Political Scientist Challenges Universities to Create Safe Spaces for All Speakers

His letter follows Middlebury's decision to cancel a controversial lecture

Middlebury College Protests
Battell Hall at Middlebury College
John Greim / Getty Images

Earlier this week, administrators at Middlebury College canceled a scheduled lecture from Ryszard Legutko, a professor of philosophy at Poland’s Jagiellonian University and Head of the Polish Law and Justice Delegation to the European Parliament.

The decision drew widespread criticism from many conservative thinkers and defenders of free speech, including American political scientist Charles Murray, who called for the university to “make Middlebury safe for speakers” in a blog posted to public policy forum AEIdeas.

His post included a sample letter that could be distributed to students ahead of visits from potentially controversial speakers, emphasizing their right to peaceful protest while encouraging administrators to discipline students who boo, applaud or otherwise interrupt such occasions.

Murray, of course, was involved in one of the more notable events of student protest in recent years when he visited Middlebury in 2017. He was on campus to discuss Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010, a treatise on class division in contemporary America that he penned in 2012.

Hundreds of students filed into the lecture hall Murray was set to appear in, bearing signs and chanting in unison against his perceived views on race, gender and socioeconomics. A confrontation between the protesters, Murray and faculty members ensued that left Allison Stanger, the professor who had moderated the conversation, with multiple injuries.

Sixty-seven students were sanctioned over the incident, and university president Laurie L. Patton later issued a public apology to Murray.

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