Murray and Middlebury: What Happened, and What Should Be Done?

Dr. Charles Murray, a political scientist and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute,  came to Middlebury last Thursday to discuss his book Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.

It did not go well.

Murray was invited by the Middlebury student AEI chapter, and his talk was cosponsored (but not funded) by the Political Science department. The decision by the Political Science department to cosponsor the event was not universally supported on the Middlebury campus, nor even within the political science department itself, as chair Bert Johnson discusses here. Nonetheless, after extensive campus debate, the College administration remained committed to allowing Murray to speak, although they decided that only those with valid Middlebury i.d.’s would be allowed in Wilson Hall so as to prevent outsiders from shutting down his talk.  Despite this precaution, as chronicled in numerous national news stories, Murray never got the chance to present his views before a live audience.

This was not for lack of commitment by the administration to upholding the College’s policies on free speech. At the start of the Murray event Middlebury communications director Bill Burger reminded students about College policies regarding protests and the right of speakers to be heard. Middlebury College President Laurie Patton also took the stage to note that while many – including her – did not agree with all of Murray’s research, the College was committed to upholding its policies regarding the free exchange of ideas.  But when Murray was introduced, the student crowd erupted in a barrage of chants and sign waving designed to prevent Murray from speaking. They chanted, “Who is the enemy? White Supremacy!” and “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Charles Murray go away!” I was not able to get into the event due to long lines so, after lingering for some time watching the protests outside the event, I went back to my office to view the event on the Middlebury website. However, you can get a sense of just how quickly the event degenerated into mob rule in this YouTube video shot by Middlebury student Will DeGravio.

Additional video can be found on the Middlebury campus student newspaper website here.

After about 20 minutes, when it became clear that the students would not let Murray speak, administration officials escorted him to an adjoining room.  There he was interviewed by my colleague Allison Stanger who pushed back against some of his research regarding the role of race and genes in intelligence and asked him to clarify his views on other issues, drawing in part on questions submitted by other faculty. Students were able to join the debate by asking Murray questions via twitter as well.  The event was streamed live on the Middlebury College website and broadcast to the audience in Wilson Hall, but it was interrupted numerous times as fire alarms were pulled and students continued chanting slogans that were picked up by the audio feed. (It will be posted by the College on its news site sometime later.)

The chaos didn’t end after the interview concluded, however.  When Murray, Stanger and Burger, accompanied by school security, attempted to leave the building and go to the car that would take them to dinner, a crowd formed to block their path.  During the ensuing shoving, Stanger was grabbed by the hair and her neck twisted with such force she eventually went to the local hospital to be treated for whiplash.  (She is home now and recovering.)  Although they made it into the car, the crowd prevented them from easily leaving, with people leaning on the hood and climbing on top. Eventually, after nearly running over a stop sign someone had displaced in front of the car, they managed to break free and head toward the campus location for dinner. When they arrived, however, rumors began circulating that the raucous protesters were on their way to shut that down too, so the small dinner group relocated to a nearby private restaurant, where Murray dined and conversed with more than a dozen Middlebury students and faculty late into the night.

Judging by the dominant reaction online and among most of those with whom I have talked, the effort to block Murray’s speech is viewed as an ugly display of intolerance and violence, one that has made almost every national news outlet, and which has reignited debate regarding issues of free speech and ideological diversity on U.S. college campuses.  At Middlebury, the repercussions of this event are still unfolding even as I write this post. In an email to the Middlebury community, President Patton apologized to Murray and Stanger for how they were treated, expressed her deep disappointment at the reception Murray received, and pointedly noted that “We will be responding in the very near future to the clear violations of Middlebury College policy that occurred inside and outside Wilson Hall.” It seems inevitable that disciplinary action of some sort will be taken against the rioters, although how and in what form remains to be seen. (If I happened to be the parents of some of those students caught on the numerous video recordings of their violating College rules by shutting down speech, I would be worried right now.) At dinner that night after the event, Murray noted that it was the worst demonstration he had ever encountered and that he feared for his safety.  He later tweeted, “The Middlebury administration was exemplary. The students were seriously scary.” Amazingly, in a student-run blog site at Middlebury, someone posted the Orwellian claim that the protestors were the ones who had been assaulted by Burger and others. Their logic?  That they had only blocked the sidewalk and stood in front of the car, but it was Burger and others who were the aggressors in trying to reach the car and drive away.  Thus the protesters were the ones under assault.   (Note. This is not, as far as I can tell, an example of satire, although I deeply wish it was.)

Clearly the student riot has left an ugly stain on Middlebury’s reputation, although it is too early to say how indelible it might be. One alumnus noted to me that while he still hoped his children would attend Middlebury, his wife was now dead set against the idea.  I expect many others feel this way as well. How many depends, I assume, in part on how the College administration responds.  In the short run, of course, the protests prevented those students who wished to engage with Murray from hearing him speak and, more importantly, it prevented them from pressing back against his research.  Two days before Murray’s talk I spent my entire weekly politics luncheon discussing Murray’s research in the Bell Curve, and acquainting students with many of the critiques of his findings.  My presentation was attended by a packed audience of students and local residents, and many of the students went away primed to do battle with Murray.  A few of them, drawing in part on my slide presentation, put together a pamphlet outlining five criticisms of Murray’s argument in the Bell Curve, which they placed on every seat in Wilson Hall.  Unfortunately, due to the actions of protesters, my students never had the opportunity to engage Murray beyond a few questions directed at him via Twitter.  What’s worse, they now find themselves inaccurately characterized in media outlets as coddled, immature “snowflakes” and “liberal fascists” bent on promoting intolerance and hate.

