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18 Jun 24

This spring’s student protests were more dramatic than any America has seen since the Vietnam War. On some campuses, classes and even graduation were canceled; in a number of cases, police were called in to dismantle protestors’ encampments. The upheaval sparked charges of antisemitism on the part of some pro-Palestinian student activists and faculty, and of unacceptable curtailment of free speech by university leaders. In all, the demonstrations cast a harsh light on America’s institutions of higher education, which have long been seen as jewels of American society. The protests also raised the question of whether opposition to the Biden administration’s policies toward Israel and Gaza could weaken support for the president’s effort to win reelection.

To discuss the campus turmoil of 2024, the president of the American Academy in Berlin, Daniel Benjamin, spoke with student journalist Theo Baker of Stanford—whose article “The War at Stanford” appeared in The Atlantic in March—Nicholas Christakis, Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale, and pollster Laura Silver, an associate director at Pew Research Center.

Theo Baker is an investigative journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, New York magazine, The Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. As a student journalist for The Stanford Daily, he authored in-depth reports that resulted in the resignation of Stanford’s president and the retraction of several high profile scientific studies. A sophomore at Stanford University, he is the youngest ever recipient of a George Polk Award.

Nicholas A. Christakis is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale University. His work is in the fields of network science and biosocial science. He directs the Human Nature Lab and is the Co-Director of the Yale Institute for Network Science. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2006, American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2010, American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017, and the National Academy of Sciences in 2024.

Laura Silver is an associate director at Pew Research Center, where she specializes in international survey research and writes about a variety of topics; she is also involved in all aspects of quantitative research process and survey design. Prior to Pew, she was a foreign affairs research analyst at the US Department of State in the Office of Opinion Research. Silver’s work has been published in the International Journal of Public Opinion Research and International Studies Quarterly, among others, and she regularly shares findings with media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Foreign Policy, South China Morning Post, CNN, BBC, Deutsche Welle, and Radio Free Asia, among others.

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