Opinion letter to the editor

Murray, Middlebury, and MIT

Many, if not most, in the MIT community have likely become familiar with the recent incident at Middlebury College. American Enterprise Institute fellow Charles Murray, recipient of a 1974 MIT PhD in political science, was largely prevented from presenting a talk at the Vermont College by what his host later termed an “angry mob.” That angry mob was more than just loud; it became physical as well, and inflicted a concussion on Murray’s host (Middlebury professor of international politics and economics Allison Stanger) during a melee after the event.

That this was an assault on free speech by Dr. Murray’s critics — some of whom, Professor Stanger notes, acted “without ever having read anything he has written” — cannot reasonably be doubted. “Faulty information became the catalyst for shutting off the free exchange of ideas at Middlebury,” she writes. This assault, and the use of this faulty information, have then predictably become grist for the political grudge mills. They offer supposed proof of a caricature of intolerant elitist college-educated liberal snowflakes.

I wonder if MIT — which might assume, as you wish, either some credit or some responsibility for Dr. Murray — could better show how issues such as those he represents might be addressed?

Is there a left or liberal-leaning group at MIT that might extend a speaking invitation to Dr. Murray to address the topics he was unable to effectively cover at Middlebury? Let it be a group that is not naturally aligned with Dr. Murray’s presumed political leanings, to best demonstrate the intellectual desire to consider opposing viewpoints.

And if such a group be found, can MIT provide a secure but reasonably open forum for actual scholarly discussion of Dr. Murray’s presentation? Without a doubt, MIT can provide the minds sufficiently sharp to thoroughly (and fairly) examine and critique Dr. Murray’s data, analysis and conclusions.

Jim Vlcek, Course VI '83, “also ultimately received a PhD from MIT — for which the 'Tute may, as it wishes, assume credit or deny responsibility.”