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A résumé overlaid onto a photo of someone getting arrested.

Student protesters largely believe that their activism has not negatively impacted their job searches, though some think it has affected their ability to get interviews and network.

Photo illustration by Justin Morrison/Inside Higher Ed | Mario Tama/Getty Images | Ron Lach/Pexels

Nearly 30 percent of students who participated in pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses say they have had a job offer rescinded in the last six months, and two-thirds believe that it likely had to do with their activism, according to a new report by Even so, more student protesters say their activism has had a net positive impact on their job hunt (55 percent) than say it’s had a negative (15 percent) or neutral (33 percent) effect.

The report, released last week, sheds new light on a trend that emerged almost immediately after Hamas’s deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel: Some members of the business community quickly announced that they would refuse to hire students who had signed onto controversial statements blaming Israel for the attack. In one prominent example, Bill Ackman, a hedge fund manager and Harvard University alumnus, called on his alma mater to release the names of students who had supported such a statement so that CEOs would know not to hire them.

In the ensuing six months, the pro-Palestinian movement on campuses has evolved, with protesters across the country erecting encampments to push their institutions to divest from Israel. Many students continue to face repercussions for their campus activism, including arrests, sanctions and deferred diplomas.

Lily, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who will have her degree withheld until at least 2025 due to her protest actions, said her lack of a diploma has caused significant problems in her ongoing search for a job in advocacy work.

“The fact that I don’t have a college degree right now means I have been turned away from several jobs, even though I can say I’ve done 99.9 percent of the work. I have a decent GPA but none of that matters because I don’t have a degree to show for it,” she said.

Of all the applications she filled out that required her to say she didn’t yet have a degree, only one yielded an interview, she said. During the interview, the recruiter responded coldly when Lily, who requested that Inside Higher Ed use only her first name, talked about why she hadn’t been allowed to graduate, she recalled.

On the other hand, Lily noted that because she is interested in pursuing advocacy as a career, many of the recruiters she has spoken to have been understanding of her circumstances. One interviewer applauded her protest activities as “brave,” she recalled. She has also earned a few job offers outside the United States, some directly related to organizing for Palestinians.

Other campus protesters have had similar experiences. Abel Amene, an incoming senior at the University of Maryland and a board member of the campus Students for Justice in Palestine group, said that while he isn’t job hunting now, he eventually aspires to work in public service and believes any organization he would want to work with would be open to hiring student activists.

Some company leaders, such as Andrew Dudum, CEO of the men’s telehealth company Hims, have said they absolutely would hire a student who was expelled for protesting. Dudum wrote in a social media post that he believes many organizations would be eager to hire students with such “moral courage”—though after his comment received backlash, he clarified that he does not support violence.

To Divulge or Not to Divulge

Still, the majority of pro-Palestinian student activists said they preferred not to talk about their activism in interviews, according to the report. Researchers surveyed 672 student protesters in the U.S. in late May and early June who said they’d done a job search in the past six months. They found that 28 percent of respondents said they either always or often told potential employers about their participation in this year’s protests, while 25 percent said they sometimes did; almost half—47 percent—said they rarely or never did.

The majority (52 percent) of those who shared details about their participation did so because they felt it was important to express their beliefs; others said they disclosed such information because the potential employer asked about it directly (45 percent), they wanted to know where the company stood on the issue (43 percent), or they felt it was relevant to the position (27 percent).

Huy Nguyen, chief education and career development adviser at, said he wasn’t surprised that the topic of protests came up in interviews. For many students who have dedicated months or even years of their lives to protesting their universities’ investments in weapons manufacturers, organizing is a key experience they can draw on to answer interviewers’ questions.

Abel, who asked to be referred to by his first name in accordance with Ethiopian naming conventions, said he has gained numerous skills through activism that he thinks would be relevant to any future job—skills that he couldn’t have learned simply by sitting in a lecture hall.

“Facilitating meetings, public speaking, being organized—self-organized and organizing others—are all skill sets that are very useful in the working [world]. These are things that are better taught through experience than in a classroom,” he said. “Learning to debate with someone you disagree with and convince them to your side, interacting with people on a regular basis in a professional manner—even when the stakes and the emotions involved are very high—are all skill sets that cannot be taught in the classroom.”

Of the 15 percent of respondents who said that their activism has negatively impacted their job searches, however, 76 percent said that they have faced bias during hiring, 45 percent have heard employers explicitly voice concerns about hiring them, 37 percent have faced challenges networking, and 33 percent have heard negative remarks from colleagues or classmates.

According to previous research published in May about employers’ attitudes toward hiring students from the class of 2024, 22 percent of business owners were reluctant to hire those who participated in protests.

Nearly one-fourth—23 percent—admitted they were deterred by potential political differences, but far more expressed worries that such students were confrontational (63 percent), overly political (59 percent) or uneducated (24 percent). Fifty-five percent said they feared hiring such employees could make others uncomfortable, while 45 percent worried they could be a liability and 40 percent, a danger.

Meanwhile, some employers have changed their hiring practices in response to pro-Palestinian encampments—but not by explicitly stating they wouldn’t hire protesters. Several federal judges released a letter in early May saying they would cease hiring law clerks from Columbia University as a way to protest its handling of “campus antisemitism and anti-Americanism.”

“We think it’s important to force Columbia and its peer institutions to change. Our boycott is prospective only, which means everyone is on notice. High-school guidance counselors should warn students who want to enroll at Columbia that they would likely be closing some doors for themselves,” wrote Matthew Solomson, one of the judges participating in the boycott, in a Wall Street Journal opinion article. “I hope the reputational costs of being shunned by federal judges will give Columbia’s leaders reason to search their souls and change course before the boycott even begins.”

Lily, the UNC student, said that in the long term, she wasn’t concerned about any job opportunities she may have lost due to her protesting.

“The right kinds of work will see what we’ve done as an asset and that’s why ultimately all the sacrifice is worth it for the cause,” she said.

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