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Last Thursday night at Middlebury College in Vermont, a large group of students physically prevented AEI scholar Charles Murray from speaking at a college-sponsored event, and then a group of demonstrators violently attacked him and his host (a professor at the college). The professor was injured and treated at a local hospital. You can read Murray’s account of the incident here and a press account here.
This is especially disheartening to all who would like to believe that this should not happen in America, and in particular on a college campus, where freedom of thought and expression is supposed to be sacrosanct. I am confident that the Middlebury administration and faculty, no matter what their views on Murray’s research, do not support or stand for this. I hope they will repudiate it in the strongest terms and take appropriate action.
Charles Murray is a strong and courageous person, and I am proud to call him my colleague. I have no fear that he will ever be silenced. My fear, rather, is for the willingness and ability of others (whether their views are on the political right or left) to express themselves openly if they are threatened for their unpopular views–as they would be in so many illiberal countries around the world.
For 79 years, we at AEI have been proud to be part of the open exchange of ideas in America. Our nation’s colleges and universities are the best in the world. And no other country has think tanks like AEI, The Brookings Institution, and so many others. The reason is simple: Americans believe in, and support, the peaceful competition of ideas. But make no mistake: If the events at Middlebury become a pattern across the country, our national tradition of free expression is very much in danger.
We will continue to work with our university partners around the country to share ideas, whether controversial or not, for the development of a free, self-governing citizenry.
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