Light Wave

U.S. News

The Biggest Winners And Losers From The 2024 College Protests

By LightWave Editors · May 16, 2024

America — and the world — watched in a state of shock and wonder as a relatively small group of anti-Israel protesters set up encampments on scores of college campuses this spring. Classrooms were shuttered, commencements cancelled, while the pursuit of knowledge was forced to take a sabbatical at many of the nation’s most prestigious schools.

As the academic year comes to a close, the editors of Light Wave have conducted a review of recent campus events in order to select its list of winners and losers in the wake of this season of campus discontent.

What follows are our selections.  JASON BEAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

Winners - 10. New York Police Department

NYPD swiftly restores order to Columbia with no injuries reported

Columbia University's Hamilton Hall resembled a battleground this spring after anti-Israel demonstrators vandalized the building, smashing windows, erecting barricades, and destroying furniture.

The NYPD intervened to restore order, utilizing an armored vehicle to dislodge protesters from the occupied space. Cops employed distraction devices to facilitate entry. Following the operation, Hamilton Hall was secured, and the campus encampment was dismantled without any reported injuries.  Seth Harrison/The Journal News / USA TODAY NETWORK

Winners - 9. UNC-Chapel Hill — Pi Kappa Phi Chapter

Frat members defend Stars & Stripes - are richly rewarded

Anti-Israel protesters at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill swapped the American flag with a Palestinian one on May 1. Amid ensuing chaos, Pi Kappa Phi members shielded the American flag from desecration, while enduring jeers and projectiles from the crowd.

Supporters of the frat members initiated a GoFundMe titled, "Pi Kappa Phi Men Defended Their Flag. Throw ‘em a Rager," aiming to raise $15,000. The project raised over $400,000 in under 48 hours, showing widespread support of the fraternity members.  Wikimedia/Littlealien182

Winners - 8. Pret-A-Manger & Dunkin’ Donuts

Global franchises are the nourishment of choice for campus protesters

Columbia University's anti-Israel protesters received a lavish food delivery at their tent city on the West Lawn this spring, nourishing their ongoing demonstration.

Offerings included a variety of snacks and sandwiches, some as pricey as $16. Among the treats were $15 granola bars, rotisserie chickens, and veggie, meat and fish sandwiches from Pret-A-Manger. Gallons of Dunkin' Donuts coffee were also on hand to keep the protesters energized. The source of these supplies remains unknown.  Philip DeVencentis/ / USA TODAY NETWORK

Winners - 7. David Rockefeller, Jr. & George Soros

Radical billionaires foist their agenda on academia

David Rockefeller, Jr. and George Soros are both winners and losers in the this year’s campus warfare.

They are winners because they have succeeded in their mission — at least for the moment — to disrupt American academia and push the nation further into the radical wilderness.

They are losers because they’ve been outed for surreptitiously funding radical students, supplemented with professional outside agitators, in order to wreck chaos across college campuses (see “Losers” below).  Wikimedia/World Economic Forum

Winners - 6. The Sign Printing Industry

Someone must be making money from the thousands of slick-looking signs at campus protests

Based on multiple news accounts, many of the signs held aloft by campus protesters this spring were professionally printed. Since most college students are on a very tight budget, many believe the slick, professional protest signs were financed by deep pockets like George Soros and David Rockefeller, Jr. (see under “Winners” and “Losers”).

All of which means the campus demonstrations sweeping the nation have translated into a not-too-shabby payday for the printing industry.  JASON BEAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

Winners - 5. Palestine Studies Professors

Rutgers University agrees to protester demands to hire Palestinian studies profs and create new department

Protesters at Rutgers University in New Jersey agreed to dismantle their encampments following the university acceding to several key demands. Among these are the hiring of additional professors specializing in Palestine and Middle East studies, the establishment of a Department of Middle East studies, and the creation of an Arab Cultural Center on campus. Additionally, Rutgers has pledged to form a long-term educational partnership with Birzeit University in the West Bank and to provide scholarships for at least 10 Gazan students to study at Rutgers.   Sara Diggins/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

Winners - 4. University of Texas-Austin President Jay Hartzell

College Prez quickly restores order after protesters try to roil campus

University of Texas at Austin President Jay Hartzell summoned state police to rein in protesters in April. Calm was quickly restored, with the incident resulting in more than 130 arrests.