The ability of a vocal minority of students to impose their will on the majority of their peers – and evidently to feel no compunction in doing so – raises some important questions regarding Middlebury College’s central mission and whether and to what degree it is in danger of slipping away. To be clear, as I noted above, not everyone was comfortable with the decision by the AEI student chapter to invite Murray in the first place, nor with the College’s choice not to rescind that invitation. Some of my colleagues felt strongly that allowing him to speak gave him a platform to spread views that they found racist and hurtful, and which many argue are based on shoddy research.  Others disagreed, noting that Murray’s views as expressed in the Bell Curve were not particularly controversial among some experts even when they first came out. Moreover, they pointed out that he wasn’t even presenting that research this time around.  Nonetheless, when it became clear that a group of students were determined to protest, I am told that administration officials reached out to them to negotiate how those protests might be conducted in a peaceful and appropriate manner consistent with Middlebury’s stated policy.  It soon became clear, however, that the protesters would accept nothing less than a complete shutdown of Murray’s talk.  This prompted the administration to develop the backup plan which they implemented when the students’ chanting prevent Murray from speaking.

Note that this is not the first controversial speaker we have invited to campus.  In fact, Murray himself came to Middlebury to give a talk a few years back and was met with no overt opposition. So what, if anything, has changed since Murray’s previous visit? When asked this question by a Boston Globe reporter early today, I openly wondered whether Donald Trump’s election, and more importantly some of the College’s reaction to his victory, may have inadvertently appeared to license the kind of behavior we saw on Thursday. It may be, I speculated, that in reassuring students that we did not support the more inflammatory rhetoric that was a hallmark of Trump’s campaign, some students took that as a sign that speech which they felt was hurtful could and should be shut down. To repeat, this is pure speculation on my part, as I made clear to the reporter.  But something seems to have changed to persuade a minority of the current generation of Middlebury students that if they don’t like what someone is saying, it is appropriate to make sure no one else hears it as well, regardless of whether they would like to.  (Elsewhere I have pointed out that even Trump’s supporters did not agree with all that he said even though they voted for him. However, that distinction has sometimes been lost on a few of my students.)

In my public comments on social media regarding the Murray incident, I have stressed the need for dialogue to discuss why the disturbing effort to shut down speech occurred, and what lessons are to be learned.   But I am increasingly worried that the time for dialogue has passed. It is understandable why some students may find Murray’s research findings offensive, although I also believe many protestors actually have almost no familiarity with what Murray actually wrote.  It is less clear, however, why so many believe that the appropriate response was not to simply skip his talk, but instead to prevent others from hearing him and, in so doing, inadvertently give him the platform and national exposure they purportedly opposed. For some reason a vocal minority of Middlebury students now believes that if they find speech hurtful, it is their right and obligation to act on those feelings by shutting that speech down.

In his magisterial work On Liberty, John Stuart Mill wrote, “But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

It is necessary to consider separately these two hypotheses, each of which has a distinct branch of the argument corresponding to it. We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still. (italics added.)”

It easy to blame those Middlebury students – and many do – for not fully understanding the importance, particularly at an institution of higher learning, of the free expression of ideas and the need to tolerate opposing views. (After all, Mill is a dead white male!) However, I wonder whether we, as faculty, should shoulder some – most – of the blame for their ignorance?  Are we teaching students why we hold so strongly to these ideals?  Perhaps if we spent as much time discussing the reason why even speech they view as hurtful should not be suppressed as we do explaining the College honor code, Thursday’s event might not have happened.  If we do not explain to students what underlies the College’s rules regarding speech, how are they expected to understand why their actions last Thursday are viewed by so many, including almost every Middlebury student with whom I have talked, as abhorrent and unacceptable, and why some may face disciplinary action?

For understandable reasons the administration decided beforehand not to respond to the student protest with a heavy show of force, for fear of escalating the violence. To be sure, not everyone agrees with that decision.  But President Patton has made it clear that this type of student rioting will not be tolerated going forward.  Disciplining students, however, is in my view only the first step toward insuring that this unacceptable effort to suppress speech never blights Middlebury’s campus again.  Somehow we, as an academic community, must teach students the reason why when confronted with what they sincerely believe to be hurtful speech the proper response is not to impose their views on everyone else by shutting that speech down. I am not sure the best way to do this.  But, at the risk of appearing naive or hopelessly idealistic, or both, I am committed to trying.  I hope you are too. Let the teaching begin!

442 comments

  1. Believe it or not, but I actually read that article already and noted your name.

    And I believe that what you say is TECHINCALLY true. That your school has done an abysmal job at teaching free speech. However, I put it at the feet of faculty who already arrogantly believe that they ‘already have it all figured out’ and have lived in their own academic bubble for decades. As I have stated and continue to state, everyone coming into Middlebury were already raised with the ideas that violence is bad, that rudeness is bad, that not sharing is bad.

    It took some time with radicals on campus that you call ‘tenured faculty’ to teach the students rationalizations to violate these norms, under the rubric of ‘doing the right thing’, as if 2017 America is the same as Jim Crow Alabama. They are not to any objective observer.

    Bear in mind that Julius Caesar destroyed the Republic electorally with Cassius and Pompey and their rioting thugs (perhaps coming from a proto-Middlebury) under the rubric of ‘giving land to the underprivileged’. But history has come down that this may have been a reason, but power was the larger reason. They wanted to control…everything.

    What is the difference between their stance and Current Mid’s save that her rhetoric has far less persuasive ability when she excoriates the vast majority of the population? Well, obviously the Triumvirate was smarter politically than she is.

    In my opinion, you are not casting anywhere near a jaundiced enough eye at your fellow professors. But considering how little the faculty did to remonstrate against the students, they obviously still have learned nothing.

    But hey, karma. Now they have Current Mid trying to eat her own progenitors for not being ideologically pure enough. They kind of deserve it.

  2. Hi all,

    I’m in the middle of an end-of-the-year grading frenzy, but I wanted to catch up with some of the comments in the last several posts. Current Midd proposed some concrete steps to improving deliberation on campus and empowering students, particularly those who feel marginalized. I want to follow through on a couple of her comments which I find particularly useful.

