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Monday, Feb 26, 2024

Charles Murray invited back to Middlebury by College Republicans

Charles Murray, the controversial conservative speaker whose 2017 campus visit incited massive student protests and made national news, has been invited to return to Middlebury. 

Murray is set to speak in Wilson Hall on March 31 at 4:30 p.m. The Middlebury College Republicans issued the invitation, according to an op-ed written by the club’s co-presidents Dominic Aiello ’22.5 and Brendan Philbin ’21 and published in The Campus today. Philbin said that Murray has accepted the invitation.

“We understand that this will have ramifications for us personally and the community at large. Nevertheless, we will continue to support free inquiry on our campus,” Philbin wrote in a text to a Campus editor. “We wanted to be transparent, up-front, and as clear as possible about the planning of the event. In our view, The Campus is the best vehicle to communicate directly with the community.”

The talk, which is being co-sponsored by the Open Campus Initiative along with the College Republicans, will focus on Murray’s new book “Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class.” Many of the event’s details and logistics are still being discussed, according to a statement sent to The Campus by Director of Media Relations Sarah Ray. 

Murray first visited the college in 2007 to talk about his book, "The Bell Curve." His second visit a decade later, on his book "Coming Apart," sparked protests by hundreds of students, which ultimately prevented him from speaking to a live audience in Wilson Hall. Murray later delivered his talk via live-stream on the college’s website. Political Science Professor Allison Stanger, who moderated the live-stream and had been set to preside over the live event, sustained serious injuries at the hands of protesters after she, then-Vice President of Communications Bill Burger and Murray exited McCullough Student Center. 

In the op-ed, Philbin said that the administration has been involved in discussions about organizing the event since last September, when the College Republicans first proposed bringing Murray back to campus. Ray said  that the college’s policy of open expression should not be interpreted as an endorsement or approval of Murray’s views, and acknowledged the importance of open expression and student protest during speaker visits. 

“Each year Middlebury hosts nearly 300 speakers who come to campus from across the country and around the world, invited either directly by the institution, by its faculty, or by its registered student organizations,” Ray wrote in the statement. “With each event, we are committed to providing a forum in which the Middlebury community can engage in a thoughtful, rigorous, and respectful manner.”

Box Office Manager Debby Anderson told The Campus that the college has hired additional security for the event. 

Murray’s ideology has been classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)  as white nationalism; the SPLC website describes Murray’s work as driven by “racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics [that] argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women and the poor.” Student protesters widely decried his views, such as those espoused in “The Bell Curve,” as racist, misogynistic and hateful.

After his 2017 visit, though, members of the American Enterprise Club (AEI), which invited Murray for that visit, argued that the prevention of the talk constituted a violation of campus free speech policies. Some national news outlets agreed

Since 2017, Murray’s visit has contributed to re-evaluation of the college’s protest policy, prompted administration-led town halls and broadly influenced discussion about free speech on Middlebury’s campus and beyond. 

Middlebury was thrust into the national spotlight after that visit, as news outlets including the New York Times, The Atlantic and Politico editorialized and reported on the event. Three weeks ago, Forbes magazine named the 2017 visit as one of 10 moments that “capture a decade in education.” 

The college disciplined 74 students in the fallout of the event. In one case, an accused student filed a racial profiling complaint. Middlebury’s Title IX & Compliance Office launched an eight-week investigation and concluded that the Public Safety officer associated with the case did not violate its policies.

Charles Murray and certain members of the administration involved in the event’s planning process could not be reached for comment at press time.

This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly. Managing Editor Bochu Ding '21 contributed reporting.

Correction: A previous version of this story did not mention Murray's first visit to the college, in 2007. The article has since been updated to reflect that information.