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Are pro-Palestinian student protests helping or hurting their cause?

Do protests on college campuses work?
Do protests on college campuses work? 02:51

BOSTON - What started at Columbia University has spread to colleges in Massachusetts and beyond: pro-Palestinian students accelerating their protests of the war between Israel and Hamas.
But are the students helping or hurting their cause?

Campus protests have challenged status quo  

"Student protests have been a catalyst for many of the most important reforms in American history," said protest historian Steven Mintz of the University of Texas at Austin. He notes that since at least the 1930s, campus protesters have challenged the status quo on issues of war, race and social equality.

In the 1960s and early 70s, the anti-Vietnam War movement spawned on campus successfully argued for ending the draft and giving peace a chance. But Prof. Mintz notes it came at a political cost: "The student protests of the 1960s produced a backlash that resulted in 40 years of conservative ascendancy."

While it was later deemed a police riot, violence at protests during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago was believed to have fueled a seven percent vote swing toward Republican nominee Richard Nixon. No wonder the presumptive GOP nominee today senses opportunity, saying today on his way into court: "What's going on at the college level and the colleges - Columbia, NYU and others - is a disgrace." 

Trump blames the situation on President Biden, even though he is a prime target of the current wave of campus unrest.

"Protests are threatening basic civility"

"Their protests are threatening basic civility in our society," says Prof. Mintz, who claims the protesters mostly lack achievable goals or a message that can inspire Americans. "I would call it performative radicalism. It has nothing to do with the larger cause, it's all about 'me.' If the goal of the protest was to develop sympathy, empathy for the suffering of people in Gaza, it's done almost the exact opposite."

Why aren't student protesters winning more support?           

Several reasons, according to Prof. Mintz, including the embrace by many of Hamas tactics that horrify most Americans, completely unrealistic demands for radical changes in university policies, hostility toward fellow students and others who are not automatically on their side, and extreme political naivete.

Vietnam-era protesters clamored for peace and an end to the carnage of war. Too many of these protesters carry signs calling for more violence. 

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