    1. Randomized admissions. In my intro American politics course, when we do our segment on affirmative action in college admissions, I often push my students regarding the importance of having a diversified student body. They almost always argue for the importance of diversity, and push strongly in favor of policies that are likely to achieve that diversity. At this point, I make the case for randomized admissions as the surest way to achieve maximum diversity. Invariably, students reject my proposal, arguing that it would dilute the level of education here at Middlebury. So, there seems to be a tacit acceptance of inequality on one dimension at least – let’s call it academic achievement or merit-based admission or whatever. The issue then becomes what explains that inequality? To what degree does admissions based on “merit” simply reaffirm structural inequalities that allow some students to achieve more academically, and thus seem to “deserve” admission here? It’s a difficult question, but I raise it to point out that most Midd students in my experience reject randomize admissions and support inequality when it comes to the perception of academic merit. Ironically, this is precisely the observation that Murray was going to make in his talk – he and Current Midd probably agree a bit on this point regarding the increasing educational stratification in this country, something that plays out a Middlebury.

    2. Better training for professors. I would support this, but would probably have a slightly different curriculum than what Current Midd would support. I think we need to teach faculty why free speech and tolerance of dissenting views should be the foundation of a liberal arts education. I’m not averse to combining that with some type of “anti-oppression pedagogy” if I thought it would be inclusive across a range of anti-oppression issues. So, for example, one group of students that feels consistently shut out of dialogue here on campus are conservatives – and this includes discussion in the classroom. When I was department chair, by far the most commonly voiced complaint I heard was from ideologically conservative students who felt their voices were not welcome in the classroom by faculty. And I can tell you that the Murray incident did nothing to calm those fears! For whatever reason, however, in my experience conservatives seem more willing to try to equalize the playing field by strength of argument, rather than through institutional efforts to minimize anti-conservative voices. I support that ethos – I’m for courses and pedagogy that teach the students and faculty – particularly the one Current Midd is advocating for – how to make their voices heard not by shouting down opposing voices, but by giving them the tools for countering those opposing voices.

    One of the difficulties we have in achieving true diversity here is that efforts to promote racial and ethnic diversity have not also produced ideological diversity – if anything, they’ve moved the campus in the other direction, toward decreasing toleration for conservative views. I worry about a campus in which only side of an argument is allowed.

    Anyway, those are my initial responses to some of Current Midd’s thoughtful suggestions. Let me cogitate some more while grading blue books….

  3. I think a large reason for this is the ‘publish or perish’ drive forces professors to push for more divisive and more ‘controversial’ views to try to get notice in the cut throat snake pit which is academia.

    And since they are forced to defend these ideas which should charitably be considered satirical intellectual exercises to think outside the box. Very charitably. The press just runs with the most idiotic ideas and, well, that drives some segments of society to go just plain stupid in actually trying to apply these theoretical constructs to society. Generally the ones closest to ground zero of these ideas.

    Ahem.

  4. https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-02-22/how-not-to-address-liberal-bias-in-academia

    Money quote:

    **
    That’s not entirely surprising. For a while now, Jonathan Haidt and the rest of the fine folks at Heterodox Academy have been patiently arguing that academia’s bias does matter. For one thing, it skews how research is done, and gets bias-tainted results. For another, there’s at least some evidence that conservatives are being discriminated against for their beliefs, and we tend to think that stereotyping and excluding people is bad. And for a third, an academia that becomes an institution dedicated to pushing a particular political agenda, and producing research that “proves” that people who embrace that agenda are smarter and more rational than those who don’t, is an institution that has made itself profoundly politically vulnerable.

    This bill is a symptom of conservatives’ antipathy. So are bills attacking the tenure system. The more successful academia is at turning itself into a pure redoubt of progressive ideals, the more likely that castle is to fall.

    **

    You should be inviting MORE Charles Murrays, not fewer.

  5. J. Dye – Yes, I think this is an important point, one that bears repeating: in the court of public opinion, at least outside the Middlebury community, the Murray incident has really left a deep stain on Middlebury’s reputation. Again and again, the national news outlets leads their discussion of free speech by citing the Murray incident as the lead-in. The best thing that we can do to counteract is to show moving forward that we’ve learned from this incident.

  6. Current Midd,

    Perhaps if you, personally, were designing an anti-oppression training program, it would have the light touch and the room for discussion and disagreement that you’re suggesting. But you won’t be designing it. The people who do are much more likely to take the views I sketched of what “training” is about and how it should be done.

    How do I know this? Partly from decades of experience in higher education as well as workplaces generally, a length and depth of experience that very few college students have. One learns from such experience how subtle coercion works (if it even IS subtle), how a boss’s “suggestion” can actually be a command, how a “voluntary” program turns out not to be voluntary in practice (if you know what’s good for you), and so on.

    Moreover, you’re asking us to trust that a training program put forward as part of a larger reform tied to an event like the shouting-down of Charles Murray is going to turn out to be tolerant of dissenting views. That strikes me as extremely implausible. Your fellow activists, if not you yourself, have discredited themselves as people who might genuinely be willing to hear one of the targets of this proposed training telling the trainers or their ideological backers that they’re actually wrong.

    If that weren’t already clear enough, the continuing campus disruptions are making it clearer by the month. The harassment of Professor Weinstein at Evergreen State College came about precisely because he objected to some elements in a set of reforms that activists were promoting. Student SJWs surrounded him, shouted and swore at him and forced him off campus for his own safety. Professors, for the most part, aren’t stupid, and they’re not going to believe that reforms backed by coercive actions like these will be designed to promote dialogue and a common exploration of ideas. They’re much more likely to see parallels– like those that J Dye mentions — between the activists’ tactics and the forced “re-education” inflicted on Chinese intellectuals and others by Mao’s Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. Increasingly, the out-of-control leftist students who have been disrupting campuses around the country look to observers outside their own circles like dime-store Red Guard wannabes.

  7. Jeff Smith,

    The best way to have such a dialogue would be to have a ‘diversity’ program run, not by Lefty activists, but by a Centerist or even a Conservative. You would have a much wider number of voices besides Black Liberals, White Liberals, Asian Liberals, Transgendered Liberals etc. You might have a few free market types, a few Libertarians, some religious speakers on the issue of the vast benefits of family and marriage in the lives of women and men.

    However I doubt very much that Current Mid or her fellow travelers would think that was any kind of acceptable program at all. And if their ‘diversity program’ already has an end result they are looking for, that isn’t a ‘conversation’. That is a propaganda program.

