On December 1, 2020, students at Saint Joseph University (USJ) reportedly engaged in violent clashes over an apparent connection to student elections.
Students representing ruling political parties, including the Lebanese Forces and Hezbollah have historically dominated university student councils. Starting in October 2020, a growing number of independent student candidates, not affiliated with the ruling parties, have won elections at various universities, including the Lebanese American University, Rafik Hariri University, and American University of Beirut.
The results of the USJ student council election would be announced on December 3. Independent candidates from the Secular Club, a non-religiously affiliated group, and ruling party candidates were running for positions in the student council. On December 1, students from opposing parties, including Hezbollah and Lebanese Forces, violently clashed in front of the USJ campus. According to Al-Markazia, security forces arrested students involved in the violence.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent clashes on and near campus. State and university authorities should take reasonable measures to prevent and respond to on-campus violence, including by investigating those responsible and promoting open, peaceful dialogue. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such actions undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.