocide of Jews constitutes bullying and harassment. Congress and the public disagreed. Such “speech” by mobs setting up tent cities on campuses is defended as free and rightfully given. Such actions misunderstand the First Amendment, but that’s a discussion for another day. 

In all of this, a question arises: By allowing and thereby tacitly condoning these masked and misbehaving masses at universities, “is the juice worth the squeeze” for parents, students, administrators, donors and Democrats (the protestors’ principal supporters) in general?

I think we lost them.

— Tupac Shakur, Juice

Protestors are turning most Americans off

The protestors have enjoyed favorable press in certain circles, but their display has turned off most Americans. Among them are many parents who saw their college tuition going to institutions where classes went online, graduation ceremonies were canceled and even exams and grades were drawn into question because of rebellious squatters. Look no further than a recent “cold open” for the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live — a program not renowned for its conservative bent — in which a parent working multiple jobs says “I am supportive of y’all’s kids protesting, not my kids. My kids know better.” He goes on to say his daughter “better have her butt in class” for his $68,000 dollars in tuition. His daughter, he assures the other parents, “ain’t talkin’ ‘bout no free this, free that. Cause I tell you what ain’t free — Columbia [University].”

The narrative of elites flaunting their privilege in the evergreen warrens of universities, far removed from the day-to-day concerns of working-class stiffs has shifted moderates away from President Joe Biden’s party. Everyone and their dog knows it’s not Republicans building these encampments, and the long-running shift of the Democratic base from blue collar workers to suburban elites has come into sharp focus. Liberal indulgence of students at elite universities who shout down others in the name of “harm” but claim unmitigated free speech stemming from snowflake victimhood cuts against the grain of “checking your privilege.” Contradiction much?

The revolution will be catered, but the voters won’t be persuaded. In fact, the protests appear to be helping Trump as the narrative of Republican dysfunction in the House gives way to one of Democrat disunity and fecklessness. Yet Democrats are more worried about alienating voters in Michigan than they are about losing moderates in the rest of the country. As for the pro-Palestine arguments made on campus, no less than Hilary Clinton had a few words to say about the “ignorance” of the protestors. For this crime, she was cast from the bosom of the online woke.

School presidents and other administrators are also learning a thing or two about the peril of having, in Duncan’s words, “prisoners now running the asylum.” After the aforementioned congressional hearing about the protests, the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard were both forced out. In the case of Harvard’s president, accusations of plagiarism and the shock, shock of her suddenly discovered thin academic record made the ousting more palatable to the academic class.

But what about higher education’s value? Heaven knows students are rethinking it, and Gen Z is already opting for cheaper university diplomas and becoming the “tool belt generation.” Beyond debt aversion, there’s a litany of reasons for declining enrollment, and whether it’s demographics, cost, confidence in the diploma or the reasonably strong economy, there are fewer people going to college.

Cyclical and immutable factors aside, the most damning problem is the loss of faith in the value of a college diploma. Last summer, prior to the protests, Gallup found strong evidence of the growing disenchantment, reporting that “Americans’ confidence in higher education has fallen to 36%, sharply lower than in two prior readings in 2015 (57%) and 2018 (48%).” Unsurprisingly, Republicans tend to resent the indoctrination they pay handsomely for, and between 2018 and 2023 “confidence once again fell across the board, but Republicans’ sank the most — 20 points to 19%, the lowest of any group.” Just wait until their kids come back wearing the college couture of keffiyehs and sunglasses.

University enrollment is declining in part due to demographics but also as a percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds. Maybe it’s because the parents and kids are wondering what they get for the money and effort. Few debate whether there’s a proliferation of useless degrees out there, and the protests have onlookers scratching their heads as to how the students have so much time for lounging in the quad with ornate signs. Don’t they have papers to write and classes to attend? I guess my question is, what’s an education worth when elite universities dole out A’s like Tic Tacs? Harvard and Yale give 80% of their students A’s. Grade inflation began in the early 1980s, but now it’s ridiculous. If you crush the entrance exam, all you have to do is sit back and wait for the fancy diploma and job offers from Wall Street and McKinsey. The educational-industrial machine has turned into a rubber stamp.

Then we have the donors, the Big Kahunas of the postsecondary racket. Ken Griffin is done with Harvard and the “whiny snowflakes” it produces who are “lost in the wilderness of microaggressions, a DEI agenda that seems to have no real end game.” Not to knock the guy while he’s down, but if giving half a billion dollars to a school doesn’t improve academic achievement, more dollars are unlikely to change the outcome.

Pardon the pun, but the exodus of billionaire donors to university endowments has been astonishing. There are only so many people with pockets deep enough to plunk down checks that even register on these schools’ war chests, and they’re mostly searching for the exit doors. One can argue that endowments in certain places can afford to tell donors to go fly a kite. Would that it were so and that money found its way into the coffers of schools focused on education, not politics, as a profession. Ruth Gottesman donated a billion dollars to a Bronx school where no ivy springs, but good work is done. That school is named after no less than Albert Einstein — a Jew.

Posh American universities will do fine but their luster is dimming

Even if Harvard’s early admissions dipped 17% this year, Ivy League schools will do fine. Applications to elite universities are up; however, how much are employers interested in these kids? Perhaps less than you might think. Conservative judges fleeing these graduates are one thing, but a recent Forbes article has this to say: “Among those in charge of employment decisions, 33% said they are less likely to hire Ivy League graduates than they were five years ago”. Ouch. There’s no sense in crying over spilled juice, but we definitely need a mop on aisle five.

At JP Morgan, Jamie Diamond wants people who will take responsibility for mistakes. “Do you take the blame” he asks, “because very often, it is your fault.” I guess the entitled are out. The House of Morgan wants hungry people, not diplomaed jackanapes.

Lastly, is it worth it to the integrity of student populations? Many of these campus protests were fomented by or succumbed to outside influences. As solid numbers of unaffiliated people get arrested at campus protests, it’s becoming clear that outside actors trained and, possibly, financed the protests for their own reasons. New York City Mayor Eric Adams had no problem saying it, and the numbers don’t lie. According to Hizzoner the mayor, nearly 30% of the people arrested at Columbia and 60% of the arrests at City College were unaffiliated with the respective schools. As much as places like NPR would like to call “outside agitators” a trope, 50% of the people arrested in the Big Apple’s campus protests weren’t students. The media has been covering down for some of the unaffiliated like Nahla Al-Arian, a woman who is married to a fellah who pled guilty to, and was deported for, aiding a terrorist organization — but regardless of who they are, aren’t they outside protestors by any definition? No school affiliation? You’re clearly not a student protestor, and you’re getting in the way of students who want to get an education.

Certainly, claiming the police “caused” riots and demonstrating an unwillingness even to acknowledge the atrocities Israel endured at the hand of Hamas on October 7 last year were obtuse at best, while comparing New York’s Finest to the Ku Klux Klan makes clear diplomas in histrionics are not bound with marketable skills. For Pete’s sake, even Google knows it. And taking down Old Glory to fly the Palestinian flag is a disturbing education in campus patriotism. University of North Carolina Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts said enough is enough, but the protestors screaming him down sounded nothing so much as crying children. Enough is enough, and shouting, screaming and replacing this country’s flag with another betrays not only a poor moral compass but misplaced educational priorities.

Days ago, the Harvard Jewish Alumni Alliance published a striking report that shows what it’s like to be a Jewish student at Harvard. It also reminds readers that Harvard’s protests began before Israel had even launched a response, effectively making these demonstrations an exercise in cheerleading the massacre of Jews rather than a response to Israel’s reaction. The groupthink and antipathy against Jews by faculty, speakers and students shows the ivory tower needs to practice what it preaches. Tolerance, empathy, understanding and humanity are the stakes.

The malcontents on campus have rendered a loss to all, aside from the terrorist group Hamas, which found their protests “useful,” and as the protestors leave for the summer break, they are also asking if anything was accomplished. If we judge the protests by outcome, the universities, students, administrators, donors, parents and politicians suffered. As for Tirien Steinbach, the Stanford DEI associate dean, she left Stanford and with it her six-figure salary. One has to wonder if even she is now questioning whether the juice was worth the squeeze.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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