    Which is why she has eschewed any trust or credibility on the subject that she should be in charge of any such program. Not when she tries to hold the ‘mob’ as a legitimate tactic for her to use on campus.

  8. I don’t understand ideological diversity as being the same as other types of diversity (we could say “identity diversity”). Diversity, to my mind, should be about creating access to higher education for historically underrepresented students and a step in the direction towards equity. It shouldn’t be used to ask underrepresented/systemically oppressed students to “educate” the dominant portion of the student body, it shouldn’t be to sell the school as tolerant, it shouldn’t be the primary response to calls for equity. It is not necessarily, to my mind, an inherent social “good”. I also don’t think “diversity” is the end that I am looking for – as I’ve said before, promoting equity more accurately describes my actions’ intent. Diversity is often used as a way to maintain ‘elite’ status, and rarely includes the critical restructuring of institutions and systems to make it so that those “diverse” people (low-income, of color, of minority religions, of different citizenship statuses, LGBTQ+, etc.) have the resources and support to thrive in an institution that wasn’t built for them. Many others have talked about the differences between ideological diversity and “identity diversity”, but I think comparing them is most dangerous because one could threaten the other – and I think we should think hard about why “identity diversity” has been (implicitly or explicitly) portrayed as threatening “ideological diversity” (as it has been conceived in this discussion) and yet there is less emphasis on the way that “ideological diversity” (and honestly, is that more racism? free-market values? extolling the virtues of the “traditional family”?…. because I read plenty – and hear plenty – on campus, despite taking courses primarily in disciplines that are seen as fairly “left”) threatens “identity diversity”… what are the possible patterns of causation/effect, and what is your desired end for an institution like Middlebury?…
    See more: https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2017/03/30/colleges-need-language-shift-not-one-you-think-essay
    Again, I want to emphasize that there is a difference between emphasis on “academic freedom” and emphasis on “ideological diversity” – those are two very different asks.

    If you believe in the slippery slope, I could easily argue that this call for ideological diversity could backfire on you. If we need to present “every” voice in a discussion, where is the limit? Should professors edit syllabi so that every inclusion of a scholar that could be seen as “leftist” (which is a whole lot more complicated than a Democratic ideology) also needs to include a “conservative” critique? Well then, should we not also read a queer feminist and critical race critique of Plato every time we read the Republic? Really, my desire for more leftist voices on campus – ones that deviate from the dominant moderate neoliberal Democrat orientation that much of the faculty has – could also be seen as desire for “intellectual/ideological diversity”.

    Yesterday, I was talking about how in the class that I read Murray for (assigned because he’s influential in the field, not because his pseudoscience has scholarly merit), there was also robust discussion of his critics. I felt that that was a more appropriate form of engagement with his “voice” (disregarding the differences between including him on a syllabus and symbolism of having him speak at school with all sorts of institutional legitimization). However, a good friend actually pointed out how the idea that you should always include a critical voice when discussing a text that reifies/justifies an oppressive system of power (the types of things we study all the time, that say women are subhuman, slaves are justified, etc.) could be used against my intended ends… here is a perfect example!

    Also, there are already TONS of “free-market types” at Midd – our most popular major may significantly oriented towards such a form of thought. So, perhaps you’re right that the ideological diversity we don’t have is on “social” issues (oh, so we need more racists? sorry to be petty, but I want us to remember the criticism and not only talk about these discussions in seemingly ‘neutral’ or removed terms)… is there any possibility that the majority of scholars who study family and oppose Murray’s understanding of family structure could be more accurate-and that is why there is widespread opposition to his scholarship in the academy? This really feels to me like a lot of false equivalence of the type that may be part of why we have the president that we do (although I would definitely defer to Professor Dickinson on that one). Murray (who may I remind y’all is WIDELY regarded as a pseudoscientist) (and Amy Wax, a previous contentious speaker-who presented research I would describe as racist, classist and queerphobic-at Middlebury) have lost the scholarly argument on the pathologization of “deviant” family structures. There is no reason their (truly harmful) voices “must” continue to be part of the discussion.

    Oh, and Professor Dickinson, I really like your idea of randomized admissions!

  9. Five Professors who were Middlebury Alums write a letter critical to Middlebury’s reaction to the Murray Incident.

    Money Quote:

    Middlebury’s response thus far is simply insufficient to address the current threats to higher education, free expression, and reasoned discourse. When The Wall Street Journal published a statement – signed by over 100 faculty members at Middlebury – defending these core principles, 151 Middlebury students issued a point-by-point response. Their response demonstrates that they, like many students nationwide, equate Murray’s speech with violence, and think a belligerent response was justified. Murray had no right to speak, they contend, because “[o]ppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence.” And the students’ own actions preventing Murray from speaking, they said, actually “defend[ed] the integrity of reasoned and civil discourse.”
    .
    .
    .
    Second, the membership of the newly named committee should be reconsidered to provide more balanced representation. Although it currently includes only one (relatively junior) faculty member who signed the Wall Street Journal statement, it includes two faculty members who signed a statement defending the students’ actions and one student who signed the response equating offensive speech with violence. A committee so constituted is unlikely to mount a vigorous attack on censorship or recommend a reaffirmation of core educational principles”

    So you set the foxes to guard the hen house.

    Do you wonder why people are dismissing the actions of the faculty?

  10. In case some of you are interested in what’s happening to speech on the left….

    Princeton Professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor has had to cancel speeches because of threats:
    http://diverseeducation.com/article/97274/

    Protestor violence at CUNY where Linda Sarsour (muslim feminist activist) was giving the commencement speech:
    http://time.com/4799958/linda-sarsour-cuny-commencement/?xid=homepage

    Kathy Griffin’s trump head, involving clear government involvement in the suppression:
    http://www.peacock-panache.com/2017/05/kathy-griffin-free-speech-31340.html

    If speech is your issue, you should show my generation on the left that these bother you as much as what happened to Murray – that is the way to show us that the “free speech” cry is not just a con in this political moment.

  11. I find no mention of violence in the reporting on Ms. Sasour’s speech at CUNY.

    I find no “clear government involvement in the suppression” of Ms. Griffin’s “speech” in the form of a picture.

