In the West, student protests such as strikes date to the early days of universities in the Middle Ages
, with one of the earliest being the University of Paris strike of 1229
, which lasted two years, and University of Oxford
strike of 1209.
In more recent times, student demonstrations occurred in 19th century Europe, for example in Imperial Russia
In 1930s, some Polish students protested against anti-Semitic ghetto benches
In the second half of the 20th century, significant demonstrations occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s: the French May 1968 events
began as a series of student strikes; Polish political crisis
that occurred the same year also saw a major student activism.
The largest student strike in American history occurred in May and June 1970, in the aftermath of the American invasion of Cambodia
and the killings of student protesters at Kent State University
. An estimated four million students at more than 450 universities, colleges and high schools participated in what became known as the Student Strike of 1970
It has been argued that student strikes and activism have a similarly long history in Confucian Asia.
Participation and issues
Early studies of campus protests conducted in the United States in the mid-1960s suggests that students who are more likely to take parts in the protests tend to come from middle class
and upper middle class
backgrounds, major in social sciences
, and come from families with liberal political views
Later studies from early 1970s, however, suggested that participation in protests is broader, through still more likely for students from social sciences and humanities than more vocational-oriented fields like economy or engineering.
Student protesters are also more likely to describe themselves as having liberal or centrist political beliefs, and feeling politically alienated, lacking confidence in the party system and public officials.
Early campus protests in the United States were described as left-leaning and liberal.
More recent research shares a similar view, suggesting that right-leaning, conservative students and faculty are less likely to organize or join campus protests.
A study of campus protests in the USA in the early 1990s identified major themes for approximately 60% of over two hundred incidents covered by media as multiculturalism
and identity struggle
, or in more detail as racial and ethnic struggle, women's concerns, or gay rights activities and represent what recent scholars have described both affectionately and pejoratively as "culture/cultural wars," "campus wars," "multicultural unrest," or "identity politics"... The remaining examples of student protest concerned funding (including tuition concerns), governance, world affairs, and environmental causes".
While less common, protests similar to campus protests can also happen at secondary-level education facilities, like high schools.
Repertoire of contention
in campus protests can take various forms, from peaceful sit-ins
, marches, teach-ins
, to more active forms that can spread off-campus and include violent clashes with the authorities.
Campus protests can also involve faculty members participating in them in addition to students, through protests led by or organized by faculty, rather than students, are a minority.
Just like students can worry about being expelled for participation in the protests, some faculty members are concerned about their job security if they were to become involved in such incidents.
A common tactic of student protest is to go on strike (sometimes called a boycott
of classes), which occurs when students enrolled at a teaching institution such as a school
refuse to go to class. It is meant to resemble strike action
by organized labour
. Whereas a normal strike is intended to inflict economic damage to an employer, a student strike is more of a logistical threat: the concerned institution or government cannot afford to have a large number of students simultaneously fail to graduate. The term "student strike" has been criticized as inaccurate by some unions
and commentators in the news media
These groups have indicated that they believe the term boycott
is more accurate.
Response and aftermath
Over time, university tolerance of campus protests have grown; while protests occurred before the 20th century they were more likely to be "crushed... with an iron fist... by university leaders" than by mid-20th century, when they have become much more common and tolerated. By the early 21st century, the university response to campus protest in the USA is much more likely to be negotiations, and willingness to yield at least to some of the student demands.
There was a resurgence of student activism in the USA in 2015.
University response to student activism and campus protests can still be much harsher in less liberal countries like China or Taiwan.
In 1980 student protests in South Korea were violently suppressed by the military (the Gwangju Uprising
As recently as in 1989 a large scale student demonstration in China that moved off-campus, the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests
, was met with deadly force.
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Last edited on 6 February 2021, at 14:46
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