College Campuses: Protests or Angry Mobs?

freespeech-samgraham-flickr-370x242Everyone knows that under the first amendment every U.S. citizen has the right to free speech this includes peaceful protests, and protests on college campuses are no rare sight. They have been a part of the college experience for students for decades however in recent years they have changed in tone and topic. Protests of the past had clear goals based around policies, however today’s protests are always ongoing with no real solution. Protests today lack a real goal and instead continuously find things to change that help no one, can be threatening to bystanders, and threatening to free speech.

Although no one needs a goal or reason to protest; without these protests loose support and devolve into mobs of people who are angry but propose no solution to the proposed problem. This has turned into the new trend on college campuses where protests have gotten a broader topic than previous years (Feirstein). Protests now focus on racism and sexism. However this is not in a policy sense but in that of historical figures, dates, and holidays. Protests like these solve no real problems but instead rename these “issues” and then turn a blind eye to the real problems. Jack Dickey wrote an article for Time giving such an example where students protested to rename a dorm for diversity, “At California-Berkeley, students demanded that Barrows Hall, named for a former university president, be renamed for Assata Shakur, a former Black Panther and member of the Black Liberation Army” (Dickey). Protests like this are now a common sight on colleges, yet they solve nothing. Renaming that hall did not increase diversity; the only outcome was a new name.151110_ithacacollege_quinn-1250x650

Not only do these most protests today not solve any real issue but they can be threatening to bystanders. Because on the lack of a policy based goal these protests have turned into more of a witch hunt than actual solution finding. Unlike protests based around policy, protests about broader subjects such as racism, sexism, or diversity have no real room for debate. Once someone disagrees they are now seen a bigot unlike policy protests in which when someone disagrees they debate the policy. This can create a mob mentality that is threatening for anyone who is not a protestor. As seen throughout the presidential campaign, at trump rallies protestors waited outside the events and all too often harassed or assaulted trump supporters simply for their political views. Adam Tamburin from The Tennessean wrote on protestors after the trump win giving evidence that debate in these are not welcome anymore and simply disagreeing can get you labeled, “On Facebook, some of her friends have derided all Trump supporters as racist, sexist or xenophobic” (Tamburin). This threatens people who disagree from protestors as being labeled a bigot and to not speak their opinions.

Even though these protests can threaten bystanders and they don’t really solve anything the biggest issue is that they limit free speech. Since these protests are not policy oriented they do not call for debate and disagreeing is not up for debate but simply that you are wrong and need to leave. In an article written by Max Kutner for NewsWeek he gives an example of how these protests are even limiting free speech of faculty, “where students last fall called for the resignation of Erika Christakis, an administrator, after she sent an email in which she seemed to defend culturally insensitive Halloween costumes as free speech” (Kutner). This shows that differing opinions are not welcome to these protests because there is no debate to be had. If you disagree, since there is no policy based goal to the protests, removing you is now the solution because you are seen as part of the problem. This discourages free speech on colleges and is the opposite of what protests are about.

wed_3The fact that these protests are given as a right for free speech yet take away free speech is hypocritical of the protests. Sam Sanders for NPR interviewed president Obama for his thoughts on these, “Well, feel free to disagree with somebody,” Obama said, “but don’t try to just shut them up” (Sanders). Even President Obama realizes that these protests are too often limiting free speech. He however still supports Protests as they are a form of free speech, which they are and always should be protected by the first amendment. The Key difference in a protest and a mob is that a protest sets out to change something such as ending the draft where a mob finds scapegoats and blames them for their anger. Protests on colleges today reflect more of an attitude of a mob than a protest and this is why they are so poisonous colleges.

Protests are always a form of free speech and should always be protected and never limited. Protests are generally good but in recent years the one defining factor of what makes a protest a protest has been lost, a goal. Without goals these protests are simply mobs that find any little thing to blame their anger on. No real solutions are being presented and limitations are being created more than freedoms. Protests are good in nature but only if they have a goal, without this nothing changes.



Works Cited

Dickey, Jack. “The Revolution On America’s Campuses.” Time, Time, 31 May 2016,

Feirstein, Bruce. “How to Be a Student Protester: 1968 vs. 2016.” The Hive, Vanity Fair, 13 June 2016,

Kutner, Max. “A Greater Percentage of College Freshmen Say They Plan on Protesting than Have in Decades.” Newsweek, Newsweek, 21 May 2016,

Sanders, Sam. “Obama Warns Campus Protesters Against Urge To ‘Shut Up’ Opposition.” NPR, NPR, 21 Dec. 2015,

Tamburin, Adam. “Trump’s Election Sparks Protests on College Campuses.” The Tennessean, The Tennessean , 12 Nov. 2016,


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