Middlebury Protesters Disrupt Charles Murray Lecture, Attack Professor

March 3, 2017

Protesters shouted down and physically intimidated Charles Murray, the prominent conservative political scientist, at Middlebury College on Thursday evening.

The demonstrators attacked Murray and a professor, Allison Stanger, after disrupting the evening's planned lecture and forcing a change of venue. One demonstrator yanked Stanger by the hair. The professor was taken to the emergency room as a result of the assault.

"One of the demonstrators pulled Prof. Stanger’s hair and twisted her neck," Bill Burger, the college's vice president of communications and marketing, told the Addison County Independent. "She was attended to at Porter Hospital later and (on Friday) is wearing a neck brace."

Earlier, scores of protesters took over the lecture hall where Murray was supposed to speak. When Murray approached the podium, they stood up and turned their backs on him, drowning out his attempts to speak with chants, jeers, and a lengthy denunciation of his "hate speech."

"We will not respect a discourse or debate about free speech," the protestors recited from pre-prepared text. "These are not ideas that can be fairly debated."

"Charles Murray, go away! Racist, sexist, anti-gay," the protestors chanted later.

Some of the protestors held signs denouncing Murray's supposed belief in eugenics. Others flipped Murray off with both hands.

Murray tweeted about the event afterward.

Murray is one of the most influential social scientists of the last half century, publishing books on culture and social policy that have led, among other things, to the 1996 welfare reform bill signed by President Bill Clinton. Murray has advocated dramatically reducing U.S. welfare programs and replacing them with a universal basic income, or UBI.

Two of Murray's most important works, Coming Apart (2012) and The Bell Curve (1994), argue that America's meritocracy has created a struggling underclass and a highly educated and prosperous "cognitive elite." This trend poses challenges for American democracy, Murray contends, threatening to turn the country into a rigid caste system based on native intelligence.

"It is obvious that these conclusions have not been discredited in the twenty-two years since they were written," Murray wrote in a 2016 post on the website of the American Enterprise Institute, where he is a resident scholar. "They may be more accurately described as prescient."

Murray's notoriety stems from a brief section in The Bell Curve that addressed the state of science on genes, race, and IQ. Murray and his co-author, Harvard psychology professor Richard Herrnstein, stated that IQ is partially hereditable and that the mean scores of different ethnic groups on intelligence tests differ in predictable ways. Both claims were "squarely within the consensus state of knowledge" at the time, Murray has written, citing nearly identical findings from the American Psychological Association.

Nevertheless, Murray has been labelled a "white nationalist" by left-wing advocacy groups. His work has been compared to that of racist eugenicists from the early 20th century.

"The notion that Herrnstein and I made claims about ethnic differences in IQ that have been scientifically rejected is simply wrong," Murray wrote. "We deliberately remained well within the mainstream of what was confidently known when we wrote. None of those descriptions have changed much in the subsequent twenty-two years, except to be reinforced as more has been learned."

Murray's lectures to college groups have drawn heated protests at Princeton, Swarthmore, Virginia Tech, and others. He was disinvited from Azusa State University in 2014, which prompted him to write an open letter to the college's students.

"Azusa Pacific’s administration wants to protect you from earnest and nerdy old guys who have opinions that some of your faculty do not share," Murray wrote. "Ask if this is why you're getting a college education."