Student protests are back in the news. The outcry against the treatment of students of color has spread from Yale and Missouri to Ithaca College and Claremont McKenna. On Facebook, students and young alumni around the country have asserted their solidarity with protestors. As Vox’s Libby Nelson puts it, it’s possible that a “long-overdue racial reckoning” on campuses has finally arrived—and that’s on top of the already-planned national protests against tuition hikes and rising debt.
So in the coming weeks and months, students nationwide may march, demonstrate, sit-in, and occupy quads and buildings. But they’re unlikely to rely on a tactic used elsewhere in the world: a general strike. Why is that?
Though there’s some dispute over the definition, a “student strike” is when the vast majority of a school boycotts class en masse on a certain day. Sometimes the faculty does not attend, either, effectively shutting down a university. Student strikes can happen on a national scale—hundreds of thousands of students skipping class—which, in turn, closes hundreds of campuses.
Student strikes are rarely the primary form of student activism, but they’re much more common in many places than they are in the United States. Some South African students, for instance, are currently striking to protest tuition hikes. Québécois students have been in and out of strike this year, though not to the levels seen in 2012, when about 250,000 young people participated in boycotts or demonstrations. And the past decade has seen large-scale strikes in Greece, Puerto Rico, and Chile.