We Brought Charles Murray to Campus. Guess What Happened.


The next hour was migraine-inducing. Chants of “racist, sexist, K.K.K., Charles Murray go away,” indecipherable shouting, earsplitting cellphone alarms and “The Imperial March,” Darth Vader’s theme in “Star Wars,” drowned out his words.

At one point during that chaotic hour, a university spokesman, Rick Fitzgerald, took to the stage. He called on the protesters to stop shutting down the speaker or further measures would be taken. The boorish behavior continued. Further measures were never taken.

At several points during the inaudible lecture, protesters turned off the lights and displayed a projection with the words “white supremacist” on the wall with an arrow, pointing down at Mr. Murray. Others held signs: “We punch white supremacists!” and “Nazis go away.” Over a dozen University of Michigan police officers stood by. No one was removed from the event.

Finally, after some 45 minutes of pandemonium, which included a graduate student protester taking to the stage and co-opting the lectern from Mr. Murray, the protesters marched out of the event en masse. Mr. Murray spent the remainder of his time lecturing on what he was invited to speak about: The 2016 election and how we got stuck with President Trump, whom Mr. Murray fiercely opposes.

The argument of Mr. Murray’s latest book is that the nation is “coming apart at the seams” largely because of class. The elites and the people of “flyover country,” as he refers to it, have diverged so far that they barely recognize their underlying American kinship.

Something very similar can be said of college campuses like my own. What last night’s reaction to Mr. Murray demonstrates so powerfully is that they are coming apart as well, not over class but over a deep intellectual intolerance for any voice that falls to the right of the center. “The reason universities exist is so we can have calm, logical exchanges about differences of opinion,” Mr. Murray said to the crowd at one point. But increasingly, my fellow students don’t seem to believe that.

We weren’t naïve in inviting Mr. Murray to campus. We knew that he wrote “The Bell Curve.” We knew what happened at Middlebury.

But we invited him because we feel it is important to make an unequivocal statement that we believe universities should remain bastions of civil debate and tolerance. We want our school to be a place where people of different ideas and backgrounds can genuinely learn from one another.

Should the totalitarian attitudes of those very students who smear Mr. Murray as a fascist be able to intimidate their peers into shutting down voices that disrupt their ideological “safe space”? Should adherence to the prevailing political ideology of a given environment be requisite for addressing members of that community? Simply put, should the fact that some don’t want to hear an opinion mean that no one else gets to? We think not.

If given the chance, we’d invite Mr. Murray again.

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