Maybe this was posted and discussed elsewhere in the forum...if so, I missed it.
Evidently, there was a near-riot at Middlebury College last week when a group of protesters (described as "a mob" by some witnesses) not only shut down a debate with an invited guest but also later sent the interviewer (who was prepared to and looking forward to demolishing the guest's views) to the hospital with a neck injury.
After the initial debate in front of a crowd was stopped by protesters chanting for twenty minutes, the event was moved to a secure room and live-streamed. Even then, it was interrupted by protesters pulling fire alarms, shouting aside, screaming, etc. Later, as the professor and the guest were being escorted to a car, they were attacked by a group of protesters (some masked) who grabbed the professor by her hair and twisted her neck, sending her to the ER and resulting in her wearing a neck brace. After the campus security were able to get them inside the car, protesters jumped on the hood and roof and threw a sign in front of the car, blocking it from leaving. Later, the professor had to leave a restaurant after being warned by the management that protesters had tracked him there.
Link from U.S. News & World Report:
A Bubble Is Its Own Kind of Cage
The riot over Charles Murray at Middlebury College was an appalling display of intolerance.
By Robert Schlesinger | Managing Editor for Opinion
March 6, 2017, at 2:00 p.m.
I wrote last month about protesters at Berkeley University disrupting a planned appearance by a Breitbart agitator. I penned the piece because free expression is an issue important to me but it was, as it were, a largely academic exercise. But a violent disruption last week at a Middlebury College in Vermont which led to a professor there having to visit the local emergency room illustrated the issue for me in a deeply personal way: Middlebury is my alma mater and the injured professor was my academic adviser and remains a friend.
The broad details of the incident are depressingly familiar: A highly controversial speaker was invited to campus, prompting objection from students and faculty, and things went sideways from there. In this case it was the American Enterprise Institute's Charles Murray, who has gained notoriety for his writings on race and who is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "white nationalist" who uses "racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that the social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women and the poor." (I should note that American Enterprise Institute scholars contribute pieces on education and economics to the U.S. News opinion page on a regular basis, though coincidentally Murray is not among them.)
So yeah, it's easy to understand the objections to Murray.
Political Science professor Allison Stanger (who was, as I said, my adviser when I was in college) agreed to moderate Murray's discussion because, as she put it in a Facebook post over the weekend, "while my students may know I am a Democrat, all of my courses are nonpartisan, and this was a chance to demonstrate publicly my commitment to a free and fair exchange of views in my classroom."
That kind of commitment necessarily includes airing views with which one disagrees – and when necessary engaging them. Middlebury College President Laurie Patton expressed that eloquently in remarks she made before Murray's appearance. "I will state here that I profoundly disagree"
with Murray, she said. But, she added:
We are an intellectual community and part of the job of an intellectual community is to argue. If there ever was a time for Americans to take on arguments that offend us, it is now; if there ever was a time for us to challenge influential public views with better reason, better research, better logic and better data, it is now. If there ever was a time when we need to argue back, declare ourselves committed to arguing for a better society it is no
Shouting down arguments that offend us isn't taking them on; it's empowering them, admitting that they have a force which can't be matched at the intellectual level and so requires a more martial opposition. It's worth adding that kind of thinking matched with the strength of the state – the police and military apparatuses – becomes totalitarianism. Enlisting that approach to a righteous cause doesn't change that fundamental truth or mitigate its attendant disruptiveness. Freedom protects us all; its absence threatens us all, regardless of who is wielding power or to what end – after all, these things can be transient.
And yet, shamefully, that's precisely what the assembled crowd (presumably most or all being members of the Middlebury community) did. When Murray took the lectern to speak protesters started an extended, foot-stomping demonstration replete with chants condemning Murray and white supremacy. You can see the whole contemptible display on a Periscope video here.
Allison described the scene thusly on Facebook:
Those who wanted the event to take place made eye contact with me. Those intent on disrupting it steadfastly refused to do so. It was clear to me that they had effectively dehumanized me. They couldn't look me in the eye, because if they had, they would have seen another human being. There is a lot to be angry about in America today, but nothing good ever comes from demonizing our brothers and sisters.
