“If people are determined to be offended — if they will climb up on the ladder, balancing it precariously on their own toilet system to be upset by what they see through the neighbor’s bathroom window — there is nothing you can do about that.” — Christopher Hitchens In 1755, the lexicographer Samuel Johnson published his famous dictionary of the English language. Shortly after his work was distributed, many people in London sought him out to praise him for his work. As the story goes, one group of ladies congratulated Johnson on excluding any inappropriate or indecent words from his dictionary. “Ladies,” Johnson replied, “I congratulate you on your diligence in searching for them.” It’s easy to hear this story and connect it to contemporary occasions in which individuals go out of their way to find offense with a given author or speaker. Despite my best efforts, I cannot grasp the inner workings of the minds of those who embark upon these kinds of searches. In some cases, the sought-for offense is more easily found than in others. “The Bell Curve” by the re-invited Charles Murray arguably represents a more obviously controversial publication (as is the case with his newest book). However, the actions of those at the 2017 protest who found offense in Murray’s work were far more serious than those of the ladies of London. They were so extreme that, when I was the treasurer of the American Enterprise Institute Club and co-president of the College Republicans in 2017, I could not have envisioned the outrage his presence generated on campus, which culminated in protests governed by a mob mentality the afternoon of his talk. Would you return to a place that greeted you with, “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Charles Murray go away?” Perhaps the hundreds of student and non-Middlebury protesters should have been more diligent in the search to be offended — as the ladies in London were with Johnson — because they didn’t appear to be relying on accurate information. For example, one could choose to counter their chants by pointing out that Murray was one of the most forthright conservative intellectuals in favor of the Republican Party modifying its platform to support both gay marriage and abortion. Or by pointing out that Murray’s calls for a more socially liberal stance on those issues were made in 2013, when gay marriage and abortion were even more unpopular among Republicans than they are today, within just months of President Obama’s own 180-degree switch on the issue of marriage equality. But I suppose the protest chant had a nice jingle to it and seriously engaging in a dialogue with “sexist and anti-gay” Murray was much less convenient than reading a half-page summary of Murray’s work on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website. Can I understand why some people were offended by Murray’s visit? Certainly. I came to Middlebury with a worldview that was challenged, shattered, built up and shattered again multiple times throughout my time there. But I sought out guest lectures on race, equity, religion; worldviews that often made me uncomfortable in my own skin, clothes and head. My time at Middlebury popped the bubble in which I was raised and forced me to encounter issues on my own through the free expression and engagement of ideas. Patting myself on the back through conversations with ideologically identical friends whose views echoed my own was of no interest or value to me. Yet, despite running towards these challenges, I not only found the Murray protesters uninterested in engaging with any contrary viewpoints (or even understanding what they were really opposing), but found myself running away from the event. Literally. I still recall that evening in vivid detail, when my brisk pace turned to a full-on sprint as a masked protester (who I assume was not a student) holding a large sign chased me back to my dorm room from the event. I was wearing a suit and tie; I had to be with the bad guy, they figured. If you didn’t feel that the protesters’ response — effectively shutting down the Murray event, as well as the events which occurred immediately afterwards — was an embarrassing moment for the college prior to reading this op-ed, I doubt I’ve convinced you. But for those who are on the fence, having Murray back provides an opportunity to engage without shutting down and redeem the college’s stained image in the eyes of many alumni, donors and the general public. Rarely do such second chances present themselves. If you don’t agree with me, I want to leave you with this thought: Consider what would have happened if, instead of attending those lectures to challenge my viewpoints and gain more information, I had simply taken offense to paragraphs posted on Facebook. Imagine if I had organized a group of dozens, or even hundreds, of students to shut down that event. Or pulled the fire alarm three times. Or stood in front of a car carrying Murray and college staff. Or protested with outside professionals on campus, culminating in the concussion of a professor. Imagine if my gut reaction was not to engage, but to resist forcefully something which I hadn’t read about and based on my opinion of a speaker whom I heard third-hand. Now, imagine if this was done again. And again. And again. Would that be helpful to anyone? Would it further the college’s mission? Would it reflect well on my own (and my peers’) cause? Most importantly, would it right the supposed wrong embodied in the offense that was taken? The views you cherish and express today might be offensive to someone else tomorrow. And if a precedent is set that offense justifies the cancellation of the exchange of ideas on the basis of offense, then you’ve cut off the very branch upon which you sit. My advice: Be careful not to make yourself a victim of your own actions. Hayden Dublois '17 helped organize Charles Murray's 2017 visit to Middlebury. Dublois currently works at the Foundation for Government Accountability.
Use the fields below to perform an advanced search of The Middlebury Campus's archives. This will return articles, images, and multimedia relevant to your query.
4 items found for your search. If no results were found please broaden your search.
