Should public colleges offer courses on agitation and protest? – The Ukiah Daily Journal

This question is at the heart of the cancellations of graduation ceremonies, protest camps and building occupations that have shaped university life in California and across America this spring:

Should taxpayers finance agitation and protest courses at colleges, which are currently offered at many universities?

No one knows exactly how many members of these classes were on the protest and arrest lists this spring, but it is safe to assume that the number is significant.

Such courses are not offered at every university today, and the content taught in them can be used anywhere and in protests against almost anything – from supporting the Palestinians and Hamas to supporting Israel and organizing uprisings that storm government buildings to disrupt important proceedings.

But since a significant percentage of those arrested across the country this spring had no connection whatsoever to the campus where they were camping—60 percent of those arrested at the City University of New York, 24 of 64 at UC San Diego, 40 percent at MIT, and 26 of 33 at the University of Pennsylvania, to name just four examples—it is safe to assume that at least some of the spring protesters had been trained in agitation by public institutions.

Here's what the catalog entry says about “Communication Studies 20, Agitation and Protest,” an offering from Santa Monica College, the community college that sends more transfer students to the University of California than any other:

“Agitation and protest communication encompasses the strategies, tactics and communication tools used by movements to resist or offer alternative perspectives, including those that have been excluded or silenced. It covers theories, contexts and strategies… as well as numerous examples of different protest movements in modern and contemporary history.”

The course offers three transferable credits that count toward the UC degree.

Did the protesters at UCLA who reportedly blocked the entrance to the main library there this spring to anyone without a yellow wristband learn this tactic in such a course? Some UCLA students said they could not enter the library until they obtained the wristband by signing a statement supporting the Palestinian side in the current Middle East conflict (VIDEO-2024-05-10-12-59-23). ​​UCLA officials did not respond to calls and emails seeking confirmation of this claim, but said that during the five-day encampment on the grassy central courtyard, some public walkways were closed to anyone without yellow wristbands.

The catalogs of several California State University campuses, including San Marcos, Long Beach, and Sacramento, list courses similar to the course at Santa Monica College.

The Long Beach State University catalog entry describes “Communications Studies 415 – Rhetoric of Social Movements and Protests” as a three-unit course that “examines the goals, strategies, and impacts of groups that form to advocate social, political, and/or moral change. Emphasis is placed on how (agitator) groups communicate messages and how institutions of power respond to control or resist change.”

The descriptions are very similar at virtually all locations that offer courses of this type.

Similar courses are offered on other campuses. UCLA, for example, will introduce a new undergraduate seminar next fall that “focuses on Asian American and Pacific Islander politics and political advocacy” and “will allow UCLA students to put theory into practice this fall.”

One question no campus has yet answered is whether public colleges exist in part to unite Americans or to contribute to social unrest and racial and ethnic identity politics. Or possibly both.

But there is no doubt that the numerous campus encampments this spring have barred Jews and other “Zionists” from certain buildings and places, such as the UCLA encampment itself. Encampment residents erected barriers there to keep out anyone who disagreed with their cause. Some participants were filmed preventing Jewish students from going to their classes and harassing a student wearing a Star of David necklace.

Nicole Rosen, spokeswoman for the Santa Cruz-based AMCHA Initiative, which has long tracked anti-Semitism on campuses across the country, said, “If universities don't insist on enforcing their policies and holding students accountable, outside agitators and extreme students will gain the upper hand.”

However, the contribution of publicly funded courses that teach these goals has not yet been officially measured this spring.

E-mail Thomas Elias at [email protected]. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” is now available in its fourth paperback edition. For more of Elias' columns, visit