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student journalists reporting from campus encampments
student journalists reporting from campus encampments
Courtesy of Lindsay Ruhl, Alisha Allison
Culture > News

5 Student Journalists Share Stories About Reporting From Campus Encampments

In the spring of 2024, college students across the country came face-to-face with frequent, highly contentious protests surrounding the Israel-Hamas war, all taking place right at their own schools. On-campus protests had already been happening for months by this point, but they reached a fever pitch in mid-April, when a pro-Palestine student encampment at Columbia University inspired students to create on-campus encampments of their own at schools all across the United States, lasting throughout the duration of the spring semester.

Campuses bore witness to distressing instances of antisemitic and Islamophobic hate, sometimes-violent police raids on protests, and intense unrest among students, staff, and faculty.

The size, frequency, and severity of the protest-related incidents varied by campus, but one thing remained consistent from school to school: In the midst of these protests were student reporters, dedicated to sharing the truth about these events and informing their peers of the goings-on at their schools. Despite the demands of finals season, the distress of dealing with campus unrest as a student, the pressure of constantly breaking new stories, and the dangers they faced in doing so, college newsrooms banded together — and some young reporters even branched out on their own — all in the name of journalism. 

Now that the semester has ended at many schools and students have dispersed back to their hometowns and summer jobs, these student reporters finally have a chance to catch their collective breath and reflect on their experiences covering these protests. Here are some of their stories.

Aliza Lubitz, Washington University in St. Louis

Aliza Lubitz student journalist
Courtesy of Aliza Lubitz

At Student Life, WashU’s student newspaper, news editors were expected to drop everything when an incident broke out on campus. And there were plenty of incidents to cover, especially when an April 27 encampment resulted in 100 arrests, suspensions, and withholding of degrees, leading to further protests from students.

“It felt at times like we were going, going, going, 24/7,” news editor and rising junior Aliza Lubitz tells Her Campus exclusively. “But providing high-quality coverage of how the conflict was unfolding on campus and affecting the students at our school was extremely important and felt meaningful.”

I always have a small lingering fear that, despite my best efforts to uphold journalistic integrity and do what is right or ethical, my reporting will affect or damage my personal relationships.

Lubitz felt the impact of covering the protests on her mental health; in particular, she was worried about how her involvement in covering the protests impacted her relationships with friends, classmates, and other peers at school. “When you are covering sensitive topics during charged times, there are usually at minimum a few people that are going to be unhappy with your reporting, no matter the content,” she says. “I always have a small lingering fear that, despite my best efforts to uphold journalistic integrity and do what is right or ethical, my reporting will affect or damage my personal relationships.”

As an upside, Lubitz says she saw her newsroom grow closer over the spring semester. “The increased demand for news coverage combined with the adrenaline and ‘all hands on deck’ mentality in the newsroom really brought our team together,” she says. She describes a supportive and understanding environment, in which she and her colleagues uplifted each other in the wake of such difficult and confusing times — an environment she’s looking forward to returning to next semester. “I am excited to continue working with the rest of our news team and resume reporting on campus again in August,” she says.

Lindsay Ruhl and Olivia Warren, Tulane University

Olivia Warren student journalist
Courtesy of Olivia Warren

Lindsay Ruhl and Olivia Warren of Tulane University’s Tulane Hullabaloo worked together to cover their school’s protests. For about four days starting April 29, Tulane’s protests and encampments were particularly contentious. Multiple students were suspended and some were arrested; photos and videos show police in riot gear clearing crowds. 

Although Ruhl felt somewhat prepared to cover the spring semester protests because of her experience covering protests in the fall of 2023, the first encampment she covered on April 30 was jarring. “I was dodging [police] horses and people getting tackled by police as I was video-recording everything for coverage,” she says. “It was violent and chaotic to watch everything unfold so quickly … It was so scary to witness that happen on my college campus.”

Lindsay Ruhl student journalist
Courtesy of Lindsay Ruhl

Warren adds: “There was no precedent for anything at that point, so Lindsay and I just dove in and experimented with the best ways to cover the encampment.”

Ruhl recalls being on the scene for hours on end, until well past midnight. “I couldn’t look away or focus on my schoolwork,” she says.

The work was tough, but gratifying. “It really brought our staff together,” Ruhl says. “During the encampment, we all bonded by being on the scene together, reporting and taking care of one another by providing food, water, and many portable phone chargers.”

It felt like those four days lasted a month.

