Middlebury College students protest Charles Murray, March 2. Photo: Associated Press
Middlebury’s Statement of Principle
[Note from Don Johnson – author of this blog Read what many of my generation thought about such actions by clicking the link below – AYFP]
Learning is possible only where free, reasoned and civil speech is respected.
By Jay Parini and Keegan Callanan March 6, 2017 7:36 p.m. ET 615 COMMENTS
WSJ | 2017-03-07T00:36:00.000Z
On Thursday roughly 100 of our 2,500 students prevented a controversial visiting speaker, Charles Murray, from communicating with his audience on the campus of Middlebury College. Mr. Murray was silenced by loud chants and foot-stomping; the commotion lasted nearly half an hour before college officials moved him to a private room to deliver his address into a camera. But even the simulcast to the auditorium was silenced by more protests and multiple fire alarms.
As Mr. Murray was leaving, a group of as-yet-unidentified assailants mobbed him and seriously injured one of our faculty colleagues. In view of these unacceptable acts, we have produced a document stating core principles that seem to us unassailable in the context of higher education within a free society. Many colleagues have joined us by signing their names to this document; the full list of signatories is available online. [Emphasis – AYFP]
The principles are as follows:
Genuine higher learning is possible only where free, reasoned, and civil speech and discussion are respected.
Only through the contest of clashing viewpoints do we have any hope of replacing mere opinion with knowledge.
The incivility and coarseness that characterize so much of American politics and culture cannot justify a response of incivility and coarseness on the college campus.
The impossibility of attaining a perfectly egalitarian sphere of free discourse can never justify efforts to silence speech and debate.
Exposure to controversial points of view does not constitute violence.
Students have the right to challenge and even to protest non-disruptively the views of their professors and guest speakers.
A protest that prevents campus speakers from communicating with their audience is a coercive act.
No group of professors or students has the right to act as final arbiter of the opinions that students may entertain.
No group of professors or students has the right to determine for the entire community that a question is closed for discussion.
The purpose of college is not to make faculty or students comfortable in their opinions and prejudices.
The purpose of education is not the promotion of any particular political or social agenda.
The primary purpose of higher education is the cultivation of the mind, thus allowing for intelligence to do the hard work of assimilating and sorting information and drawing rational conclusions.
A good education produces modesty with respect to our own intellectual powers and opinions as well as openness to considering contrary views.
All our students possess the strength, in head and in heart, to consider and evaluate challenging opinions from every quarter.
We are steadfast in our purpose to provide all current and future students an education on this model, and we encourage our colleagues at colleges across the country to do the same.
The list of signatories is available at FreeInquiryBlog.wordpress.com.
Mr. Parini is a professor of English and Mr. Callanan a professor of political science at Middlebury College.
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