I was in the audience when William Rusher and William Shockley took the stage of an auditorium to debate at Yale in the spring of 1974. I arrived early knowing it would be difficult to get a seat and waited patiently for the event to begin. My patience was not rewarded, however, as the event was shouted down. The fascist aura in the auditorium and on the street among the protesters visible on the sidewalk outside was like nothing I had ever experienced.
The event prompted a soul searching among the powers that be at Yale, recalled by my daughter in “This is not a debate.” It culminated in the Woodward Report on freedom of expression at Yale and in the university’s rededication to free speech. Unfortunately, we are now deep into the backsliding at Yale and elsewhere, such as Middlebury College.
Charles Murray sought to speak at Middlebury College this past Thursday evening as a guest of the campus AEI Club. AEI Club? That there is an AEI Club at Middlebury suggests that things are not altogether dire on campus. There can’t be a culture more counter than AEI at Middlebury.
I don’t think Murray needs any introduction to Power Line readers. He had been invited to Middlebury to discuss his most recent book, Coming Apart: The State of White America.
Murray’s appearance was prefaced by a couple of Middlebury students who made impressive statements. In between the statements of the two students Middlebury president Laurie Patton spoke. Patton must have had a foreboding. Patton warned the assembled multitude that disruption of such an event violated college policy.
When Murray took the stage student fascists in attendance nevertheless prevented Murray from speaking. Their barbarism and stupidity ruled the day, as one can see in the video shot from inside the auditorium.
On Twitter Murray observed that the students were “seriously scary.” I don’t think he was even referring to the savages inside the auditorium, though perhaps he was. His “getaway” car was attacked as he sought to depart. Murrays’s campus host — Professor Allison Stanger — did not escape unscathed. She was injured in the getaway.
From Murray’s perspective, the event was not a total loss. He made two new friends: getaway driver Bill Burger and Professor Stanger. “She’s on the left,” he observed. “And fearless, funny, smart as can be, and as devoted to academic freedom as anyone I’ve ever met.” Professor Stanger appears in the video at about 41:00. The event continued via video livestream from a secure location (photo below).
President Patton subsequently issued this statement addressed to members of the Middlebury College community:
As many of you are aware by now, a large group of student protestors disrupted Charles Murray’s talk yesterday afternoon in Wilson Hall in McCullough Student Center. I am deeply disappointed by the events that I witnessed and it was painful for many people in our community to experience. I know that many students, faculty, and staff who were in attendance or waiting outside to participate were upset by the events, and the lost opportunity for those in our community who wanted to listen to and engage with Mr. Murray.
With some effort, we were able to move Mr. Murray to another location where he and Prof. Allison Stanger, who was scheduled to moderate the Q&A following his talk, were able—though with challenges—to go ahead with the talk and a probing conversation afterward.
Following the event, protests continued outside of McCullough as well. Unfortunately, one group of demonstrators aggressively confronted Mr. Murray and Prof. Allison Stanger as they left McCullough Student Center. That confrontation turned into a violent incident with a lot of pushing and shoving, and an attack on the car in which they were leaving campus. We believe that many of these protestors were outside agitators, but there are indications that Middlebury College students were involved as well.
We will be responding in the very near future to the clear violations of Middlebury College policy that occurred inside and outside Wilson Hall.
Today our community begins the process of addressing the deep and troubling divisions that were on display last night. I am grateful to those who share this goal and have offered to help. We must find a path to establishing a climate of open discourse as a core Middlebury value, while also recognizing critical matters of race, inclusion, class, sexual and gender identity, and the other factors that too often divide us. That work will take time, and I will have more to say about that in the days ahead.
Last night we failed to live up to our core values. But I remain hopeful. Last evening, several students, faculty, and staff representing a large spectrum of political perspectives remained in Wilson Hall to discuss the events and to talk about building bridges. Their ability to reach across differences in a rigorous but respectful way was a stark contrast to the events that preceded it. I firmly believe these are the Middlebury values that we have lived so long and that we must strive to embody in the future.
I extend my sincerest apologies to everyone who came in good faith to participate in a serious discussion, and particularly to Mr. Murray and Prof. Stanger for the way they were treated during the event and, especially, afterward.
Laurie L. Patton
As they said back in the day, the whole world is watching.