In Vermont last week approximately 100 of Middlebury College’s 2,500 students shouted down a visiting speaker on their campus. The speaker was the well-known, highly credentialed, and controversial sociologist Charles Murray, the author of several books, perhaps the most notable of which Coming Apart, speaks of the growing class division in the United States.
Dr. Murray was shouted down, and one Middlebury professor who tried to defend him had to be hospitalized with injuries. This is outrageous in America. Even the New York Times was enraged, denouncing this violent suppression of free speech, declaring that free speech “is a sacred right and it needs protecting now more than ever.”
Now, John Stuart Mill, in 1859 in his essay “On Liberty,” observed that “when dissenting voices are silenced, everyone loses, even if the dissenting voices are wrong.” Persuasive and true. But when a student quoted Mill last week at Middlebury, he too was shouted down by his fascist fellow students.
When free speech is suppressed, everyone loses. And the biggest loser is truth itself. Unfortunately, this kind of thing has become rampant on colleges across America. The New York Times is right when it says in an editorial, “True ideas need testing by false ones lest they become mere prejudices and thoughtless slogans.” Free speech is a sacred right. Middlebury’s president did an admirable job in apologizing to Mr. Murray and stating that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated. Two Middlebury professors—a professor of English and a professor of political science—issued a statement of principles, which is well worth reading. If you go to our website ses.edu, we have a copy of it there. I will be sharing more about this statement tomorrow.