Monday, May 20, 2024






        It’s a question central to the commencement cancellations, protest encampments and building takeovers that have been significant features of college life across California and America this spring:


        Should taxpayers fund college classes in agitation and protest, currently offered on many campuses?


        No one knows exactly how many products of these classes have populated the protests and arrest rolls this spring, but bet on there being a significant number.


        Not every campus offers such classes today, and what they teach can be used anywhere in protests of almost anything, from support for Palestinians and Hamas to backing Israel and organizing insurrections that invade government buildings to disrupt key proceedings.


        But since a substantial percentage of those arrested around the country this spring had no connection to the campuses where they camped out – 60 percent of arrestees at 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, for just four examples – it’s a safe bet at least some of the springtime protesters were trained in agitation by public institutions.


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


        “Agitational and protest communication includes the strategies, tactics and communication utilized by movements to resist or provide different perspectives, including those that have been excluded or silenced. Attention is given to theories, contexts and strategies…as well as numerous examples of diverse protest movements in modern and contemporary history.”


        The class offers three transferable credits that count toward UC graduation.


        Did the protesters at UCLA who allegedly blocked the entrance to the main undergraduate library there this spring to all who lacked a yellow wristband learn that tactic in such a class? Some UCLA students said they could not enter that library until and unless they obtained the wristband by signing a statement backing the Palestinian side in the current Middle East conflict (VIDEO-2024-05-10-12-59-23). UCLA officials did not return calls and emails requesting authentication for that claim, but did say some public walkways were blocked to people not wearing yellow wristbands during the five-day encampment on the grassy central quad there.


        Classes akin to the Santa Monica College course are listed in catalogs of several California State University campuses, including those in San Marcos, Long Beach and Sacramento.


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


        Descriptions are very similar at virtually all campuses offering this type of class.


        Similar classes are spreading to other campuses, too. UCLA, for one, next fall will inaugurate a new undergraduate seminar “highlighting Asian American and Pacific Islander politics and policy advocacy” that will “allow UCLA students to put theory into practice this fall.”


        A question no campus has yet addressed is whether public colleges exist in part to help unify Americans or to contribute to social unrest and racial and ethnic identity politics. Or possibly both.


        But there is no doubt this spring’s spate of campus encampments have blocked Jews and other “Zionists” from entering some buildings and spaces, like the UCLA encampment itself. Denizens of the encampment there erected barriers to keep out anyone not in agreement with their cause. Some participants were videoed preventing Jewish students from walking to classes and while accosting a student wearing a star of David necklace.


        Said Nicole Rosen, spokesperson for the Santa Cruz-based AMCHA Initiative, which has long tracked campus anti-Semitism nationally, “When universities don’t insist on enforcing their policies and holding students accountable, with consequences, outside agitators and extreme students will take over.”


        Meanwhile, the contributions of publicly-funded classes teaching how to accomplish this have so far not been officially measured this spring.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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