Faced with echoes of unrest reminiscent of Columbia and other universities, Hartzell's strong action, which averted potential chaos on campus, was lauded by a group of influential alumni, including Rex Tillerson, Harlan Crow, and Robert Rowling, and praised by Texas elected officials.  Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

Winners - 3. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY)

Young congresswoman makes a name for herself with sharp questioning of university presidents

The 39-year-old upstate New York Congresswoman made a splash earlier this year as she grilled top university presidents over their handling of anti-Jewish campus protests. In the process, she earned a spot on Donald Trump’s short list for vice-presidential running mate.

Her hard-line questioning of Harvard President Claudine Gay and UPenn President Liz Magill triggered the process that led to the resignations of both executives.  Jack Gruber / USA TODAY NETWORK

Winners - 2. Professional Protesters

Outside demonstrators achieved their mission to disrupt academia, get media attention and avoid prosecution

Professional protesters with no ties to the University of Texas joined the anti-Israel demonstration at the schools’ Austin campus this spring. The group included a former elementary school teacher, a costume designer, and an interpreter.

The trend is hardly unique, as New York City officials revealed that a significant portion of those arrested at New York campus protests were unaffiliated with the schools. Mayor Eric Adams said nearly 30% of Columbia's arrestees and 60% of City College's were not linked to the respective institutions.  JASON BEAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

Winners - 1. Hamas

The protests were rough. Offensive. In your face. Sometimes violent. However one looks at 2024’s spring of unrest, Hamas came out of it with a political win.

Acceding to protester demands, major universities are now considering creating new departments of Palestine studies, hiring Middle East academics, granting scholarships to Gazans, and divesting from Israel. Protester voices were also heard by the White House, with President Biden sharply altering his rhetoric regarding the war in the Middle East and creating distance between his administration and the Israeli government.  Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Losers - 10. David Rockefeller, Jr. & George Soros

Outed for funding radical campus protest groups

Organizers backing protests at Columbia University and other campuses, including Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, received support from the Tides Foundation, funded by billionaire George Soros. His co-religionist, David Rockefeller Jr., is a trustee of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which allocated nearly $500,000 to Jewish Voice for Peace, an openly anti-Zionist group. Rockefeller Brothers Fund also backed the Tides Foundation and Tides Center.

“Why [is the Rockefeller Fund] giving significant grants to Jewish Voice for Peace, [which] blamed the horrific Oct. 7 attacks on Israel and the United States rather than Hamas?” asked Elisha Wiesel, who chairs the Elie Wiesel Foundation, an organization that supports anti-genocide work.  Wikimedia/Niccolò Caranti

Losers - 9. UCLA Administration

Police took hours to respond to campus violence because of high-level dithering at UCLA
In the aftermath of a violent clash between pro-Palestine and pro-Israel protesters at UCLA, University of California officials have launched an investigation into the slow response from campus and outside law enforcement. The incident, which left at least 15 people injured, prompted criticism from civil rights groups and the governor's office.

The Federated University Police Officers’ Association laid blame on UCLA Chancellor Gene Block who, they say, hesitated for hours before calling in security. The violence erupted after UCLA declared the pro-Palestinian protesters' encampment "unlawful," with clashes escalating despite promises of increased security presence. The delayed arrival of the LAPD, which took hours, further exacerbated the situation, prompting questions about accountability and preparedness.  Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY NETWORK

Losers - 8. Penny & Adam Pritzker

Uber-rich members of Hyatt Hotel dynasty serve on beleaguered boards of Harvard and Columbia

One of the wealthiest and most politically left-wing families in America, the Pritzkers have have been immersed in commerce, philanthropy and politics for generations. Former Obama Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker chairs Harvard Corporation. Her cousin Adam sits on Columbia University’s board of trustees.

