“Activists and students participate in an encampment protest at the University Yard at George Washington University”/NPR/Alex Wong/Getty Images

The elite protest

Doth too much?

Jeffrey Denny
5 min readMay 1, 2024


Jeffrey Denny

“College protests are sweeping the nation” the headlines say.

Progressives cheer, Biden fears, MAGAs jeer and Trump sneers in typical despicable delight.

The anti-Semitic chants and campus chaos thrill the GOP that has nothing else to run on. They also kill Democratic election odds as the important youth vote threatens to abdicate, preferring protest camps over polling places, loud proud voices over voting. Even if puts Trump back in power to double down on his militant autocracy.

No doubt Trump would call on armed forces to round up, jail or even shoot protesters like at Kent State. He already demanded as much during his Putinesque presidency to please his proudly “poorly educated” MAGA base that naturally hates higher education.

Are these college protests really a groundswell of America? Voices worth hearing and heeding? A new Kent State resisting a stupid war? Or just entitled youth indulging a dysregulated hissy like Trumpers on J6? Even adulting Democrats wonder.

America has around 4,000 colleges.

Around 100, a tiny 2.5%, reported encampments or sit-ins, per the ongoing Axios tally.

It’s too easy to blame the complicit media for hyping the protests. It’s merely respecting the protesters and their subliminal chant, “What do we want? Attention! When do we want it? Now!”

It can’t be a coincidence that the leading protests are clustered at top Northeastern colleges led by the Ivy League. Many costing $250,000 or more for an undergrad degree. And among the most exclusive in America.

Harvard accepts only 3.2% of applicants, Columbia 3.8%, Yale 4.6%, Penn 6.5%, and Northeastern 6.8%. Beyond the Northeast is Northwestern at 7.2%, USC 9.2% (an historic low), Berkeley 11.3%, Atlanta’s Emory, 11.4% and NYU 12.5%.

What about major public state universities where students are up in arms?

Funded by taxpayers — including with kids who can’t get in or afford even in-state tuition — many accept 40–60%, considered “moderately selective.” Then there’s UCLA at 9%, UC Berkeley, 11%, and UMich, 17.7%. UT Austin rises to 30% largely because it reserves 90% for Texans like France does for Sorbonne.

Top state universities once were safety schools when Ivys and their elite costly wannabes rejected top applicants. Today, their thin rejection letters have even dean’s list valedictorians, salutatorians, and summa and magna cum laude high school grads demanding their mom or dad lawyers sue. After all, they starred in myriad activities, demonstrated leadership, enjoyed college coaching and test prep, and pulled family, business and alumni donor strings.

Decades ago, I sailed into a UConn branch on the GI Bill after a four-year Navy enlistment. I could never get in today. Especially since the twice National Champion Huskies made UConn a donor and student magnet.

UConn is having a protest but it barely registers on the national news. Meanwhile, 3,000 other colleges and universities in America, many you never heard of, oddly are peaceful. Yet somehow they produce remarkable grads, leaders, influencers and inspiring heroes.

Look at Time’s amazing 2024 Women of the Year, “a selection of 12 female trailblazers across industries who are fighting for equality, justice, and a better future around the globe.” How many rose from elite colleges wracked by today’s headline protests? (Spoiler: none).

The overwhelming majority of American college grads boast degrees from campuses not on the protest map. Technical colleges. City colleges. Commuter colleges. Branch colleges. Community colleges. The 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities founded for higher-education equality (see Time’s top woman Taraji P. Henson, Howard ‘95). Few on a free ride, many taking on debilitating student debt to bet on a better life.

Consider also the underrated Great Value Colleges that elite students don’t know nor would consider. Like Juniata College, Wheaton College, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, St. Lawrence University, Kalamazoo College, Webb Institute, Muhlenberg College and #1 University of Mary Washington deep in Virginia with eight Fulbright faculty scholars (85.5% acceptance).

Stories of modern legends who began at humbler colleges are legion.

Steve Jobs spent two semesters at De Anza College in California after dropping from Reed College in Oregon. Eddie Murphy, Queen Latifah, George Lucas, Halle Berry and Tom Hanks all started at community colleges. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from Santa Monica College (100% acceptance) to California governor with notable stints along the way. Clint Eastwood launched from Los Angeles City College (100% acceptance). (Got a problem with that, punk?)

Countless humbly college-educated folks went on to earn honorary doctorates from Ivy and other exclusive private colleges that never would have accepted them. Many delivered commencement addresses advising the grads to harness their exceptional privilege to change the world for the better.

Today’s elite college protesting students might believe they’re Archimedes, leveraging the world from where they stand.

Bless their hearts, they mean well. But are they moving anything but themselves by simplistically diving into fraught Mideast politics? By victimizing Jewish classmates with “from the river to the sea,” “globalize the intifada,” and outright anti-Semitic hate while demanding safe spaces from triggering, terrifying, traumatizing words that do violence to their agency? By demanding meaningless divestment of endowed assets that fund scholarships for the less privileged? By serving as handmaidens for Hamas terrorist rapists and useful idiots for Trump? By being selective in their wailing against genocide, ignoring the Uyghurs, sub-Saharan Africans or, heck, Ukraine?

Can’t they see their tacit allyship with the torch-bearing Unite the Right white supremacist neo-Nazis that marched at Charlottesville chanting “blood and soil!” and “Jews will not replace us!”?

Do the college rebels really have a cause beyond the right to protest, a snake swallowing its tail? Or is Millennial Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle onto something, “There’s only one real customer for that sort of performance: the participants themselves.”

This is a difficult college commencement season.

Challenging grads is customary. But not for the faint of heart.

Especially when the most elite and militant minority feels righteously entitled to hijack the proceedings and denounce the speaker who dares to challenge them.

Maybe these students can act out because they’re not concerned about stupid capitalist jobs, careers, or making a living to raise a family after capitalism bought them the best education in the world. Maybe they don’t need or care to make a living.

But many if not most of America’s 18 million college students probably appreciate the privilege denied many to go to college. They likely welcome what their colleges and commencement speakers teach. And understand that demanding free speech to silence free speech is beyond ignorance that college vaccines against.

Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.



Jeffrey Denny

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