Middlebury College Admins Apologize to Students Offended By Canceled Conservative Speaker

Ryszard Legutko / Getty Images
April 24, 2019

In leaked audio, Middlebury College administrators can be heard apologizing to and supporting students who successfully managed to shut down a lecture by a conservative speaker.

Jagiellonian University professor and former anti-Communist Polish resistance member Ryszard Legutko was set to give a lecture last Wednesday at the college's Alexander Hamilton Forum warning that liberal democracy is just as susceptible to denigrate into totalitarianism. A conservative Catholic philosopher, Legutko is strongly critical of liberal feminism, homosexuality, gay marriage, and multiculturalism.

In an open letter, liberal students and professors demanded the university rescind its sponsorship of the event, labeling Legutko's beliefs "homophobic, racist, xenophobic, [and] misogynistic." While initially the Vermont college stood by Legutko, they cancelled the lecture with only hours notice, citing "potential security and safety risks." Middlebury was previously the site of a violent clash over the presence of conservative scholar Charles Murray, with left-wing activists sending a professor to the hospital.

In leaked audio obtained by College Fix, a trio of administrators can be heard apologizing to and sympathizing with not the students who supported Legutko, but the students whose threats of protest shut the lecture down.

"I hear you, and you should be outraged, and we should acknowledge that and apologize, because that's the least we can do right now, because we can't make it right in the moment. But in the future we will do everything we can to make it right," one administrator said.

Another administrator agreed with a student who called the decision-making about the lecture "an exertion of power over students" and "horrifying, scary, like powerless, awful, terrible."

"I can't answer what specifically what will be different, but I can assure you something will be different… or I won't be here anymore either," she said. "So one of the things that we will be working on is saying we need to be having very intentional conversations about how we got to this place and be accountable for that."

"We have to change…" she later said. "You should be frustrated. I'm just really frustrated too, and again that doesn't make this right, doesn't absolve me of my responsibilities in any shape or form, but we're going to keep at it, because this is not the institution we want."

In the end, Legutko did speak on Middlebury's campus by sneaking into a political science class that voted to invite him secretly. Word leaked out on social media, and about 45 students attended the lecture.

"During the days of communist totalitarianism, scholars from the West traveled to Eastern Bloc nations to give underground lectures and seminars," Alexander Hamilton Forum director Keegan Callanan told the Wall Street Journal. "On Wednesday, Mr. Legutko returned the favor."