Nuno Magalhães/Pexels

Sorry, radical students, you don’t have “ownership” of your university

Just like I don’t own Trader Joe’s

Jeffrey Denny
4 min readMay 20, 2024


Jeffrey Denny

Just had cocktails with a lovely college grad and her family in town for her commencement weekend.

She’s so smart. So dynamic. So engaging. So inspirational. So inspired by her school of foreign service studies and professors to understand and advance the world for humanity. So excited to do so.

… And so irritated with the radical students who righteously disrupted her senior year, campus and commencement celebrations. Which were especially meaningful since, like for many Class of ’24, college began with a real disruption called Covid.

Her irk is not unusual. All but a flyspeck of America’s 80,000 students at our 4,000 colleges were focused on their studies, college life, and making the most of their costly investment in higher education that’s beyond reach of most Americans. Indeed, less than 25% have a bachelor’s degree. Worldwide, it’s 7%.

As a high school dropout and Navy enlistee at 17, college was never in my cards. Thanks to the GI bill and countless great professors and lucky breaks, it launched me from a UConn branch campus into a career I’ve never stopped loving. One — I’m fortunate to say — with a consistent thread of public advocacy.

So I confess it irks me too when a handful of performative students — especially the most privileged at the most exclusive colleges — ruin it for others in the name of advocacy.

As Axios reports, “Only a sliver of students are participating [in the Gaza protests] or view it as a top issue,” citing a new Generation Lab survey.


— “A large majority (81%) of students support holding protesters accountable, agreeing with the notion that those who destroyed property or vandalized or illegally occupied buildings should be held responsible by their university, per the survey.

— “A majority also said they oppose the protest tactics: 67% say occupying campus buildings is unacceptable and 58% say it’s not acceptable to refuse a university’s order to disperse.

— “Another 90% said blocking pro-Israel students from parts of campus is unacceptable.”


— “Students ranked the conflict in the Middle East as the least important issue facing them out of nine options.

— “It landed behind health care reform, racial justice and civil rights, economic fairness and opportunity, education funding and access, and climate change.”

Some blame the media for hyping the college protests.

This is silly when, in reality, we demand the media to feed what we crave and then hate them for doing it.

It’s like buying Ben & Jerry’s, gobbling it, and then blaming the Vermont brothers, greedy pharma and Obamacare for our $1,000/month Ozempic.

The Activist Industrial Complex knows this and counts on the media to cover the conflict they create. Like blowfish, activists puff up to look more powerful than they are.

Pandering media beard-strokers proffer a range of reasons why the protestors thrill themselves by disrupting and destroying campuses like J6 rioters. We failed to teach our young about the Mideast or what divestment means. Or how to avoid serving as useful idiots for Hamas terrorists, Trumpy neo-Nazis, and Trump’s reelection. Or why the free speech rights they demand to spew anti-Semitic genocidal hate that frightens fellow students conflicts with their demand for curbs on free speech they deem hateful such as pronoun misuse.

Could it also be the protestors are inspired by the cheering and coddling by cooing adults that led them to believe in themselves above all?

For instance, after only 6% of Columbia’s faculty denounced President Minouche Shafik for her handling of the illegal and violent protestor occupations, a professor said, “I think one of the things that’s very important going forward is to make sure that students, faculty and alumni all feel ownership of the institution and feel like they have a voice that is going to be heard when conflicts arise.”

Ok, except: Students should not “feel ownership” of their colleges because they do not have ownership of their colleges.

Any more than I should feel ownership of where I shop, eat, exercise, vacation, or suffer medical professionals. Or of companies — unless I’m a shareholder or employee owner — or clients that pay me for work I do. I don’t own Amazon just because I use the wonderful pariah to exchange money for goods and services like even haters do.

I’m not being nerdly semantical. Ownership is not a feeling. It’s rational and constant duty.

You may own a dog, even if PETA hates that term. Or a home or a car, even if the bank legally does until paid off. You own your belongings. You own yourself, your life, and your failures. Your parents own you until you adult (not vice versa, even if you’re good at sarcasm).

Unless you spawned from Frederick or Donald Trump, ownership means taking care of what you own. A four-year nepo Ivy glide and ride from 1% legacy parents does not grant ownership of a college. I never owned UConn even if the Huskies own Duke, Georgetown and NCAA basketball entirely.

The self-styled few, proud, brave Gaza protestors who disrupted the Class of ’24 graduations do not own the colleges or graduates. Likely the grads eventually will own the sadly misguided protestors who, like Trump and his base, stupidly believe in the power of bullying.

Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.



Jeffrey Denny

A Pullet Surprise-winning writer who always appreciates free chicken.