A common tactic of student protest is to go on strike (sometimes called a boycott of classes). This occurs when students enrolled at a teaching institution such as a school, college or university refuse to go to class. It is meant to resemble strike action by organized labour. It is often used as a negotiating tactic in order to put pressure on the governing body of the university, particularly in countries where education is free, and the government cannot afford to have a student cohort miss an entire year. This can cause an overload of students in one academic term and the absence of an entire class in the following term.
In the West, student strikes date to the early days of universities in the Middle Ages, with one of the earliest and most significant being the University of Paris strike of 1229, which lasted 2 years and yielded significant concessions. In more recent times, significant walkouts occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s – the French May 1968 uprisings began as a series of student strikes. The largest student strike/boycott in American history occurred in May and June 1970, in the aftermath of the American invasion of Cambodia and the killings of student protesters at Kent State University in Ohio. An estimated four million students at more than 450 universities, colleges and high schools participated in the Student Strike of 1970.12
The term "student strike" has been criticized as inaccurate by some unions3 and commentators in the news media.4 These groups have indicated that they believe the term boycott is more accurate.34