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Monday, May 16, 2022

Charles Murray Protest, Talk Garner Media Attention

National news and media outlets have been spotlighting the on-campus protests against Charles Murray, a libertarian columnist and sociologist who, due to student demonstrations, was prevented from delivering a guest lecture on Thursday, March 2. The events and their aftermath drew attention from major publications and broadcast programs including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, PBS NewsHour and Fox News.

The majority of sources ran pieces denouncing the protest as well as the altercation that resulted in the neck injury of Allison Stanger, an international politics and economics professor who moderated the virtual question-and-answer session with Murray.

In his piece “A Violent Act on Free Speech” published in The Atlantic, Peter Beinart, a political columnist and contributing editor for the magazine, pointed to the protests as evidence that “something has gone badly wrong on the campus left.”

Referring to the recent protests against a planned speech delivered by Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California, Berkeley, Beinart wrote, “If what happened at Berkeley, and now at Middlebury, goes unchallenged, sooner or later, liberals will get shouted down too.”

The New York Times featured the incident over several articles, including an editorial published on the front page of its website, titled, “Smothering Speech at Middlebury.” The editorial board criticized protesters’ refusal to lend Murray a platform to speak, labeling the event “a violent free-speech debacle.”

The board wrote, “Mr. Murray is an academic with an argument to make about class in America … and maybe it is flawed. But Middlebury students had no chance to challenge him on any of his views. Thought and persuasion, questions and answers, were eclipsed by intimidation.”

Fox News reproduced an essay written by Murray following the events. His reflection originally appeared on the blog of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the public policy think tank whose branch at the College invited Murray to deliver a guest lecture.

In his piece, Murray wrote, “Academia is already largely sequestered in an ideological bubble, but at least it’s translucent. That bubble will become opaque.”

College faculty utilized several of these platforms to voice their own commentary on the matter, as well.

Professor of English and Creative Writing Jay Parini and Assistant Professor of Political Science Keegan Callanan wrote an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, outlining the core principles they deem “unassailable in the context of higher education within a free society.” These principles were endorsed by over 60 faculty members at the College.

Included in this core principles list are the following statements: “Exposure to controversial points of view does not constitute violence … Students have the right to challenge and even to protest non-disruptively the views of their professors and guest speakers … The purpose of college is not to make faculty or students comfortable in their opinions and prejudices.”

Although a majority of news outlets openly denounced the events, not every publication ran condemnatory views on the matter.

Dean Spade of The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote, “It is not fair to portray student activists as troublemakers damaging the institution’s reputation. First, it is not the students’ responsibility to portray their colleges as wonderful destinations if they are not experiencing them that way. Second, the disruptive activists are often the same students who are leading student organizations, mentoring new students, pipelining high schoolers, and otherwise devoting themselves to making the institution more accessible and survivable for marginalized people.”