Middlebury College was the scene of an ugly student protest against Charles Murray two years ago that left one professor in a neck brace. Professor Allison Stanger later said she feared for her life that night, though she wasn’t even the main focus of outrage and was, in fact, a liberal Democrat. Last week Middlebury made news again, this time for disinviting a speaker hours before the event was scheduled to take place on the grounds that the safety of students (presumably their physical safety) couldn’t be guaranteed. You can probably guess why. Because student activists were planning to protest. From Inside Higher Ed:
An email that went out to the campus hours before the scheduled appearance by Ryszard Legutko said, “In the interest of ensuring the safety of students, faculty, staff and community members, the lecture by Ryszard Legutko scheduled for later today will not take place. The decision was not taken lightly. It was based on an assessment of our ability to respond effectively to potential security and safety risks for both the lecture and the event students had planned in response.”
The email was signed by Jeff Cason, the provost, and Baishakhi Taylor, dean of students.
They went on to write that due to location changes and an increased number of expected attendees, “we didn’t have the staff capacity” to assure safety…
Legutko is a professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University, in Kraków. He is also a member of the European Parliament and is associated with far-right views that have growing support in Eastern Europe. He has offended many groups, and criticism at Middlebury has noted his support for discrimination against gay people. His fans note his stance against dictatorship in the era when the Soviet Union controlled Poland.
The heckler’s veto wasn’t completely successful as Legutko did give a speech in one professor’s classroom which was partially streamed online. Legutko is a Catholic who still has a traditional view of marriage. That position, held (at least publicly) by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton until a few years ago was one of the main reasons students wanted him disinvited. Princeton University professor Robert P. George tweeted this in response to the situation:
A "liberal arts college" that bans speech is like a "cigar bar" that forbids smoking. What's the point of the place? #middleburyyieldstothemob
— Robert P. George (@McCormickProf) April 17, 2019
Joshua Aronson, a professor at NYU, also chimed in:
They took the worst lesson abusing @charlesmurray and his sponsor: that most administrators and academics are cowards, too afraid to stand up to adolescent discomfort with viewpoint diversity. Ceding the freedom of speech and the and the mission of college adolescents is crazy! https://t.co/7MHlU5NM5J
— joshua aronson (@Nurtureofintell) April 17, 2019
Prof. Aronson of NYU nails it. Assuming that the administration of Middlebury at some level WANTS to do the right thing, it's now paying the price for the message of weakness it sent to the mob that attacked and injured Allison Stanger: there are no consequences for your crimes. https://t.co/uZyiDsQwXq
— Robert P. George (@McCormickProf) April 17, 2019
Sadly, it appears the administration at Middlebury has no interest in standing up for free speech. The College Fix reported yesterday that after the de-platforming of Ryszard Legutko last week, administrators held a listening session in which they seemed eager to agree with the student activists:
During the meeting, students voiced frustration at the fact that Legutko was invited to campus and at “white male” professors for the so-called educational violence they inflict, among other topics.
In response, the three administrators did not tell these students that college is a time of hearing differing opinions or having difficult conversations, but rather agreed with and apologized to the students and pledged to work to address their concerns.
“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,” an administrator told the students…
“You are absolutely right, me apologizing is not going to cut it,” an administrator told the students. “We have to change, and it’s not up to you to engage, it’s up to us … 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.”
The cosmic irony to all of this is that Legutko didn’t come halfway around the world to discuss gay marriage but his book as Rod Dreher pointed out:
What happened to Legutko goes a long way towards illustrating his thesis in his great book The Demon In Democracy, in which the professor cites ways that liberal democracy is coming to be a form of soft totalitarianism comparable to what the peoples of Eastern Europe endured under Soviet occupation. Legutko was a Solidarity trade union activist in those days. Legutko’s book is a big inspiration for my next book, which is going to be about the emergence of soft totalitarianism, and practical lessons on how to resist it.
So to sum this up. A professor who believes liberal democracy is turning into soft totalitarianism came to a college in America where students pay $74,000 a year to attend and was de-platformed on the grounds that if he were allowed to speak, someone might get hurt. Then the administrators apologized to the students for allowing him to almost speak. I’d say that’s case closed on his thesis.
Here’s a video clip which features some of the leaked audio of professors kowtowing to student activists: