[This is the second part of an article on the Middlebury College protest against Charles Murray. If you read it, please read it after the first part. The first critiqued stereotyped student protest reporting and the conventional wisdom about the rights of speakers on campus. This post looks at the tactics of college officials and student activists.]
Tactics: What else could school officials have done?
What else could the administration have done? Before the event, the campus newspaper published protest letters from over 600 students, over 50 faculty and over 500 alumni. The college’s response, to give Murray an enthusiastic and generous welcome, was so normal that few thought it odd that President Patton chose to do so despite such widespread opposition from her campus. School officials were clearly out of touch with their students and faculty, had no idea how serious the opposition would be, no idea how quickly they would lose control, and now are in the position of hunting down students whom many in their community feel should be honored. Bad leadership, egregious mismanagement, pitiful listening skills? Yet the college officials escape all criticism from the respectable commentators.
The school not only legitimized Murray and his views by allowing the invitation; they also hosted him and treated him as an honored guest, even taking him out to dinner afterwards. They arranged this as a major college event in a large hall; the school president introduced him, the political science department co-hosted (over the strong objections of some of their faculty), and they made the format a collegial exchange of ideas between Murray and one of their professors. Would they have done more for a visit from a Nobel Laureate? This extra effort was so strange and foolish, so out of touch with the climate on campus, it requires an explanation all its own. (more…)