To the college's credit, when it became clear that the protesters were not going to let the event go on as advertised, they moved it to a different location and live-streamed it so that those who were interested could still hear it. "I want you to know how hard it was for us to continue with fire alarms going off and enraged students and outside agitators banging on the windows,"
Stanger wrote in her Facebook account of the event. "I thought they were going to break through, and I then wondered what would happen next. It is hard to think and listen in such an environment."
Nevertheless, she persisted. They managed to get through the event; you can watch the video of it here.
When the event ended, and it was time to leave the building, I breathed a sigh of relief. We had made it. I was ready for dinner and conversation with faculty and students in a tranquil setting. What transpired instead felt like a scene from Homeland rather than an evening at an institution of higher learning. We confronted an angry mob as we tried to exit the building. Most of the hatred was focused on Dr. Murray, but when I took his right arm both to shield him from attack and to make sure we stayed together so I could reach the car too, that's when the hatred turned on me. One thug grabbed me by the hair and another shoved me in a different direction. I noticed signs with expletives and my name on them. There was also an angry human on crutches, and I remember thinking to myself, "What are you doing? That's so dangerous!" For those of you who marched in Washington the day after the inauguration, imagine being in a crowd like that, only being surrounded by hatred rather than love. I feared for my life.
After the pair reached a waiting car, the mob blocked it with a traffic sign with a heavy concrete base and rocked it and hit it. In the end the automobile was able to escape, but Allison had to visit the emergency room and came away with a neck brace and a concussion.
That was the visible and physical exclamation point on a sad episode. Its violence extends to the college's reputation, though as I said it deserves credit for ensuring that the event went on even in the face of the protest. Nevertheless it's puzzling and shocking to all of the fellow alums with whom I've communicated. What in the world has gotten into the students of Middlebury?
Much of the justification about such protests seems to involve a desire for safety, especially as expressed by so-called "safe spaces," and freedom narrowly construed as liberation from discomfort. But the absence of order is neither freedom nor safety any more than its total imposition. Freedom and safety both require a level of risk and a careful balance. Unhappily a free society is simply not compatible with never-ending, numbing comfort. A bubble is its own kind of cage.
Violent protest and disruption mark neither safety nor strength but rather their deliberate absence. Such measures are the resort of those too insecure in their own belief system to engage on that level or just too lazy to do so.
The conservative movement under Trump has become unrecognizable. It's time to take it back.
"We must find a path to establishing a climate of open discourse as a core Middlebury value, while also recognizing critical matters of race, inclusion, class, sexual and gender identity, and the other factors that too often divide us," Patton wrote in an open letter to the community after the event. Those values are all important and needn't be in tension.
This isn't a binary choice involving the college and its community either endorsing a point of view or silencing it. The mere fact of hosting a particular point of view need not equate to endorsing it; it's possible – healthy even – for an institution to host a variety of viewpoints. And it's also possible to register objection to offending viewpoints short of silencing them; one can protest peacefully without denying the event to others, one can attend and quietly walk out to demonstrate disagreement and of course one can, you know, engage and let the power of one's own ideas outshine the objectionable ones. This shouldn't be hard if the other side is so self-evidently wrong as to make violent protest seem a legitimate option. (This isn't just an academic question for someone who runs an opinion section where we frequently run views with which I strongly disagree.)
And in fact this deplorable event sets back the important causes which those resorting to violence claim to cherish. Rather than forcing people like Murray to engage on issues of social justice, it gives them a convenient out and another data point for the tiresome arguments that progressives and institutions of higher learning are intellectually intolerant.
As Allison wrote on Facebook:
To people who wish to spin this story as one about what's wrong with elite colleges and universities, you are mistaken. Please instead consider this as a metaphor for what is wrong with our country, and on that, Charles Murray and I would agree. This was the saddest day of my life. We have got to do better by those who feel and are marginalized. Our 230-year constitutional democracy depends on it, especially when our current President is blind to the evils he has unleashed. We must all realize the precious inheritance we have as fellow Americans and defend the Constitution against all its enemies, both foreign and domestic. That is why I do not regret my involvement in the event with Dr. Murray. But as we find a way to move forward, we should also hold fast to the wisdom of James Baldwin, "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
It's an eloquent and important conclusion to a dismal and dismaying affair.