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City University of Hong Kong students staging a sit-in during 2014 Hong Kong protests over blocking of electoral reforms

Campus protest or student protest is a form of student activism that takes the form of protest at university campuses. Such protests encompass a wide range of activities that indicate student dissatisfaction with a given political or academics issue and mobilization to communicate this dissatisfaction to the authorities (university or civil or both) and society in general and hopefully remedy the problem. Protest forms include but are not limited to: sit-ins, occupations of university offices or buildings, strikes etc.



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.[1][2] In more recent times, student demonstrations occurred in 19th century Europe, for example in Imperial Russia.[3] In 1930s, some Polish students protested against anti-Semitic ghetto benches legislation.[4] 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;[5] Polish political crisis that occurred the same year also saw a major student activism.[6] 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 in Ohio. 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.[7]

It has been argued that student strikes and activism have a similarly long history in Confucian Asia.[8]

Participation and issuesEdit

Student occupation at Cambridge University, 2010

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 humanities, and come from families with liberal political views.[9] Later studies from early 1970s, however, suggested hat 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.[9] 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.[9]

Early campus protests in the United States were described as left-leaning and liberal.[9] More recent research shares a similar view, suggesting that right-leaning, conservative students and faculty are less likely to organize or join campus protests.[10] 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".[11]

While less common, protests similar to campus protests can also happen at secondary-level education facilities, like high schools.[9]


Repertoire of contention in campus protests can take various forms, from peaceful sit-ins, marches, teach-ins, building occupations, to more active forms that can spread off-campus and include violent clashes with the authorities.[9][12][13] 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.[14][15] Some campus protests, known as faculty protests, are organized and attended primarily by the faculty.[16] Some forms of protest used by faculty include cancelling classes or refusing to file paperwork.[17] 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 became involved in such incidents.[18][10][19][20]

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, college or university refuse to go to class. It is meant to resemble strike action by organized labour. The term "student strike" has been criticized as inaccurate by some unions[21] and commentators in the news media.[22] These groups have indicated that they believe the term boycott is more accurate.[21][22]

Student protests can often spread off-campus and grow in scale, mobilizing off campus activists and organizations, for example the 2014 Hong Kong class boycott campaign led to the city-wide 2014 Hong Kong protests.[23]

Response and aftermathEdit

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 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.[24]

