". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Texas Shows How to Prevent a Campus Takeover

April 25, 2024

Given the Marxist fixation with seizing power, it’s strange that woke university administrators can’t seem to use it better. After all, they, not the students, are the legitimate authority on campus. For campus administrators who need remedial training on how to do their jobs, Texas provided a tutorial Wednesday when University of Texas (UT) at Austin students tried to establish a Gaza solidarity encampment there within sight of the state capitol building. Here’s a six-step handbook to shutting down illegal campus takeovers, the Texas way.

Step 1: Make the Rules Clear

On Tuesday, the UT Austin Dean of Students notified the Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC) student organization that its planned protest event was “not permitted” due to its “declared intent to violate our policies and rules, and disrupt our campus operations.”

“In the footsteps of our comrades at Rutgers-New Brunswick SJP, Tufts SJP, and Columbia SJP, we will take back our university,” PSC had declared on Instagram. In a separate post, PSC declared that “class is cancelled” and invited protestors to wear face masks, in violation of university rules.

In response to this evidence of PSC’s intentions, the administration responded, “Simply put, the University of Texas at Austin will not allow this campus to be ‘taken’ and protesters to derail our mission in ways that groups affiliated with your national organization have accomplished elsewhere.”

Therefore, they warned the PSC that “this event may not proceed as planned,” and “refusal to comply may result in arrest.”

Step 2: Activate Sufficient Personnel

Campus police departments are usually not equipped or staffed to effectively handle a large-scale protest. So UT administrators called in the cavalry. Shortly after the students’ scheduled walk-out at 11:40 a.m., Texas Highway Patrol officers arrived to reinforce UT Campus Police (UTCP). Half an hour later, 50 more state troopers arrived with riot gear, with one reporter suggesting they arrived from Houston, 160 miles away.

Step 3: Issue Lawful Orders to Contain and Disperse Protestors

UT Austin students gathered at Gregory Gymnasium and marched two blocks west to the campus’s South Mall. The southern portion of the South Mall is grassy, perfect for erecting a pop-up encampment. The northern portion is paved and leads up to the campus’s administration building, home to the UT Tower — the very location of one of America’s first mass shootings in 1966.

When the first state troopers arrived, they and UTCP erected a barrier fence and warned students they would be arrested for crossing it.

Once reinforcements arrived, law enforcement announced that the assembly was unlawful and that students had two minutes to disperse before they began making arrests. (Students complained that this was uncalled for, but the administration had already forbidden the event.)

Step 4: Arrest Those Who Refuse to Heed the Orders

After UT students refused to budge, law enforcement officers identified and arrested an organizer of the protest. Then they made a couple more arrests. Then they announced over loudspeaker that they would continue making arrests until the crowd followed their order to disperse.

At some point (either before or after arrests began), police attempted to push back the protestors, resulting in a shoving match on the plaza. Police eventually pushed the protesters eastward, away from the South Mall along W. 22nd St., where the police then blocked the road at a narrow gap between two campus buildings, Betts Hall and Garrison Hall. By 1:30 p.m., the protestors had regrouped by Brazos garage at “the corner of campus,” instead of in the center, according to a local reporter on the ground.

Step 5: Repeat as Necessary

UTCP and state troopers had won the first round, but the protestors were not finished yet. Less than an hour later, they returned to the South Mall (likely from the south, to avoid police positions) and began setting up tents as they had promised to do. The students also unfurled anti-Israel banners and carted in water and other supplies, suggesting they intended to remain for some time.

But proactive law enforcement nipped this sly maneuver in the bud. Students only had time to pitch a couple tents before the police approached. Once again, law enforcement officers formed a wall and began to push the students off of the green, in a rhythm described as “stop and start.” Occasionally this procedure was punctuated by an arrest, whenever a protestor gave sufficient cause, with approximately 10 protestors being arrested. By the end of the day, 90-odd law enforcement officials had clear the lawn of students, denying them their objective — to create a Columbia-style encampment there.

Of course, law enforcement officers couldn’t just stand on the field all evening. As soon as they departed, the protestors flooded back. Apparently their illegal activity returned too, and law enforcement had to clear the field more than once that evening. After business hours ended, UT Austin locked down buildings, closed roads, and relayed an order over the campus intercom system, ordering people to leave the South Mall on pain of arrest. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) confirmed they had made “more than 20” arrests by 6:20 p.m., but they updated that number to 34 arrests by 9 p.m.