SARAH FAGAN In 2016, Republican David Ainsworth unseated incumbent Democrat State Representative Sarah Buxton by one vote in central Vermont — six years after Buxton had unseated Ainsworth. In that same year, Vermont State Senator Bill Doyle — the longest serving Senator in Vermont history — lost by a fraction of a percent. And Francis Brooks, the person who defeated Doyle, had won the Democratic primary three months earlier by just one vote. Two other Vermont House freshmen lost by less than one percent in that same election year. Put simply: Vermont’s local races — for Governor, Lt. Governor, State Senate and State House — are close. Really, really close. In this state, your voice really does make a difference. In my time in Vermont politics, I’ve seen longtime members tossed out by the slimmest of losses, recounts make and break political careers and multiple races come down to one single vote. This year, we’re shaping up to have another set of what will likely be incredibly close races for local office. In fact, Addison County is expected to have one of the most competitive and interesting state Senate races in the entire state — with two Democrats, two Independents, a Republican and a Libertarian, all vying for two seats — one of which is being vacated by a retiring incumbent. We could have yet another recount on our hands. Here in Vermont, your vote truly is your voice. And because of our small population, your voice is quite loud — loud enough to unseat incumbents or keep them in office. So if you’re not registered, register. And if you’re not paying attention to what’s going on in our state and local races, now’s the time. Because your vote may very well be the deciding factor in an election. My recommendation: start reading the local news, visit candidate websites and stay informed. And note that politics in Vermont is not like politics in Washington. You’ll find many pro-choice and pro-gun reform Republicans, and many socially conservative Democrats. So pay careful attention. But most importantly, get out there and vote. Editor’s Note: Hayden Dublois ’17, of Montpelier, is an Executive Assistant in the Office of Governor Phil Scott. He previously worked on numerous state and local campaigns throughout Vermont.
Debate, disagreement, criticism and controversy. These define the American experiment and our experience as citizens. We think, argue and act because we have always cared deeply about the state of our country and the future of the American project. This clash of ideas has shaped our history, and is as important now as ever. The bipartisan American Enterprise Institute Club invited Dr. Charles Murray to speak today, not to push an agenda or even to try and convince you of his theories, but rather to start a conversation. We believe that what Dr. Murray has to say on the current divisions in our country is worth hearing and engaging with, regardless of one’s political beliefs. It would be useful for all to better understand why there is such a great divide between the working class and the elite, to understand how these divisions contributed to the election of Donald Trump, and how they are reshaping American society. Dr. Murray is trying to understand the causes of the “coming apart election,” and it is essential that we try to as well. This is why our voices, in articles, demonstrations and discussion, are of vital importance. Although many people may not agree with Dr. Murray we would like to invite everyone to participate this Thursday in Wilson Hall. Your attendance and participation will serve to enable true debate and growth. The event will begin with a few words from President Patton on the importance of discussion and debate for the liberal arts. Following Dr. Murray’s talk on his 2012 work Coming Apart, there will be a lengthy Q and A moderated by Prof. Allison Stanger. We structured the event this way so that everyone will have the opportunity to ask questions, and challenge each other’s, and our own, convictions. This discussion is incredibly valuable. We will not all agree. We are not operating under the false pretenses that Dr. Murray will radically change anybody’s mind. We hope that this event will allow for us to engage in a conversation that facilitates a better understanding. Without this desire to understand one another, especially people we disagree with, we cannot move forward. Instead, we will only continue to come apart.
Dear Middlebury Students, Faculty, and Staff, The goal of the American Enterprise Institute Club is to promote open and academic debate and discussion of a wide range of issues. In the past we have brought several speakers to campus and via Skype. To further the debate, we hold regular discussion meetings often centered on current events or the research and scholarship of Middlebury faculty. On Thursday, March 2nd we are cosponsoring, along with Political Science department, a lecture and discussion with distinguished public intellectual Dr. Charles Murray at 4:30pm in Dana Auditorium. Dr. Murray, a political scientist by training and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, will be discussing his 2012 work Coming Apart. This critically-acclaimed book explores class divisions in the United States, placing particular emphasis on the White working class. This work is particularly prescient given the recent political change in America. Moreover, examining and engaging with a wide variety of thoughts and ideas is an essential part of what it means to pursue a liberal arts education. In this pursuit, we must as an institution encourage robust discussion and expose the Middlebury Community to diverse thoughts, opinions and understandings on the important topics of today. This lecture represents our answer to the challenge that President Patton put forth to the Middlebury Community in her inaugural address. It will allow “us to have more and better arguments, with greater respect, stronger resilience and deeper wisdom.” We believe that this is an argument worth having that will enable us to work towards the common good. Intellectual diversity has a rich tradition at Middlebury College. In his 2007 Baccalaureate address, former President Ronald D. Liebowitz discussed the essence of a liberal arts education. “Liberal education,” he said, “must be first and foremost about ensuring a broad range of views and opinions in the classroom and across campus so that our students can question routinely both their preconceived and newly developed positions on important matters. Such deliberation will serve as the best foundation for enabling our graduates to contribute to the betterment of society.” It is important that the Middlebury Community have the opportunity to hear, consider and respond to important ideas. In that regard, we would like to extend an open invitation to you, the Middlebury Community, to participate in this event. Your presence will help to ensure that this is a thoughtful and academic discussion of ideas. In addition, it will demonstrate Middlebury’s commitment to diversity of all kinds. We truly hope that you will accept this invitation. Respectfully, Alexander Khan Phil Hoxie Hayden Dublois Ivan Valladares Members of The American Enterprise Institute Club, Middlebury College