Why Gaza Protests on U.S. College Campuses Have Become So Contagious

The past week has seen a growing wave of protest encampments and other demonstrations on university campuses across the United States, many of which have been met by mass arrests and other forceful police actions, as well as intense media scrutiny. And the demonstrations continue to spread.

But campus protests overseas have been sporadic and smaller, and none have set off a wider student movement.

In Britain, for example, small groups of students temporarily occupied university buildings on the campuses of the University of Manchester and the University of Glasgow. But they never generated national news or set off a widening wave of demonstrations.

The protest wave may yet spread to foreign universities. There were some early signs of that this week. On Wednesday, students set up a protest encampment on the campus of Sydney University in Australia. On Friday classes were canceled at Sciences Po, an elite university in Paris, because of a student protest there.

But that still would leave the question of why this particular protest movement caught fire and spread at American universities first. The answer, experts say, has more to do with the partisan political context in Washington than with the events in Gaza.

The ‘ovation’ effect: Why the protest wave began with Columbia

Protests, like many forms of group behavior, can be contagious.

One way to understand how protest movements spread is the “ovation model,” said Omar Wasow, a political science professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies how protest movements can affect politics.

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