Step 6: Permit Peaceful, Lawful Protests

UT President Jay Hartzell responded to the day’s drama by reiterating that the university “held firm, enforcing our rules while protecting the Constitutional right to free speech.” Police dispersed the protest, he said, because “the group that led this protest stated it was going to violate Institutional Rules. Our rules matter, and they will be enforced. Our University will not be occupied.” He praised the law enforcement officers and support personnel “who exercised extraordinary restraint in the face of a difficult situation that is playing out at universities across the country.”

While “breaking our rules and policies and disrupting others’ ability to learn are not allowed,” Hartzell explained, “peaceful protests within our rules are acceptable.” “We’re not in the realm of free speech anymore,” agreed former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University, on “Washington Watch.” “Once you’ve crossed the line into calling for violence, then it’s over. And we’re at that point.”

University faculty announced their opposition to the administration’s actions and pledged, “No business as usual tomorrow. No classes. No grading. No work. No assignments.” Protestors returned in greater numbers to the South Mall on Thursday afternoon, displacing a previously scheduled protest in favor of DEI.

In contrast to Wednesday’s protest, there was “very little law enforcement presence,” one reporter noted, and no attempt to disperse the protest. This is because the crowd was “peaceful, quiet,” and had not declared an intention to violate university policies by camping upon the mall.

Some students — betraying their sympathy with the “Defund the Police” crowd — tried to blame the scuffles that occurred on Wednesday on the presence of police. The protest “would have stayed peaceful” had officers not turned out in force, one UT junior suggested to a local news outlet. In other words, students would have encamped upon the South Mall unopposed if no one had been there to stop them. Students would not have disobeyed lawful orders had no such orders been given. No one would have resisted arrest if police had not tried to arrest them. A “peaceful” protest that cannot remain peaceful around law enforcement officers is not a peaceful protest.


Those arrested at the Wednesday protest will apparently not be prosecuted, due to Travis County’s far-left prosecutors. The arrestees were released on Thursday from Travis County jail, informing the media that their charges were either dropped or rejected. But hopefully the message was nevertheless received, that an attempt to create a Columbia-style encampment at UT Austin will not be successful.

In retrospect, Texas’s response may seem like a stitch in time. On Wednesday, California police also attempted to clear a pro-Palestinian protest encampment at the University of Southern California. After the protestors committed “acts of vandalism, defacing campus buildings and structures, as well as physical confrontation” with officers, according to USC Provost Andrew Guzman, police eventually arrested 93 individuals for trespassing, and the campus was closed “until further notice.” USC also decided to cancel its main commencement ceremony on Thursday until the security situation is under control.

There, students set up tents hours before the police intervened, giving time for student numbers to grow too large for the officers on-hand to manage (the Los Angeles Police Department only sent 20 officers). Officers also waited too long to make arrests; by the time they did so, protestors — many of whom were not even students — had gathered in sufficient numbers to surround a police vehicle for 20 minutes, until the police released someone they had detained.

Columbia University looks even more pitiful by comparison with Texas. “Sadly, Columbia’s administrators have chosen to let the threats, the fear and the intimidation of the mob rule to overtake American principles like free speech and the free exchange of ideas and the free exercise of religion,” House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said during a visit Wednesday. “Those who are perpetrating this violence should be arrested. And I’m here today joining my colleagues and calling on President Shafik to resign if she cannot immediately bring order to this chaos.”

Columbia University failed to prevent a pro-Hamas campus takeover twice in one week. Last Thursday, Columbia University called in the New York Police Department (NYPD) to arrest more than 100 students who set up an encampment. Yet students reestablished the encampment on Sunday, and Columbia now refuses to allow NYPD onto campus to protect Jewish students and professors from imminent danger. So hazardous did the situation become that Columbia switched to hybrid classes for the rest of the semester.

UT Austin is no conservative outlier. It recently retaliated against a professor who publicly criticized its costly DEI bureaucracy. It is so confused about biology that its Women’s Community Center’s stated mission “is to be a place for Longhorns of all genders to connect.” I could go on, but you get the picture. But the fact that UT Austin is just as woke as every other university only serves to further embarrass those who seem incapable of controlling their campuses. Campus administrators and law enforcement officers have the authority to maintain order and shut down illegal tent encampments — if only they have the courage to use it.

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.