Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
harvard university campus
harvard university campus
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Culture > News

Here’s How US College Students Are Reacting To What’s Happening In Israel & Palestine

College students across the nation are closely watching the unrest in the Middle East, following an attack on Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on Oct. 7. Reactions to the Hamas attack and Israel’s response have been fiercely divided, and many college students have protested the ongoing violence — and their universities’ responses to the situation — on their university campuses in the days that have followed.

Hamas launched thousands of rockets into Israel on Oct. 7, killing hundreds of civilians. They then launched an attack by land, sea, and air, crossing the border into Israel and taking civilians and soldiers hostage, according to The New York Times. Israel responded by declaring war, launching airstrikes into Gaza on Oct. 10 and implementing a complete siege of Gaza that is cutting off food, water, electricity, and fuel to their population (nearly half of which is made up of children) until the roughly 150 hostages are returned. The death tolls continue to rise, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that almost 1,800 Palestinians and 1,300 Israelis have died since Oct. 7.

As the war continues, many celebrities, businesses, and universities have released statements showing their condemnation of the violence. On college campuses, student organizations have also made their stances clear, sometimes in opposition to their universities’ statements. Here are just some of the schools where student protests have started up.

Harvard University

On Oct. 8, the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee, made up of over 30 student groups, released a joint statement that said they “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence” and said, “We call on the Harvard community to take action to stop the ongoing annihilation of Palestinians.” The statement was met with immediate backlash from the wider Harvard community, with some CEOs calling for the students’ names to be released so they could be blacklisted from being hired at their companies. The PSC ultimately removed the list of student groups from their statement on Instagram entirely, citing “the safety of affected students.” In a video posted to TikTok, students with Israeli and Palestinian flags can be seen protesting on Harvard’s campus.

On Oct. 9, Harvard’s university leadership released a statement that did not mention the PSC’s statement but said they were “heartbroken by the death and destruction unleashed by the attack by Hamas that targeted civilians in Israel this weekend, and by the war in Israel and Gaza now under way.”

However, this was followed up by a statement from Harvard President Claudine Gay on Oct. 10 in which she wrote, “Let there be no doubt that I condemn the terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas. … Let me also state, on this matter as on others, that while our students have the right to speak for themselves, no student group — not even 30 student groups —  speaks for Harvard University or its leadership. We will all be well served in such a difficult moment by rhetoric that aims to illuminate and not inflame.”

On Oct. 11, the Harvard PSC released a follow-up statement saying that students in PSC and outside of it have been persecuted and targeted with racist hate speech since their statement went up. They clarified, “PSC staunchly opposes all violence against all innocent life and laments all human suffering.” They added, “The ongoing discourse centered on Harvard diverts focus from the relentless carnage in Gaza, a dire situation which our joint statement urgently warned about.”

California State University Long Beach

On Oct. 10, nearly 200 students gathered at CSULB for a “free Palestine” rally, with signs and banners that had messages like, “When people are colonized, resistance is justified” and said during the rally that there was a lack of support for Palestinians from the university. One poster shared by the La FUERZA Student Association, which featured a paraglider above a crowd of protestors, made national headlines and was criticized online for being “out of touch” with the situation since Hamas used paragliders in their attack. The club has since made their Instagram account private.

CSULB President Jane Close Conoley released a statement in response to the protest on Oct. 10, writing, “We reject any glorification of war or celebration of death, and we acknowledge the pain caused by speech that does.” She called the protest “deeply offensive in light of the loss of life and unspeakable violence during this conflict” and called for the community to “hold to a vision of peace and reject violence.”

New York University

Since NYU’s location in Manhattan prevents it from having an official outdoor “campus,” many NYU students attended and organized protests in Manhattan with the local communities, according to NYU’s student newspaper, Washington Square News. Two NYU sophomores worked in partnership with the Israel Journal at NYU to organize a “pro-Israel” rally at Washington Square Park, near many of NYU’s academic and dormitory buildings. Over 50 students and supporters attended.

Meanwhile, Washington Square News also reported that NYU’s Students for Justice in Palestine traveled uptown to Times Square where a large-scale rally for Palestinian liberation was happening. The rally was denounced by several New York politicians, including New York City mayor Eric Adams, New York governor Kathy Hochul, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT’s Office of the President released a statement on Oct. 10 that said, “The brutality perpetrated on innocent civilians in Israel by terrorists from Hamas is horrifying,” and included the “prolonged conflict that will also gravely harm or kill many innocent Palestinians in Gaza.” The letter acknowledged that anti-Semitic and Islamophobic sentiments were rising, and urged their students to “ensure that the rhetoric on our own campus does not escalate to the point of personal attacks, harassment or violence.”

Many Jewish and Israeli students at MIT gathered for a “pro-Israel” rally on Oct. 11 at MIT’s student center, calling for support for Israel and denouncing MIT’s letter for not standing with Israel outright. One Israeli student told the Boston Herald, “I think the letter we saw from MIT was very disappointing. An institution like MIT should be brave and say out loud they stand with the right side of humanity after seeing all these horrible videos and actions of terror.”

University of Florida

A vigil for Israeli victims held by UF students on Oct. 9 descended into chaos after a misunderstanding caused students to think they heard gunshots and run for safety, leading over 30 students to be sent to the hospital with concussions, gashes, and other injuries sustained by the ensuing panic of the crowd. No shots were actually fired, with the source of the noise now believed to have come from a dropped bag or water bottle, and no students were admitted overnight.

In response, UF president Ben Sasse sent a letter to students, writing, “While we all wish the night had ended differently, we are tremendously proud of the students who came to stand with Israel.” The letter took a staunchly pro-Israel stance, continuing, “I will not tiptoe around this simple fact: What Hamas did is evil and there is no defense for terrorism. This shouldn’t be hard. Sadly, too many people in elite academia have been so weakened by their moral confusion that, when they see videos of raped women, hear of a beheaded baby, or learn of a grandmother murdered in her home, the first reaction of some is to “provide context” and try to blame the raped women, beheaded baby, or the murdered grandmother. In other grotesque cases, they express simple support for the terrorists.” Sasse vowed that UF will protect their Jewish students, of which they have over 9,000, one of the country’s largest Jewish college student populations.

The letter, however, prompted over 150 Palestinian students and supporters to hold a campus event on Oct. 12. It was described not as a protest but an “educational opportunity” by the hosting student groups, Students for Justice in Palestine, Arab Students’ Association, and Islam on Campus. The event banned any photography or video out of fear of doxxing.

As the situation develops, there are mental health resources college students affected by what’s happening in Israel and Palestine can turn to. You can also donate to those on the ground who are working to directly help civilians impacted by the violence.

Erica Kam is the Life Editor at Her Campus. She oversees the life, career, and news verticals on the site, including academics, experience, high school, money, work, and Her20s coverage. Over her six years at Her Campus, Erica has served in various editorial roles on the national team, including as the previous Culture Editor and as an editorial intern. She has also interned at Bustle Digital Group, where she covered entertainment news for Bustle and Elite Daily. She graduated in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from Barnard College, where she was the senior editor of Columbia and Barnard’s Her Campus chapter and a deputy copy editor for The Columbia Spectator. When she's not writing or editing, you can find her dissecting K-pop music videos for easter eggs and rereading Jane Austen novels. She also loves exploring her home, the best city in the world — and if you think that's not NYC, she's willing to fight you on it.