The recent protests on campus have not occurred in isolation.

Across the country, college students have been protesting about issues ranging from minority representation to budget transparency. Students in North Carolina have focused their efforts on the recently-passed House Bill 2, which restricted access to restrooms based on “biological sex” and repealed local non-discrimination ordinances.

North Carolina response

Many students at University of North Carolina schools have expressed disappointment with new UNC System President Margaret Spellings’ decision to comply with the law.

Students from several UNC schools gathered at a Board of Governors meeting Friday to show their opposition to Spellings’ decision. They also expressed complaints that the BOG has reduced funding for historically black colleges and universities, according to an article in The Daily Tar Heel last Friday.

Some student leaders, however, noted that Spelling has promised to take some steps to counteract the law and that UNC schools will not change their anti-discrimination policies.

“Despite the intentions and perceived hate promoted by this bill, I believe President Spellings is taking calculated action to ensure that the UNC system continues to become an ever more welcoming place for all,” wrote Houston Summers, the former UNC-Chapel Hill student body president, in an email. “There is much to be done even in the face of adversity.”

However, students and advocacy groups—including the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, Equality North Carolina and Lambda Legal—criticized Spellings’ decision, arguing that House Bill 2 violates federal law by discriminating against transgender individuals.

Appalachian State Student Power, a student advocacy group, occupied the BB Dougherty administration building from April 8 to 13. The group left after a statement from Chancellor Sheri Everts condemned the bill, meeting the group’s major demand, according to an article in the Asheville Citizen-Times April 13.

Duke has called for a repeal of the law in a statement issued by President Richard Brodhead, Provost Sally Kornbluth and Chancellor for Health Affairs Dr. A. Eugene Washington Monday. The law has created problems for the University, said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations.

“There are a growing number of scholars from public universities in states that have a specific ban on travel to North Carolina who have not been able to attend conferences and meetings at Duke,” he explained. “I’m aware of at least two national conferences that were supposed to take place at Duke that are now reconsidering their decision.”

Schoenfeld said that several parents and students have also reached out to express concern.

“Those who are interested in and care about Duke recognize that Duke didn’t create this problem and that both Duke and Durham are places that place a high premium on diversity, inclusion and tolerance for all communities,” he said.

Protests around the nation

Students attending the University of California-Davis occupied their campus administration building for five weeks to demand the resignation of Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi for a lack of responsiveness to students. They also called her prior service on the board of DeVry Education Group, which is now under federal investigation, a conflict of interest, according to The Sacramento Bee.

Although they left the building April 15, students said they plan to look for other ways to force Katehi’s removal.

At Clemson University, five students—known by the hashtag “Clemson5”—were arrested and charged with trespassing for occupying Sikes Hall, a main administration building, last week. The sit-in began after a series of racist incidents on campus, including the discovery of bananas hanging from a sign celebrating Clemson’s African-American history, according to an article in The Atlantic last Friday.

The students then began occupying the steps to the building and have reiterated demands for increased minority inclusion, which they initially issued in January.

Earlier this month, students at Ohio State University attempted to stage a sit-in of Bricker Hall, an administrative building, but ultimately disbanded after they were threatened with arrest and expulsion by campus administrators, said Caitlin Pitt, an OSU senior who was not involved with the sit-in.

The students had issued a list of demands calling for budget transparency and requesting administrators to either divest from companies involved in human rights abuses, refuse to outsource employees or provide more sustainable food options.

Since leaving the building, the protestors have continued their activism by hosting teach-ins and have gained support from faculty and alumni, Pitt said.

Pitt noted that he thinks students at OSU know about the protests at Duke.

“We’ve been very aware, and we stand in solidarity with you guys,” he said.

Carbon divestment campaign heats up

Other groups are demanding their universities divest from fossil fuels.

At New York University, students ended a 33-hour occupation of an elevator leading to administrative offices Tuesday. They claimed the administration failed to live up to its earlier promises to divest, according to an article in the Washington Square News Tuesday.

Students at Columbia University have occupied Low Library, which houses administrative offices, since Thursday and plan to do so until their president makes a statement in support of divestment. The protestors noted that their actions are situated within a larger history.

“Our first thought wasn’t just to sit-in,” junior Cristian Padilla, who is occupying the building, said. “This is a campaign that has been going on for three and a half years at this point.”

Senior Jennifer Tang, another occupier, said she hopes the action can have a broader impact.

“Asking a university to divest its funds is mostly a symbolic act, but when taken as a collective movement across campuses and around the world it does add up to a lot of actual money that can then hopefully be invested elsewhere,” she said.

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders showed solidarity with the movement from his Twitter account Monday with the hashtag “keepitintheground.”

Connections to Duke

Duke Students and Workers in Solidarity, the organization that led the occupation of the Allen Building, has backed several of the student movements across the country. Anastasia Kārklina, Trinity ’14, a Ph.D. student in literature and African and African-American studies and a media liaison for DSWS, noted that social media has helped connect students across campuses.

“I cannot speak to any direct actions sparking elsewhere in direct response to our sit-in, since I’m not aware of any,” she said. “I do think, however, that seeing a growing student movement spreading across campuses has been a source of inspiration and moral support for many, myself included.”

Kārklina noted that DSWS has received messages from activists at the University of Texas at Austin, Washington University in St. Louis, Harvard University and Appalachian State University. The connections provide a support system for protestors, she said.

“It seems to me that there is a common understanding—between student organizers across campuses—about the kind of emotional, psychological and physical weight this work carries for many of us,” Karklina explained.

Gautam Hathi contributed reporting.