Professor Allison Stanger with Charles Murray on the live stream in 2017
Three years after a chaotic appearance on campus, controversial author Charles Murray is returning to Middlebury College.
The co-presidents of the Middlebury College Republicans, the group that invited the 77-year-old social scientist to appear, announced the March 31 talk in an op-ed published Wednesday in the Middlebury Campus, the student newspaper.
“We’d like to make clear that we not only welcome but also encourage any and all constructive forms of support or opposition to this event,” students Dominic Aiello and Brendan Philbin wrote in the piece. “We are fervent supporters of the right to peacefully protest and look forward to receiving input from the community in the coming months.”
Murray’s last visit to Middlebury, on March 2, 2017, was disrupted by protests and eventually, violence. As he took the stage in Wilson Hall, students booed, rose and turned their backs to the stage before reading a statement in unison.
"Hey hey, ho ho, Charles Murray has got to go!" the students chanted. "Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Charles Murray go away!"
Stanger was seriously hurt, suffering a concussion and neck injury. After an investigation, the college punished approximately 70 students with sanctions ranging "from probation to official college discipline, which places a permanent record in the student's file," the school said in a May 2017 statement.
In its op-ed Wednesday, the Middlebury College Republicans blamed the 2017 fracas in part on a lack of communication and community input ahead of Murray’s visit. His 1994 book, The Bell Curve, is viewed as racist by some for linking IQ and genetics to social inequality.
To deter a similar reaction, the student group said it began conversations about hosting Murray last September and decided to announce the lecture two months before it is scheduled. They've worked with the club adviser, former Vermont governor Jim Douglas, along with several members of the college administration and faculty.
“We hope that this additional time will allow the community to constructively engage with controversial ideas rather than violently shut them down,” the op-ed reads.
The talk is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on March 31 at Wilson Hall, the site of Murray’s last Middlebury lecture.
In a written statement, the college confirmed Murray’s appearance to discuss his forthcoming book, Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class.
“With each event, we are committed to providing a forum in which the Middlebury community can engage in a thoughtful, rigorous, and respectful manner,” the statement reads. “We also recognize the value of nonviolent public protest and demonstration and believe that activism that enables community members to publicly display their concerns, values, and aspirations is also a critical component of our commitment to open expression.”
It continues: “At no time should our protection of open expression — either by providing a forum or allowing nonviolent public demonstrations — be interpreted as approval or endorsement of the views expressed.”
Murray, an emeritus chair in cultural studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. He did tweet a link to the Middlebury Campus story about his appearance, writing, "Props to the students and administration for making this happen. Extending the invitation is admirable on many counts."
The college said that “many of the event details and logistics are still being discussed.”
The college Republicans noted that they “aren’t expecting everybody in the community to change their minds about Charles Murray.
“What we are expecting, however, is that he will be given the chance to speak that was denied to him in 2017 — and that you, as members of the Middlebury community, will be willing and prepared to hear what he has to say and engage diligently and respectfully with it,” the op-ed reads. “This gets to the heart of our goal with hosting this event: to engage the Middlebury community in a civil dialogue across vast ideological differences.”