Middlebury College students disrupted a guest lecture by American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray, forcing administrators to move him to an undisclosed location.
They also jumped on top of the car transporting him to a different building, in an effort to prevent Murray from leaving campus.
Murray, the author of The Bell Curve and Coming Apart, was invited to speak by conservative students. When he tried to speak, hecklers talked over him, chanting, “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Charles Murray, go away” and “Who is the enemy? White supremacy.”
Eventually, Murray was taken to another room, where he was interviewed by a professor. That conversation was livestreamed for students to watch.
Murray’s work is controversial: The Bell Curve made claims that members of certain races are genetically predisposed toward lower IQ scores. That thesis has been widely criticized, including in the pages of Reason. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Murray as a white nationalist, which might be overstating the matter just a bit. (For one thing, Murray actually supports gay marriage, despite the students’ assertions to the contrary.)
Astonishingly, the Associated Press accepted SPLC’s hyperbolic description of Murray in its headline about the incident, “College students protest speaker branded white nationalist.” (The writer didn’t even bother to put white nationalist in scare-quotes!)
Middlebury’s administration handled the matter responsibly, making clear that the college did not subscribe to Murray’s views but strongly supported students’ rights to learn about them.
“The very premise of free speech on this campus is that a speaker has a right to be heard,” said Laurie Patton, president of Middlebury.
But colleges like Middlebury must do a better job of identifying—and disciplining—student hecklers if they actually intend to protect free speech on campus. It isn’t enough to say that free speech matters, and that controversial speakers are welcome on campus. If administrators permit the illiberal left to get away with silencing everyone and anyone who offends some segment of the population, they have failed in their duties.
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