    Apparently, both of these speakers have, or will, be allowed to speak in prominent venues.

    Where there is a breach in law as with alleged threats to Professor Taylor and Dr Murray, these must be prosecuted.

  12. Without trying to speak for anyone else who has been posting here, I don’t see how shutting down speech on the Left is any more productive than shutting down speech coming from any other perspective.

  13. Well, it is not just Middlebury. The most liberal college (Evergreen) in America, right near my home, in Olympia, WA. has zero clue, too. Zero as in NADA about freedom of thinking and freedom of speech. These URL’s will catch you up. Both the president and the campus police chief should resign in shame and the professor who threatened Prof. Weinstein’s wife with harm should be sacked and arrested. This insanity is reaching dangerous proportions in the USA. Prof. Weinstein’s letter was measured and softly brilliant. The college leaders have gone insane and have jelly for spines. As Henry Ford said, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is why so few people engage in it.” Indeed.

    http://hotair.com/archives/2017/05/26/students-demand-firing-professor-objected-asking-whites-leave-campus/

    http://hotair.com/archives/2017/05/31/college-professor-campus-mob-came/

    https://heterodoxacademy.org/2017/05/27/this-weeks-witch-hunt/
    http://hotair.com/archives/2017/03/10/is-intersectionality-a-religion/

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/opinion/when-the-left-turns-on-its-own.html?_r=0

    Following the protest, college police, ordered by Evergreen’s president to stand down, told Mr. Weinstein they couldn’t guarantee his safety on campus.

    I’m sure this isn’t over. Today Prof. Weinstein called for the resignation of the president. I suspect our legislature will do some house cleaning of its own as this is a publicly supported institution (read taxpayer monies).

  14. Well, Mr. Dickinson,

    First we need to establish WHOSE principles we are actually using and secondly IF there was any shutting down of speech. (There wasn’t. Maybe one in three)

    Let us start with Kathy Griffin, because she is the biggest nothing put out there as an example. She put out a meme and a message and no one said she was not permitted to do that. Not even a Conservative.*

    Private Citizens Melenia, Lara, and Baron Trump all gave their opinion of the woman who apparently thinks that their beheaded husband/father is a giggle. (Was KG’s picture ‘hate speech’? Is this calling for REAL violence? More on that later) That is called ‘free speech’.

    Current Mid seems to think that private citizens telling a jerk that she is a jerk is ‘government oppression’. Trump, in his capacity as a private citizen, told KG exactly what HE thought of her. Even a president is allowed to do that and since Obama compared Republicans to terrorists, that boundary has been set.

    Now, REAL government oppression involves the IRS auditing the enemies of President, the key suspect taking the Fifth and all the supporting evidence and e-mails and hard drives being destroyed ala Lois Learner, with a feckless Eric Holder shrugging his shoulders about an ‘unsolvable’ (or is it an ‘uninvestigated’) crime, sort of like the Middlebury and Berkeley Chiefs of Police.

    IF Trump does oppresses KG, count on me to call him on it. That KG found most Americans exercised THEIR free speech in telling her exactly what they thought of her isn’t government oppression. It is a society reproving a huge jerk in their midst.

    But let’s get to principle. Are we using MY principles or Current Mid’s principles?

    For her to use my principles, she also has to hold them equally. Which means she needs to repudiate and denounce the Middens of Middlebury, the thugs who abuse the principles of free speech and attack people whose opinions they don’t like.

    She has not. She refuses to. She barely, under the social approbation of the nation, with gritted teeth admits to ‘bad optics’. However her Ur-position is NOT to apply my principles to them.

    Okay, so then I am flexible enough to use HER principles.

    According to 151 students at Middlebury and Current Mid, ‘speech is violence’ and so hateful speech not only SHOULD be shouted down, but extreme measures can and should be taken to stop hate speech.

    Linda Sarsour hates Israel. She openly approves of and compliments Palestinians who throw rocks…bullets…bombs…rockets…at Israel. This is known as ‘violence’ and I doubt very much she is using complimentary words when she calls for the overthrow of Israel. So hate speech.

    According to Current Mid, people who oppose hate should have gone to her speech. They should have screamed at her so she could not be heard. She should have been chased like dogs after a rabbit, her hair should have been grabbed and her head twisted until she needed hospitalization. And after this violent attack which included trying to deny her any escape, she should have been hounded until she left the city.

    Because unlike Murray, wistfully wondering if intelligence is equally distributed and suggesting we look into that; Linda Sarsour calls for violence in Arabic. She is, to me, a very dangerous character. Hate filled, violent and not sharing my ideology. So she has ONE characteristic of Charles Murray: He isn’t in Current Mid’s tribe.

    Current Mid has defended this standard of action against Murray. So if we are using HER principles, violence and shutting down Ms. Sarsour’s speech requires no apology at all.

    It should be applauded. The people who assail her would be heroes. Using her metrics.

    Except that this supposed violent protest never actually happened. Nothing happened to Ms. Sarsour. Current Mid is (charitably) mistaken in her assertions.

    So, using your metrics, Current Mid, please explain how it is okay to assault Charles Murray for asking a scholastic question and not okay to assault Ms. Sarsour who wants Israel pushed into the sea, without regard to gender or the fact she is one of your tribesmen. Use equal application of your principles as you have espoused them.

    Death threats? They are illegal. They should look into that. But Professor Taylor decided to stop her tour. After all, California and Seattle are SUCH well known Conservative trouble spots. Practically West Texas.

    It would be uncharitable of me to suggest that, with Trump in the spotlight these days, no one really cares about Taylor’s BLM speeches anymore, and it looks ever so much better to cancel one’s speech due to ‘Conservative Violence’ than ‘Liberal indifference’.**

    I would put one tenth the hate mail Sarah Palin or Ann Coulter got against whatever Professor Taylor got and still feel pretty secure in the results. Yet they show up to speeches. In Berkeley. Just saying.

    *We think she is an awful, crude and horrible human being. She has also set the standard of how Presidents, including Democrat ones, get to be treated. She burned a lot of social capital in one picture.

