The presence of colonialism on university campuses is simultaneously contested and perpetuated | Perspectives

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Throughout the United States, universities have become the focal point of student-led movements opposing Israel’s actions in Gaza. Local authorities and university administrations have cracked down on these protests, citing campus safety and fighting anti-Semitism as reasons. Despite facing violence and intimidation, students continue to protest without backing down.

This kind of student activism is not new. Throughout history, students have been at the forefront of challenging colonialism and imperialism. For example, in the 1530s, Spanish students at the University of Bologna protested against war during the colonization of the Americas, showing that dissent and activism among students have a long history.

From protesting segregation and racism in the US in the 1920s and 1930s, to demonstrations against the Vietnam War in the 1960s and apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s, student movements have consistently stood up against colonialism and injustice. Today, students are protesting the genocide in Gaza and holding companies accountable for their involvement in the conflict.

While universities have traditionally been seen as places of dissent, they also support colonial projects. Many universities profit from investments in companies involved in occupied territories or the Israeli military. Additionally, universities educate students to support and implement colonialism, contributing to the cycle of violence.

As students challenge higher education’s complicity in colonialism, faculty members must consider their role in addressing these issues. Ethical questions about the intersection of science, technology, and colonialism must be addressed in the classroom. While the current protests may not lead to a complete overhaul of the higher education system, they are pushing in the right direction by challenging structures of colonial dominance.

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