Ruhl and Warren say they felt protected and supported by Tulane’s administration, who ensured reporters were safe (not a universal experience for students at other schools, it seems). “When police approached us to tell us we would be arrested if we stayed, a top administrator at Tulane told us we were fine, not to worry, and that we would always have a right to be there,” Warren says.

But the stressful nature of their coverage naturally still took a toll. “Balancing reporting with final exams was incredibly difficult,” Warren says, recalling that period when she was “either at the protests, typing up my coverage, or sleeping,” and not doing much else. “Our mental health is probably still recovering. It was intense, emotional, and chaotic. It felt like those four days lasted a month.”

Ruhl’s experience was similar. “It was very emotionally draining talking to people who were clearly hurting badly and not take their pain home with me at night,” she says. “Being at every protest, rally, and encampment required a lot of mental strength to be in the thick of such highly tense and emotional situations. I had to learn how to take a step back and not carry that stress around with me 24/7 as a student.”

This entire school year showed how critical journalism is.

That said, both Warren and Ruhl believe they learned a lot by reporting on the protests. “Blanket statements can never be used to talk about these protests,” Warren says. “To have any legitimate understanding of these highly emotional events, you have to talk to a lot of people and have room in your head for a lot of nuance.”

Ruhl concurs. “Our job as student journalists is to get people the facts about what is happening on campus, especially when students don’t feel safe witnessing events themselves because of their identity or beliefs on the conflict,” she says. “I learned when to ask tricky questions to protesters on both sides of the issue [and] how to properly report and interview students who were under such deep emotional stress. … This entire school year showed how critical journalism is.”

Alisha Allison, University at Buffalo

Alisha Allison student journalist
Courtesy of Alisha Allison

“It was an all-hands-on-deck situation,” Alisha Allison, a recent graduate of the University at Buffalo (and Her Campus national writer) says of her experience covering protests. As the former assistant news editor for UB’s student publication The Spectrum, Allison covered multiple days of protests and encampments at her school, which resulted in multiple arrests. 

Officers from local and state level departments were on Allison’s campus, something that made her extremely wary. “I felt concerned heading into protest coverage given the heavy police presence,” she says. However, Allison saw reporting on the protests as necessary. “It’s part of my duty as a journalist.”

Much like her peers across the country, Allison believes covering the protests united her newsroom, as they worked together to take photos, live-tweet, and create articles about the protests. “I think covering the protests brought us together because it was a group effort,” she says.

Hasina Shah, University of Texas – Austin

Hasina Shah student journalist
Courtesy of Hasina Shah

Although she writes for on-campus publications such as BurntXOrange and The Daily Texan, student journalist and UT Austin junior Hasina Shah wasn’t assigned to the news teams covering the protests, so she decided to pursue coverage independently, sharing her reporting on social media.

Shah was frustrated with how law enforcement handled the protests — and scared, too. “Texas [Department of Public Safety] threw a professional journalist to the ground and arrested him with his press credentials and camera, even after he repeatedly told them he was with the press,” Shah recounts. “As a student, I felt that could happen to me at any moment.”

Our job as journalists is to get the truth out and share it. I am so proud of all the student journalists who did that.

According to Shah, the journalism school at UT did an “incredible job” of preparing its students to report on live events, and its staff made themselves available to support students and help ensure their safety. However, Shah didn’t feel quite as supported by the university’s administration. “The University of Texas made it very clear that they were more concerned with property damage than they were with ensuring the safety and protection of its students and their right to free speech,” she claims.

Despite the setbacks, Shah’s personal goal was to report on what she witnessed at her school. “Our job as journalists is to get the truth out and share it,” she says. “I am so proud of all the student journalists who did that.”

Additional reporting by Lexi Williams.

Cate Scott

Syracuse '26

Cate Scott is a third-year Syracuse University student pursuing a dual degree in journalism and creative writing. Actively contributing to multiple campus publications and constantly learning about the journalism field in her courses, she is dedicated to expanding her writing skills across various disciplines and formats. She is currently based in Greater Boston and is interested in exploring magazine writing, politics, investigative work, and culture. Cate has been reading and writing poetry and personal essays for years. She hopes to pursue creative writing as well as her journalistic passions in her future career. Beyond her academic pursuits, Cate is a runner and seasoned music nerd. She is on her school's club sailing team and is a proud and active sorority member. The highlights of her weeks include hosting her college radio show, exploring Syracuse, finding time to play her guitar, and doing it all with her roommates and best friends. A native New Englander, Cate spends her summers taking the train into Boston and hiking with her German Shepherd, Maggie.