    On a side note: Kathy Griffin, Middlebury Screamers, Portland’s Protests and Berkeley’s Antifa are going to be THE topic of every single Republican ad for the next six years. Thank you for that, Current Mid.

    ** The number of hoax hate crimes promulgated by the Left to ‘start a conversation’ (i.e. lie) are too numerous to mention or cite. That a professor might do so for publicity is not exactly leap (see Ward Churchill and Elizabeth Warren)

  15. Kathy Griffin was not oppressed by the government. She was broken by social opprobrium. People hated what she did. Free speech…nice little double edged sword. She WANTS to blame Trump, but a mirror would serve her much better.

    Professor Taylor chose to end her tour. MIlo, Coulter, Goldberg, Palin got and get death threats by the hundreds. They still show up. They are illegal. Who is supporting that? Granted, an anonymous email is certainly far less oppressive than 200 screaming and assaulting co-eds and masked thugs, so let’s keep a sense of perspective, um-kay?

    Linda Sarsour is far more of a hate speaker than anything Charles Murray is accused of doing.

    Linda Sarsour wants the state of Israel destroyed to be fair to Palestinians. If there is an accompanying bloodbath to this political desire of hers, it is no skin off her nose. Kind of a racist, isn’t she?

    So Current Mid, using your principles of how ‘hate speakers’ should be treated, why shouldn’t there have been a violent protest at her commencement speech except for the fact that you like her and you hated Murray?

    And if you want to use the principle of ‘free speech’, you only get access to that by embracing it for EVERYONE.

    You have no room to criticize uneven application of free speech when you call for uneven application of free speech ONLY for yourself and your compatriots. This is YOUR principle.

  16. Sorry. There is no edit function.

    Wondering about uneven distributions of intelligence as an intellectual exercise is nowhere near as hateful as calling for the destruction of Israel and encouraging violence against Israelis.

    If you want protection for ‘equal speech for all’, then you need to denounce the thugs of Middlebury and not cite them, as your original post did, of them being unsung heroes.

    This is a very dangerous principle you are espousing, Current Mid. The only reason you think it’s attractive is that you have this idea that opprobrium and violence will never be aimed at your side or your speakers. That the agents of authority will come down like a hammer on anyone who afflicts your side.

    While I understand that confusion, considering how obsequious the Middlebury faculty has been, this is still a curious delusion considering how vilified Middlebury has become as a synonym for intolerance.

  17. Hi, J. Dye,

    I sure want you on my side in any debate, that’s certain. And I think you are hammering at a brick wall of PC leftist intolerance in the case of CM. She will never look and see with clear eyes.

    We now have a West Coast/East Coast balance of intolerance. Evergreen, always considered a college for many folks who want to study nothing that matters, has just joined Berkeley in claiming the mantle for PC intolerance.

    https://heterodoxacademy.org/2017/05/27/this-weeks-witch-hunt/
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/opinion/when-the-left-turns-on-its-own.html
    http://hotair.com/archives/2017/03/10/is-intersectionality-a-religion/
    http://hotair.com/archives/2017/05/26/students-demand-firing-professor-objected-asking-whites-leave-campus/

    There are videos of Professor Weinstein being vilified by a shouting mob and of the milquetoast president being called every nasty name in the book in a meeting he called. Already a bill has been introduced in the state legislature to remove the $24 million in state funds from that college.

    The college president told the campus security chief to ‘stand down’ so that the security chief had to tell Prof. Weinstein that he could not be protected on campus. He ended up teaching his class in a park off campus.

    Frankly, as a society, we are reaping the whirlwind that PC has brought. This whole intolerance thing is going to get worse before it gets better. And so-called “intersectionality” is a boar’s nest of twisted logic and thought.

  18. Please excuse me. I thought that perhaps Professor Dickinson thought my first post was a bit too…incendiary to post, so I gave it another try with the same beats but in a slightly different tone.

    It did not occur to me that he might have had a nice weekend planned which did not include his blog. Silly me!

    The best reason to demand the Bill of Rights is to imagine that one is the UNDERdog, not the Overdog in any legal, social or cultural situation.

    Unfortunately, in a college situation, particularly one like Middlebury where the assumption is one of high social status and wealth, it changes the power dynamic and even expectation of influence. It is a bit like the Medieval University of Paris, where students paid professors directly.

    So one can forgive CM, at least a little bit, that in her inexperience, she can’t imagine that she would ever need the Bill of Rights to be necessary for HER, and if the Bill gets in the way of ‘Da Truth’ (or at least her version of it) than the Bill of Rights SEEMS to be doing a disservice by allowing ‘bad people’ (like Charles Murray wondering about racial intelligence, but NOT Linda Sarsour who hates Jews) to speak.

    It is a difficult thing to value a rule which causes one to occasionally ‘lose’, or more accurately, to have to answer challenging questions and have sacred cows butchered by the knives of logic. But then we get a society which looks like Calvin Ball, but with far more fights.

  19. Hi J Dye – Yes, my apologies for the slow posting. I was hunkered down in an undisclosed (but warm!) location trying to get grading done by the Friday deadline, so was off line for a few days. But I’m back, and hope to respond to the many recent thoughtful posts from all of you.

  20. Hey y’all,

    I’m not going to directly respond to most of what’s written above. BUT – you’re right about Kathy Griffin – I didn’t fully do my research, then got excited about the title of an article, skimmed and posted. I agree that shaming, calling people names (like “racist”), yelling, saying ‘offensive’ things – as well as outlining codes of respectful engagement (free from coercive punishment/action if broached), etc., – including in reaction to an individual’s work/speech/etc, even as the president, is ‘free speech’ and should be free from government censorship.

    With Linda Sarsour, there were many calls (beforehand) for the school to not let her speak, yet there was little reporting on it. Maybe less reportable because nothing happened with that… but also another interesting instance on what’s deemed worthwhile to report on by some news sources.

    …So, I got excited (angry) and used bad examples (I’ll admit mistakes)… what I was trying to point out is what seems to be truly uneven reporting about the threats to ‘speech’. College students are really given too much credit by many people thinking that we threaten so much. And yet, there is real government repression of speech happening (like laws criminalizing forms of protest in many states – and also real threats to academic freedom on the left as well) that the media isn’t paying attention to. I should just accept defeat on this one, but it drives me around the bend.

