In the latest literal assault on free speech at an allegedly tolerant educational institution, a Middlebury College professor was injured by protesters on Thursday evening as she was escorting a controversial speaker from campus. She was treated at Porter Hospital and released, the Addison County Independent reported.
The night's event unfolded in two parts.
At first, Middlebury students forced conservative American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray - a political scientist who has been criticized for his views on race and intelligence - to stop his address before a campus audience Thursday night.
Charles Murray looking at an audience of students who had turned their backs on him
Murray was invited to speak on campus by a student group, and was set to talk about his 2012 book, “Coming Apart,” and how its analysis of the white-working class explains politics in the age of President Donald Trump. But most of the controversy over the scholar’s appearance at the Vermont-based school related to his 1994 book, “The Bell Curve,” which connected genetics with socioeconomic outcomes and has long been criticized by the Left as “racist.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has called Murray a “white nationalist” who has used “racist pseudoscience.”
According to the Burlington Free-Press, and as seen on the video below, student protesters in the audience refused to give Murray a chance to speak as they turned their backs to him, and chanted and shouted for several minutes before faculty members moved the scheduled speaker to a private room to deliver his address via livestream video without a live audience.
— Nicole H DeSmet (@NicoleHDeSmet) March 2, 2017
Despite attempts by faculty and more tolerant students to restore normalcy, the protesters refused to compromise. “We need to foster a climate where we can listen and respect differences,” Middlebury’s dean of students Baishakhi Taylor said in an attempt to calm down the student protesters, according to the Burlington Free Press. “We don’t have to agree with everything. How do we engage in civil discourse?”
Not even appeals to the anti-Trump sentiment would sway the crowd: Alexander Khan, a leader of the American Enterprise Institute Club which invited Murray to speak, tried to appeal to the crowd by citing the scholar’s criticism of Trump. Demonstrators jeered that that doesn’t matter because Murray is “still a racist.”
However, it was what happened next that was more troubling.
As noted above, after the initial chaos, college officials led Murray to another location and a closed circuit broadcast showed him being interviewed by Stanger, the Russell J. Leng ’60 Professor of International Politics and Economics. As Stanger, Murray and a college administrator left McCullough Student Center last evening following the event, they were “physically and violently confronted by a group of protestors,” according to Bill Burger, the college’s vice president for communications and marketing.
Burger said college public safety officers managed to get Stanger and Murray into the administrator’s car.
“The protestors then violently set upon the car, rocking it, pounding on it, jumping on and try to prevent it from leaving campus,” he said. “At one point a large traffic sign was thrown in front of the car. Public Safety officers were able, finally, to clear the way to allow the vehicle to leave campus."
“During this confrontation outside McCullough, one of the demonstrators pulled Prof. Stanger’s hair and twisted her neck,” Burger continued. “She was attended to at Porter Hospital later and (on Friday) is wearing a neck brace.”
Murray, who apparently was unhurt in the incident, is best known for his 1994 book, “The Bell Curve,” for which he was criticized for an assertion that people of different races have different economic outcomes because of their inherent difference in intelligence.
The incident was so shocking it prompted even well-known neocon Bill Kristol to tweet:
"What happened at Middlebury to Charles Murray threatens not just campus free speech, but free speech--indeed freedom in America--generally."
What happened at Middlebury to Charles Murray threatens not just campus free speech, but free speech--indeed freedom in America--generally.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) March 3, 2017
He then said: "I may have missed them, but in light of Middlebury where are the statements by college presidents, scholars & writers defending free speech?"
I may have missed them, but in light of Middlebury where are the statements by college presidents, scholars & writers defending free speech?
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) March 3, 2017
In this particular case, Kristol is actually right, and one wonders if the tables were reversed and if a liberal speaker had been abused in similar fashion at one of America's top liberal colleges, just what would the media's reaction - which has largely ignored this incident - have been.