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Monday, May 16, 2022

On Charles Murray at Middlebury

There are numerous reasons to want to challenge Murray’s ideas and research. Some believe that one of his books, The Bell Curve, is very offensive, as it shows that IQ scores and overall intelligence are based on some aspect of genetic superiority, classified by race and gender. In all honesty, I have never read his work, so do not believe I am able to form a justified opinion on this matter. I challenge anyone who has a strong opinion about his work to read it, and not just random, out of context sentences.

After learning how “unpopular” some of his research is, I was excited to see how the academic community at Middlebury was going to challenge him. I envisioned that Murray would give his talk, all the while being respected. Then I was hoping there would time for well-phrased and thought out questions, ones that would spark communication and debate. I wanted to hear how Murray defend himself against some pretty powerful claims that were being made against him and his work.

I was left appalled as protesters prevented him from uttering a single word to the audience. The protesters claim to want Middlebury to be a safe and inclusive space for all. But did they stop for a moment to consider how Murray, the AEI club or people in the audience felt as the protesters prevented the lecture? There are people who wanted to listen, learn and debate Murray and unfortunately, they were prevented from achieving those goals.

Even more disheartening is what happened in the minutes after the protesters prevented Murray’s talk in the hall. Soon, the protests found his new location, and made noise outside. Un-phased by the protestors, Murray finished his talk and opened the floor to questions. Professor Allison Stanger and a few students were able to ask questions that sparked interesting and meaningful discussion between Stanger and Murray. Stanger openly admitted that she does not agree with most of Murray’s research and ideas, but that did not prevent them from having a civil discussion. In these short few minutes, the talk achieved its goal of sparking intelligent conversations.

I was shocked by the response of the protesters, and grateful for Stanger’s desire to engage with Murray. President Patton’s hope that we, as a community, can “train ourselves to make critiques, and to respond to critiques, in a way that focuses on the path forward together, and allows for honest engagement.” I learned much from listening to Stanger and Murray’s conversation, and I hope others did as well.

What frustrated me the most was when I learned that protestors jumped on top of Murray's car and twisted the hair and neck of Professor Stanger. Bill Burger reported to the Addison Independent: “The protesters then violently set upon the car, rocking it, pounding on it, jumping on and trying to prevent it from leaving campus, at one point a large traffic sign was thrown in front of the car.” This violent display sent Stanger to the hospital — and a message to the greater public. People may now see Middlebury as a place where free speech will be countered with violence.

Not all, or even a majority, of the original protesters took part in the fire alarm pulling and violent actions. But the fact is there were people who claim to be fighters for equality, freedom and inclusivity who acted in complete contradiction to their beliefs.

As more polarizing issues make national news, there will be an increase in conversation. We must engage in conversations with all people, even with those with such radical views. It is the duty of those who claim that their views are “civil” and “morally correct” to bridge the void between “us” and “them.” Even those with disgusting, disrespectful and blatantly false views. Let those “uncivil" people makes fools of themselves, if their views are so foolish. But I think all the while you must act with more civility than those you are opposing. I respect Murray, Stanger and President Patton, who tried so hard to bring a complex conversation to Middlebury. I guess we were not prepared to respond.