Anti-Israel protests cost colleges millions in property damage while major donors back out

The cost of the protests is not entirely financial, either. 

Published: April 28, 2024 11:33pm

Updated: April 29, 2024 12:07am

Anti-Israel encampments and vandalism have targeted dozens of U.S. college campuses, costing millions of dollars in estimated damages as prominent donors pledge to no longer support the schools.

California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, closed down its campus on Saturday "due to ongoing occupation of Siemens Hall and Nelson Hall, as well as continued challenges with individuals breaking laws in the area surrounding the buildings and the quad," the northern California public university said. Classes were moved online and students who live on campus are allowed to remain in their residence halls and in dining facilities, but they are not allowed on any other parts of campus. 

Students at Cal Poly Humboldt appear to have renamed one of the occupied buildings "Intifada Hall." That building is littered with trash and debris, while the walls are covered with graffiti in support of Palestinians in Gaza, video shows

Cal Poly Humboldt administrators estimate that the cost of the damage to the campus is "in the millions," according to The Los Angeles Times.  

Even schools that do not have encampments are still being forced to clean up anti-Israel graffiti. 

"Free Palestine" and "Palestine" were graffitied on two buildings at the University of Portland, a private Catholic school in Oregon that is not facing a student occupation. Campus Safety and Emergency Management Director Michael McNerney told The Beacon, a student newspaper, that the clean-up cost is estimated to be in the thousands. 

"Unfortunately, because of the amount of work that's required to remove and or paint over ... we’re talking about thousands of dollars in damage most likely," McNerney said. "This is a pretty serious crime at this point."

Schools across the United States have faced anti-Israel demonstrations since Oct. 7, 2023, when Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and killed about 1,200 people and kidnapped 250 others. 

Protest encampments have sprung up at more than three dozen private and public schools across the United States since Columbia University students in New York City began a "Gaza Solidarity Encampment" earlier this month.

Some universities are also facing lawsuits related to the demonstrations. For example, Columbia faces multiple lawsuits from anti-Israel student groups, protesters and Jewish students. Harvard University also faces lawsuits from Palestinian students and Jewish students.

Besides losing money due to increased costs of security, additional cleanups and other protest-related issues, some schools are also losing major donors. 

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, billionaire investor Leon Cooperman and industrialist Len Blavatnik have withdrawn donations to Columbia University or are considering doing so following the anti-Israel demonstrations on campus. The trio have donated nearly $100 million to Columbia, according to an estimate cited by the New York Post

The cost of the protests is not entirely financial, either. 

The University of Southern California in Los Angeles last week announced that its main commencement ceremony would be canceled due to "new safety measures" on campus following anti-Israel demonstrations.

It is unclear whether any other schools plan to cancel their commencement ceremonies at this time.

The final cost of the protests may not be known for quite some time as the encampments show no signs of letting up. 

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on X or Instagram.

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