Both Pritzkers have come under sharp criticism for their roles in backing the controversial administrations at the two Ivy institutions. Penny backed Harvard President Claudine Gay, who was eventually forced to resign. Calls for Penny to resign then followed.

Adam has been a staunch supporter of Columbia President Minouche Shafik, who is facing immense pressure to step down following months of campus unrest.  Wikimedia/The White House

Losers - 7. Radical Outside Protester James Carlson

Wealthy anarchist outed as possible ringleader of Columbia protests

A millionaire attorney and longtime anarchist agitator is being investigated as a ringleader of the violent anti-Israel protests at Columbia University.

James "Cody" Carlson, whose family made millions in advertising, owns a $3.4 million Brooklyn brownstone. But the rich kid rebel has a rap sheet dating back some 20 years. Some call him him a "professional provocateur."

Carlson may have played a role leading the militants who stormed Hamilton Hall, according to City Hall. After he was identified, his townhouse was vandalized with Stars of David and slogans referencing the recent Hamas terror attack.  NBC News

Losers - 6. Graduating Class of 2024

Graduation ceremonies across U.S. were unceremoniously cancelled

It’s hard not to shed a tear for the Class of ’24, many of whom had their graduation ceremonies cancelled or disrupted because of the hard-line antics of anti-Israel protesters. This is the same student cohort whose high school graduations were cancelled back in 2020 when the pandemic had shut down the nation.  Barbara Gauntt/Clarion Ledger / USA TODAY NETWORK

Losers - 5. Columbia University President Minouche Shafik

Lost control of elite Ivy institution

Like Claudine Gay, Shafik appears to be a poor fit for her challenging post. In placid times, running an institution like Columbia is demanding but not overwhelming. Unfortunately for Shafik, these are times of turmoil.

The encampment that overwhelmed Columbia’s Manhattan campus resulted in shuttered classrooms, a cancelled commencement, and a hallowed institution in search of itself. Shafik lacked the leadership chops to restore order among her strident students and fractured faculty.  Jack Gruber / USA TODAY NETWORK

Losers - 4. Former Harvard President Claudine Gay

Head of one of the world’s top universities steps down amid campus protests

Following a disastrous hearing in Congress, during which she was unable to decisively declare that calls for Jewish genocide by Harvard students are unacceptable, Claudine Gay was left with little choice but to resign from one of academia's plum posts. Accusations of plagiarism in her scholarly work contributed to her downfall. She appeared hapless and out of her depth throughout the ordeal.  Josh Morgan / USA TODAY NETWORK

Losers - 3. Jewish Students

College won’t be the same for Jewish students for years to come — if ever. Following months of anti-Israel protests, Jewish students and their families will have to look as closely at issues like safety and security — as they do reputation and academic quality — before choosing a school.  JASON BEAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

Losers - 2. Colleges that Caved into Protester Demands

Brown, Northwestern, Rutgers, others agreed to consider divesting from Israel to placate demonstrators

Anti-Israel protests at several U.S. universities halted after administrators brokered deals with pro-Palestinian demonstrators in order to avoid potential disruptions during final exams and graduation events. Agreements reached at schools like Brown, Northwestern, and Rutgers involved pledges to reassess university investments in Israel — or even consider ending business dealings altogether with the America’s close ally. Recent polls show that 80% of Americans back the Jewish state and oppose the protesters.  Kris Craig/The Providence Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Losers - 1. Israel

The anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement has been embedding itself into the political culture of American academia for the last 30 years. Unsurprisingly, when Israel tried to defend itself following the heinous events of October 7th, protesters sprang into action at campuses across the nation. Seven months later, divestment is now under consideration at several major universities as Israel is made into a pariah state.  Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY