Student Demonstrations

Student Demonstrations


Leonard Zwelling

This time it seems new.

I’ve been in the middle of a few demonstrations in my time.

I was on the quad at Duke when the students demonstrated for higher wages for the cafeteria and domestic workers in a large demonstration called the Vigil. This occurred right after the assassination of Dr. King on April 5. Of course, in North Carolina in 1968, most of the workers were Black so this demonstration had distinct racial overtones. Joan Baez even showed up. In the end, the demonstrators got their demands met and we lost the cleaning service for our dorm rooms. I am not sure who really won that one, but the Vigil was notable not only for its effectiveness, but also for its orderliness and peacefulness.

My concern between September 1966 and September 1969 was to acquire sufficient credits and a high enough GPA along with adequate MCAT scores to go to medical school in three years. I did not participate in the Vigil. In fact, I mostly avoided main quad during the demonstration. My concerns were elsewhere and nothing being done by those demonstrating prevented me from going to class. I did not fear for my safety. It was a model protest.

On February 13, 1969, the African-American students took over the Allen Building site of the administrative heart of Duke including the President’s office. This was largely a protest for greater integration at Duke (e.g., having a Black Studies Program). Again, it was peaceful in the beginning, but it became seriously disruptive as a crowd amassed on main quad near Allen.

In the late afternoon, the fastest player on the football team who had been spying assembled troops in the parking lot above Duke Gardens ran into the building to let the protestors know that the Durham Police were on the way to clear the building. The protestors vacated the premises so that once the police got there, it was protestor-free. The police gassed the quad anyway to force the gathered masses of students to disperse and clear out of the center of campus. It was memorable. I was there for that one, but once the gas hit, my fraternity brothers and I went to Chapel Hill for dinner. Again, no one feared for their safety until the police used the gas. Classes were never disrupted.–allen-/introduction

Let’s compare that with what’s going on at Columbia, Yale and other campuses today. Large tent cities have been erected and classes have been disrupted. Jewish students are afraid to walk on campus. Rather than protest for civil rights or fair wages, these students (if they are all really students) are supporting a terrorist organization about which they know nothing. Furthermore, should these people go to Gaza, they would likely be held as hostages in the tunnels.

These demonstrations today are ludicrous. They are only hurting the students who pay a fortune to go to class and try to get an education. Furthermore, the cause is not just and the damage is real. Safety is compromised. People are getting hurt.

Now, it is up to the leadership of these educational institutions to restore order to the campus. If that means students get arrested, so be it. If faculty supporting Hamas get fired, too bad.

When the Duke demonstrations took place, my life was unaffected. The cause of the Vigil was just. I was busy doing other things.

The current round of demonstrations is disruptive and these protestors are supporting an awful cause.

If the students really want the killing in Gaza to end, demonstrate for Hamas to leave and for the hostages to be released. This latest round of protest is misguided and antisemitic. The university presidents must act. Now.

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