This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of News Tribune Publishing. Enter the characters you see below Sorry, we just need to make sure you’re not a robot. You can unsubscribe at any time. The protest has become a symbol of liberal intolerance, but a closer look reveals it’s as much about Donald Trump’s election, racist incidents and a clumsy response by school officials. The audience saw him as how Much Money Did Riot Make In 2017 everything they oppose, but the truth was he and his audience probably had something in common: They hated Trump.
By that point in his appearance, however, any possibility of common ground had long since passed. That is, until Donald Trump was elected. Immediately, Murray noticed that every college speaking engagement had become an exercise in absorbing the outrage of people who saw him as a convenient punching bag for a president they hated but couldn’t reach. By evening—after Murray delivered his talk via video feed in a locked room, following a tense exit to the parking lot where a professor escorting him would get roughed up by a half dozen or so protesters—Middlebury would be well on its way to becoming the latest front in an intensifying culture war on college campuses.
The op-eds in major newspapers the following week were blunt and unforgiving. But a deeper look at Murray’s appearance, including interviews with students and protesters who have not spoken publicly before, reveals that the protesters—in particular a band of outsiders who seized an opportunity to hound an adversary—were driven as much by the larger political forces sweeping the country as they were a specific grievance with a 74-year-old author whose most controversial work is more than 20 years old. The announcement appeared on February 23 the opinion page of the Middlebury Campus student newspaper. Charles Murray would speak on campus the following Thursday, March 2. Middlebury Community to diverse thoughts, opinions and understandings on the important topics of today. The students belonged to the school’s chapter of the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank with connections to conservatives such as Dick Cheney, John Bolton and Newt Gingrich.
In 1990, AEI hired Murray, who six years earlier wrote Losing Ground, which startled readers at the time by arguing that welfare programs increase poverty, not reduce it. Hayden Dublois, one of the AEI members involved with the invitation. A but it was relatively uncontroversial. Oh yeah, you guys probably won’t get much backlash.
The students who agreed to invite Murray hadn’t known the complete back story on Murray’s 2007 visit. But a few faculty did, and their recollection was that it hadn’t gone well. A session, had told a black student that he probably would have been better off at a state university. He remembers the talk because his daughter, who graduated from Middlebury that same year, was sitting in the audience, and he was unusually nervous. It’s possible that a question was asked about me saying that affirmative action has resulted in mismatches.
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But the embellished and unflattering version made its way around the student body nevertheless, aided by an already tense climate. One week later, in town, two swastikas were found drawn on the door of a Jewish congregation center. Alex Newhouse, a student journalist for the Middlebury Campus. There was a need for some outlet, for some sort of event, or demonstration that students could rally around. The first stirrings that Murray’s upcoming visit was going to draw more backlash than anticipated came almost immediately.
Someone created a Facebook event, where people educated one another on Murray’s work and brainstormed on ways to respond. Arianna Reyes, a junior at Middlebury who helped plan the protests. Even the students and faculty who invited Murray to campus later admitted that announcing the event only a week beforehand was a mistake. It was the first in a series of missteps that would make the college itself a target of student anger.
If I could go back and change one thing, that would be the thing. I would have announced it a month before. By Monday, Murray was the subject of intense conversation all over campus, inside the classroom and out. At an early afternoon meeting, around 50 students and faculty met in an auditorium. Nick Garber, a sophomore who was reporting on the meeting for the Middlebury Campus.
That evening, another 40 students met, assembled by three women of color: Elizabeth Dunn and Arianna Reyes, both juniors, and Sami Lamont, a senior. There was again a divide between those who wanted to protest Murray but let him speak, and those who wanted to prevent him from speaking altogether. But this time, Reyes led those who wanted to shut Murray down—about 20 students—into a smaller room nearby. Dunn and Lamont, who supported what Reyes and the others were planning, stayed in the original room and helped students write an open letter to the college president and educational pamphlets to pass out on the day of Murray’s visit. Though it had been the AEI chapter’s decision to announce the speech with only a week’s notice, some on campus were suspicious that the short notice was a purposeful attempt by the administration to take students by surprise.
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Distrust of the administration intensified once students began asking their professors in class who Murray was. Even many of the faculty who supported Murray’s right to speak agreed that the debate over his work had ended two decades ago. Murray’s books don’t go through peer review. Michael Sheridan, an anthropology professor at Middlebury. Generally, pseudoscientists tend to work without fully engaging with the other scholars working on the same topic. And before publishing the book, Murray said, they sent draft copies to a variety of experts.
We spent dozens—probably hundreds—of hours rewriting drafts and reanalyzing data in response to critiques. But it seemed to some students and faculty that by inviting Murray, the administration was less interested in free speech for the sake of intellectual exercise, and more interested in bolstering the school’s reputation as open to dissenting views at a time when public opinion of college campuses was at an all-time low. Linus Owens, a sociology professor who supported the protesters. But what frustrated the students most was their sense the administration was lending Murray legitimacy. Why was the political science department co-sponsoring the event, and why did Patton, the college’s president, agree to give opening remarks?
Nic Valenti, a senior, in a Middlebury Campus op-ed. Are we back to the 18th Century—debating the equality of human beings? Students, faculty and alumni wrote open letters and signed petitions asking for the political science department to rescind its co-sponsorship and for Patton not to speak. Instead, the political science department chose to hold an open meeting to explain their reasoning for co-sponsorship. It was set for Wednesday, the day before the event. But before the open meeting could happen, a student made a decision that would have important consequences for the tenor of the protests. 25-year-old woman who is a member of the group.
If the open meeting organized by the political science department was intended to clear the air, it had the opposite effect. Burt Johnson, the chair of the department who originally decided to co-sponsor Murray’s visit, argued that sponsorship did not equate to endorsement. But for many of the students in attendance, the comments by faculty members only made things worse. A with Murray, had made clear publicly that she disagreed with Murray’s views. But she had also defended Murray as an academic and dismissed accusations of racism. Charles Murray can be a white supremacist when he married an Asian woman and had two children with her.