Ellen Berrey, University of Toronto

U.S. and Canadian Higher Education Protest and University and Police Responses, 2012-2018
Ellen Berrey


Winter 2024
Lecture Time: 
Friday, April 19, 2024 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Lecture Location: 

R0220, Ross building


This paper describes the protest movements that roiled university and college campuses in the United States and Canada in the 2010s and key strategies used by university administrations and police to manage them. It draws on an innovative new dataset, the Higher Ed Protest Dataset, which combines machine learning and sociological hand-coding of more than 16,000 campus newspaper articles. We identify 5,488 distinct U.S. and Canadian higher ed protest events involving 585 universities and colleges between 2012 and 2018. The goals of the paper are twofold: to characterize major patterns in social movement activity in higher education and to develop a multi- institutional framework of higher education politics that attends to both protest and protest management. In both countries, much higher ed protest centers university administration and governance. The frequency of protest is patterned by the academic calendar, which facilitates an essential strategy university leaders use to manage protest: wait until the summer. Other recurring higher ed protest issues differ by country: in the United States, anti-racism, labor, and national politics of Trump and police violence and, in Canada, public university tuition and labor conditions. A few issues are the focus of major protest waves. Likewise, administrations and police tend to avoid direct intervention during protest events, with some outlier cases such as the 2012 “Maple Spring” tuition protests in Montreal and protest-counterprotest encounters involving Trump’s presidency and the far right. Findings contribute to the critical sociological study of social movements at the intersection of higher education, organizations, and policing.

Recording & Additional Notes