University response to student activism and campus protests can still be much harsher in less liberal countries like China or Taiwan.[18] In 1980 student protests in South Korea were violently suppressed by the military (the Gwangju Uprising).[25] 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.[26]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Joseph Lynch (16 December 2013). The Medieval Church: A Brief History. Routledge. pp. 254–. ISBN 978-1-317-87053-1.
  2. ^ Benjamin McKie Rastall (1905). "The Cripple Creek strike of 1893". Colorado College. pp. 47–49.
  3. ^ Hugh Seton-Watson (24 February 2017). The Decline of Imperial Russia: 1855-1914. Taylor & Francis. pp. 144–. ISBN 978-1-315-40516-2.
  4. ^ Emanuel Melzer (31 December 1997). No Way Out: The Politics of Polish Jewry 1935-1939. Hebrew Union College Press. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-87820-141-9.
  5. ^ Michael Staudenmaier (2012). Truth and Revolution: A History of the Sojourner Truth Organization, 1969-1986. AK Press. pp. 42–. ISBN 978-1-84935-097-6.
  6. ^ Beate Kutschke; Barley Norton (25 April 2013). Music and Protest in 1968. Cambridge University Press. pp. 216–. ISBN 978-1-107-00732-1.
  7. ^ Robert Wuthnow (2012). Red State Religion: Faith and Politics in America's Heartland. Princeton University Press. p. 248. ISBN 0-691-15055-9.
  8. ^ Gerard J.De Groot (25 September 2014). Student Protest: The Sixties and After. Taylor & Francis. pp. 227–. ISBN 978-1-317-88048-6.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Clarke, James W.; Egan, Joseph (1972-05-01). "Social and Political Dimensions of Campus Protest Activity". The Journal of Politics. 34 (2): 500–523. doi:10.2307/2129365. ISSN 0022-3816.
  10. ^ a b Jonathan Zimmerman (8 August 2016). Campus Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know®. Oxford University Press. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-0-19-062741-6.
  11. ^ Rhoads, Robert A. (1998-11-01). "Student Protest and Multicultural Reform". The Journal of Higher Education. 69 (6): 621–646. doi:10.1080/00221546.1998.11780745. ISSN 0022-1546.
  12. ^ Rob Kirkpatrick (24 January 2011). 1969: The Year Everything Changed. Skyhorse Publishing Inc. pp. 9–. ISBN 978-1-61608-055-6.
  13. ^ Lee, Aie-Rie (1997-03-01). "EXPLORATION OF THE SOURCES OF STUDENT ACTIVISM: THE CASE OF SOUTH KOREA". International Journal of Public Opinion Research. 9 (1): 48–65. doi:10.1093/ijpor/9.1.48. ISSN 0954-2892.
  14. ^ J. Fredericks Volkwein (1968). Relationship of college student protest and participation in policy-making to institutional characteristics. Cornell Univ. p. 65.
  15. ^ Bruce L.R. Smith (18 June 1975). The New Political Economy: The Public Use of the Private Sector. Palgrave Macmillan UK. p. 137. ISBN 978-1-349-02042-3.
  16. ^ Martin, Howard H. (1966-11-01). "The rhetoric of academic protest". Central States Speech Journal. 17 (4): 244–250. doi:10.1080/10510976609362843. ISSN 0008-9575.
  17. ^ Thorkelson, Eli (2016-11-01). "THE INFINITE ROUNDS OF THE STUBBORN: Reparative Futures at a French Political Protest". Cultural Anthropology. 31 (4): 493–519. doi:10.14506/ca31.4.03. ISSN 1548-1360.
  18. ^ a b Teresa Wright (2001). The Perils of Protest: State Repression and Student Activism in China and Taiwan. University of Hawaii Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-8248-2401-3.
  19. ^ Astin, Alexander W.; Bayer, Alan E. (1971-04-01). "Antecedents and Consequents of Disruptive Campus Protests". Measurement and Evaluation in Guidance. 4 (1): 18–30. doi:10.1080/00256307.1971.12022476. ISSN 0025-6307.
  20. ^ Jeffrey A. Turner (2010). Sitting in and Speaking Out: Student Movements in the American South, 1960-1970. University of Georgia Press. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-8203-3593-3.
  21. ^ a b "CUPFA Response to Student Class Boycott: March 3, 2012". Concordia University Part Time Faculty Association. 2012-03-03. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
  22. ^ a b Deck, Larry (2012-04-15). "Student "Strike" Is Losing Steam". Le Québécois Libre (299). ISSN 1707-0309.
  23. ^ Jason Luger; Julie Ren (18 May 2017). Art and the City: Worlding the Discussion Through a Critical Artscape. Taylor & Francis. pp. 47–. ISBN 978-1-315-30302-4.
  24. ^ Jonathan Zimmerman (8 August 2016). Campus Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know®. Oxford University Press. pp. 7–8. ISBN 978-0-19-062741-6.
  25. ^ Meredith Leigh Weiss; Edward Aspinall (2012). Student Activism in Asia: Between Protest and Powerlessness. U of Minnesota Press. pp. 134–. ISBN 978-0-8166-7969-0.
  26. ^ Cheng, Kris (2017-12-21). "Declassified: Chinese official said at least 10,000 civilians died in 1989 Tiananmen massacre, documents show". Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. Retrieved 2019-04-24.
  27. ^ "Kids' strike over school tests".
  28. ^ "BBC News - HK students escalate pro-democracy protest". 2014-09-27. Retrieved 2014-09-27.
  29. ^ "BBC News - Spain protest over riot police beatings in Valencia". 2012-02-21. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  30. ^ Tremlett, Giles (February 21, 2012). "Valencia police and students clash over education cuts" – via
  31. ^ "Thousands take to Valencia streets in protest against police violence and education cuts | In English | EL PAÍS". 2012-02-22. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  32. ^ "Spanish police clash violently with students: "I don't understand how the situation degenerated so fast" | The FRANCE 24 Observers". 2012-02-22. Retrieved 2013-11-01.

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