    You’re right, I’m applying seemingly inconsistent logic to what should be ‘shut down’–I don’t want to rehash my thinking on this (see earlier posts for an approximation of my thoughts – I think they could clarify why what seems inconsistent could be seen as consistent), but I will let you know that it has gotten more nuanced through discussion, although is not to the point of being able to articulate clearly.

    With wishes that we all can experience some of the warm weather that Prof. Dickinson seems to be enjoying, and likely bowing out for the summer, (and also with gratitude for people’s engagement and Prof. Dickinson’s extra – unpaid – labor in facilitating),
    A Snowflake/Thug/Mob-member/possibly Murray’s imaginary Anna/Rioter/Enemy of the Constitution, Academic Freedom, and ‘Civil’ discourse/Social Justice Warrior/Petition signer who believes speech can help uphold violent systems of power/PC Police (never mind that I am consistently against state repression including, literally, policing)/Disciple of post-modernism, neo-marxism, intersectionality, and “leftie bullshit”/part of “the Marginalized”/Dangerous, oversensitive, reactionary, thoughtless, ignorant, arrogant, intolerant, self-righteous, angry and non-compliant (true), hate-filled, (and my favorite, from my aunt) rude protester/Current Middlebury Student (who speaks for only herself, not other students or student activists or pro-protester Middlebury community members)

  21. I never had a problem with you being of the opinion that Murray should not be allowed to speak. That is also a part of free speech.

    I differ in your judgment at how ‘dangerous’ he was, but that is what makes horse racing possible.

    I don’t have a problem with you having a little protest calling him a racist. I think that is a bit hyperbolic and hateful, but that is also part of free speech.

    I strenuously disagree with shutting down someone’s speech. That is a criminal offense.

    I would love to see examples of this ‘shutting down free speech’ of the Left. Haven’t seen it. The fact that no one might care about something you(generic) feel passionately about is not oppression. It is lack of interest.

    And if some of the forms of ‘protest’ are being criminalized because they DO infringe on someone else’s speech…TT for you. Your rioting minions assaulting people brought it upon yourself.

    See, in the old days, we had this social understanding that Left or Right, we respected that the other side got to say their piece.

    You broke that deal. MIDDLEBURY, Evergreen, Berkeley, and quite a few Feminist imbroglios went out of their way to NOT SHARE and be scarily offensive.

    Okay. Now they don’t get to riot, scream, assault. If that is the kind of ‘oppression’ we are talking about, color me distinctly unsympathetic.

  22. Hey Matt, I don’t know if you’re still taking comments on this thread, but I think this essay presents a compelling thesis that connects a common thread between the recent Google controversy and the events at Midd last spring.

    https://www.jamesgmartin.center/2017/08/college-indoctrination-corporate-intolerance/

    “It is no surprise, then, that corporations are increasingly populated with young adults who do not know how to handle political views or scientific claims they have been taught are out of bounds of public discussion. When Google’s diversity officer replied to James Damore’s email, it was an incoherent affirmation of the company’s diversity policy, coupled with an accusation of sexism. It didn’t even attempt to cite reasons why the science Damore mentioned was wrong, or why his political views about diversity policy were misguided. It just asserted they were, and then used that assertion the next day as a pretext to fire him. This is what we get when university professors abuse their power and attempt to turn students into pawns in their political game, rather than autonomous agents with the capacity (but not yet ability) to think for themselves.”

  23. Dan,

    A timely comment – classes begin in a month, and I’m thinking about how to address this particular problem, which I think the recent events at Middlebury illustrated in spades: “It is no surprise, then, that corporations are increasingly populated with young adults who do not know how to handle political views or scientific claims they have been taught are out of bounds of public discussion.” It seems to me that we (at least some of us) have conflated teaching critical theory with teaching critical thinking skills. I’m increasingly worried that students can get through four years here safely protected from learning how to deal with ideas that they find offensive. The question becomes how to incorporate this into a political science curriculum.

  24. We read JS Mill, Edmund Burke and Thos. Paine to understand different perspectives. We were also interested to hear different views and sufficiently unsure of our own views/judgements to allow for a respectful consideration of others’ thoughts and experience.

    For some data and informed perspective on the Google/Damore memo I commend to you a post on Quillette here: http://quillette.com/2017/08/07/google-memo-four-scientists-respond/ David Brooks’ column today in the NYT is a good summary of the issue: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/11/opinion/sundar-pichai-google-memo-diversity.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region

    Jonathan Haidt has written in the NYT (April I think) on the Middlebury issue. In Quillette is a good piece (Part 2) on the state of political correctness on college campuses (ref Evergreen).

    I suggest that simply starting by reading the original documents (Damore’s memo and Pichai’s and Brown’s statements) and then putting these into historical perspectives and moderating a discussion that examines the issues from as many perspectives and as possible, is a good place to start. If students are not interested in hearing from and considering all sides/perspectives then they lack the basic prerequisite to be a student.

  25. Matt,

    I’m heartened to hear that you’re considering how to address this set of topics with your PS students. One thing that I don’t get about the radical “woke” left is the extent to which they have recently become hostile to discussion of differing points of view, at Midd and elsewhere. If they are serious about their activism, student-activists should be using their time at Midd, which is among the safest spaces for them and their political agenda that currently exists on planet Earth, as an opportunity to train themselves to convince people out in “the so-called real world” of the righteousness of their cause.

    Maybe that’s the most effective argument to today’s Midd kids in terms of getting them to not throw a tantrum every time a controversial speaker comes to campus. The College is a training program for young minds; shutting down conversation on campus reduces the quality of that training, which should anger all of the College’s stakeholders, regardless of political affiliation.

  26. Thanks, Dan and John, for the comments but more importantly, for the clickable links. Helps expand the discussion.

    The “Blame Donald Trump” chorus is in full-throated voice on Charlottesville. Enough to gag a maggot. One woman talk show host said Trump doesn’t qualify as human. The left wing media have gone berserk since Trump was elected.

