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New tactic emerges in anti-Israel campus activism: Withholding students’ grades

Calls for professors and graduate teaching assistants to withhold assigning grades as a means to strong-arm university leaders into acquiescing to activists’ anti-Israel demands have emerged in recent weeks.

Pro-Palestinian activists at two major universities, New York University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, have launched campaigns advancing the strategy, and many instructors have said they would participate.

The tactic is called a “grade strike.”

“About 100 graduate student workers and faculty are threatening to withhold final grades until NYU agrees to remove New York City Police Department officers from campus, pardon pro-Palestinian ‘students, faculty, and graduate workers,’ facing disciplinary action and ‘substantively negotiate,’ with student protesters over their demands,” the NYU student newspaper the Washington Square News reported.

A representative for the strike said in an interview with WSN that it “could bring things to a halt, and hopefully force them to come to the table and actually talk about demands.” In a flier, organizers of the grade strike listed their demands, which included amnesty for all students suspended for their involvement in NYU’s recent anti-Israel encampment.

Kayla Hutt, a pro-Israel NYU student, condemned the “grade strike” in a statement to The College Fix.

“No matter what anyone’s view is on this issue, the fact is that professors have a job to do, they have an obligation to the universities they work for and to their students,” she said.

“In essence, through this grade strike, they’re failing to do their jobs and allowing for their personal beliefs to get in the way, and in turn, they’re only hurting their own students who patiently await their final grades to finish the semester or even graduate,” Hutt said.

Though it is unclear how many faculty are threatening to participate in the grade strike, the representative told Washington Square News that the number “shot up” following the breaking up of the encampment.

At UNC-Chapel Hill, a similar grade strike started in solidarity with the arrested demonstrators, and many faculty members and graduate assistants said they would participate.

One graduate assistant sent a message to students explaining that grades were being withheld to show solidarity with the demonstrators who were arrested, according to the Carolina Journal.

“In solidarity with these students, and to pressure the University Administration to reinstate the suspended students, I (along with many other faculty, teaching assistants, fellows, and graders across campus) have decided to withhold my reporting of final grades to the Registrar’s Office,” the assistant wrote to students.

The grade strike followed the signing of a letter by over 700 UNC faculty members echoing the NYU faculty’s demands that suspended students be given amnesty by the school administration.

“The university must immediately dismiss all suspensions and other charges against students involved in the protest, return the confiscated belongings of our students, remove the fence around the flagpole in the quad, and re-open Campus Y in recognition of its central importance to our university community,” the letter read.

In response to a request for comment from The College Fix, a UNC spokesman shared a statement sent from UNC Graduate Dean Beth Mayer-Davis condemning the proposed strike.

“We are asking you to please work with your faculty and graduate students to ensure that we follow exemplary practice in our work as educators. We strongly support the right of faculty and graduate students to express their opinions freely but there are better ways to do this than hurting our students and abrogating our contract with the people of North Carolina who support our university,” the statement said.

“We are counting on your leadership in this matter. The provost’s office will support sanctions for any instructor who is found to have improperly withheld grades, but it is our hope we can resolve this matter amicably and without harm to students,” it said.

But not all faculty appear to like the idea of withholding grades. Columbia University professors threatening to strike over similar concerns said their work-stop will be limited and they will “do work that directly serves students.” This means professors won’t “withhold grades, recommendation letters, or other ‘student-serving’ work,” The College Fix reported this week.

NYU’s media affairs divisions has not responded to The College Fix’s request for comment regarding the grade strikes.

MORE: Someone destroyed our pro-Israel display in five hours. It will not silence us.

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About the Author
College Fix contributor David Glasser is a rising second-year student at the Florida State University College of Law, with over six years of news and opinion writing experience for various publications. He is set to graduate in 2026.