Liberal College Professor Criticizes Middlebury Students for Stifling Free Speech

• March 8, 2017 10:11 am


Jay Parini, a left-leaning English professor at Middlebury College, condemned students at his school during an appearance Tuesday night on Fox News for not letting the prominent conservative political scientist Dr. Charles Murray speak on campus last week.

Host Tucker Carlson started the segment by assuming that Parini does not hold conservative political views.

"Oh God no," Parini responded.

Carlson noted that Parini was distressed by the unwillingness of Middlebury students to hear viewpoints with which they disagree.

Protesters at Middlebury, many of whom were students, shouted down and physically intimidated Murray on Thursday evening as he was set to speak on campus. They also attacked a professor, Allison Stanger, who had to be taken to the emergency room.

After the incident, Parini created a set of "principles" for free speech that Carlson read on air.

"Only through the contest of clashing viewpoints do we have any hope of replacing mirror opinion with knowledge; exposure to controversial points of view does not constitute violence; a protest that prevents campus speakers from communicating with their audience is a coercive act," Carlson said

Carlson said these were great points and asked Parini whether they are commonly shared among others on campus.

Parini responded that most of his colleagues agree with the basic principles that Carlson read off and then discussed the importance of free speech across the ideological spectrum.

"I'm kind of a free-speech fundamentalist, and I believe that the function of the university is to provide a place where those with every viewpoint–left, right, center, and now, of course, it's like the rainbow, " Parini said. "There's so many–even on the right, and the left–there's obviously a zillion different opinions."

"I think a university should be, if nothing else, a place, a space shall we say, that contemporary phrase, a space where free discourse can happen, where ideas can clash, people can disagree," Parini added.

Parini then talking about an inflection point in American culture and how so many people are fed up by the "incivility" of discourse in the United States. He added that rational people need to step back and come to a consensus on the basic principles that everyone can agree to, regardless of political parties or viewpoints.

"I hope and believe that my own classrooms are a place where students can challenge me and feel free to challenge me. They don't shut me down and I never shut them down," said Parini, who noted that he has taught at Middlebury for over four decades.

"Amen," Carlson responded.