    The ancient curse is upon us: “May you always live in interesting times.” Well, we are there.

    Paul

  27. Dan – I think the key phrase in your message is “an opportunity to train themselves”. While I don’t completely absolve the minority of Midd students who activity tried to shout down Murray, I have become increasingly convinced that many of them really don’t understand why free speech is so crucial to doing exactly what you suggest: convincing people of the righteousness of their cause. In this regard, I’m not sure they are capable of training themselves – they need someone to instruct them regarding why free speech is crucial. In short, I think what happened with Murray is an institutional failure as much as a personal one on the part of the students. We need to do a better job teaching students about the value of free speech. How to do so is the question, and I thank you, and J. Paul and John for your helpful suggestions. I am certainly going to start each of my classes with a brief explanation for why I put such value on the free exchange of ideas and toleration for opposing viewpoints. It’s not a panacea, but it’s a start I hope.

  28. I’d like to add another element to highlight the importance of this issue for Middlebury and elsewhere: the recent news of a Google employee’s dismissal.

    While there are some important differences (Google is not a school or a debating society) the reactions of management there to the employee’s comments reek of the same intolerant reflex to censor and punish speech. Those managers learned that behavior at a college or university somewhere and brought that with them to work.

  29. Joe—It is in the culture, a rabid sickness that has spread and has the chance to destroy us. It’s called Political Correctness and has infected us everywhere. So, being in the culture, you will “have it” if you’re not conscious of your thoughts. Most people are not, they are in a state of Waking Sleep. Consciousness is hard work but that’s a whole other discussion. Here are two pieces by a prescient Aussie on PC and its devastation of rational discussion and debate which leads to a societal spiral downward.

    On Political Correctness:

    http://www.ourcivilisation.com/pc.htm

    Decline of our civilization:

    http://www.ourcivilisation.com/signs/chap9.htm

    So, when you see things like Charlottesville, Evergreen State, Middlebury, Mizzou, Berkeley, et. al., you are seeing PC in action by many self-righteous actors of every stripe. Much of our media is especially complicit in how they report on what is happening. BTW, enrollment at Mizzou (Missouri State?) has dropped sharply. I think you can Google “Mizzou Enrollment Trends” and find articles about it. If I leave this board to get a URL I think my comments vanish or I’d do the work for you.

  30. For Joe and others who may be interested in blowback from two years ago at Mizzou. One from a leftish resource and one alt-right. I wonder if Middlebury will have that. 30% drop in enrollment is a bunch. I’m watching Evergreen State to see if their enrollment drops.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/09/us/university-of-missouri-enrollment-protests-fallout.html

    http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2017/07/10/report-students-shun-university-of-missouri-two-years-after-protests-enrollment-down-35/

  31. Paul, I’m well aware of all that. I just believe that some in our society do not take the campus situation as seriously as they should because “it’s just college kids being college kids.” They blithely assume the kiddies will forget all that nonsense once they go to work for a living.

    As we agree, it’s a lot more pernicious than that on campus: it’s the deliberate *teaching* of censorship by faculty and especially administrators.

    There is a further manifestation of this training as well, I believe. Not only do companies increasingly allow their management to presumptuously dictate what off-hours activities an employee may participate in, or causes they may give to, there are also people who find themselves on the receiving end of intimidation from, in particular, organized campaigns by the ideological Left. These company executives will simply knuckle under to pressure to pull advertising or sponsorship dollars from radio and TV programs out of fear of offending customers if their ads appear on certain shows, and an honest–if spineless–desire to protect their brand.

    I can’t say I blame them. But it strikes me that this is almost always done by the Left successfully.

  32. John,

    The book was written by Richard Neustadt, who happened to be my dissertation adviser at Harvard, and who later came out of retirement to teach a presidency course with me there. Pretty much everything I learned about the presidency came from him, which explains the title to this blog – it is an homage to his influence. If you are interested in learning a bit about him, I recommend this book that I co-edited with his daughter: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002QXMEVW/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

    For a summary of his book Presidential Power, see my article: https://www.jstor.org/stable/41427418?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents Alas, it is a gated document, but I can send you a copy if you are interested. For a shorter take on his book, see my article in this book: https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/debating-the-presidency/book244714 Or, I can send you a copy of it. For what it is worth, his book is probably the best single volume on the presidency ever written.

  33. Matthew, thank you for the background. I would like to read your summaries as I plan to read Prof. Neustadt’s book and appreciate your kind offer to share.

    I (along with many others) am trying to hone my perspective on the current President and hope that a learned perspective from a distance might be useful.

    I only wish I had the opportunity to take your course! Thank you for your work in moderating this blog – it gives those of us who don’t have the opportunity a glimpse of the wonderful world of thinkers.

  34. Hi John,

    I’ve sent the articles to you via email. Hope you find them helpful. Regarding Trump, like you (and many others), I’m struggling to understand just how much of the Trump presidency is sui generis, and how much can be explained by existing political science theories of the presidency. I have to write an article by the end of this month assessing his relations with Congress in the context of presidential-congressional relations more generally – wish me luck! I’m going to need it….

  35. Indeed, you will, Matthew (need more than luck).

    It is my viewpoint that Trump has a relationship with virtually no one, including his wife. Possibly his children, but I doubt even that. He is a complete egoistic, narcissistic human being who must be No. 1 in all things. His constant preening, praise-demanding, etc., makes it impossible to have a relationship without wanting to throw up. I don’t know how people stand being around him, frankly. Desire to be next to power must overcome what should be revulsion.

    So, I am not surprised that the Congress is finally fighting back. Trump can’t fire them and he needs them to implement his agenda. That’s not going well and I don’t see how it can change because he will not change. So, I don’t know what you’re going to write about other than continued dysfunction; name-calling, back-biting, sabotaging, distancing, etc.

    We are in for a rough ride for the next 3 1/2 years. And the rabid leftist media will not be making it any easier. Meanwhile, we have events like Barcelona today. I predict we will see that here, too. Already have with the Ft. Hood massacre and the slaughter in So. Calif (name escapes my aging brain, very frustrating). We live in interesting times—that ancient curse is upon us.

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