a student-run publication that seeks to provide space for voices that are not being heard on our campus. we are grounded by politics that are radical, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-classist, anti-homophobic, anti-ableist, and anti-transphobic (against all forms of oppression) and that reject the structural neo-liberal paradigm that characterizes middlebury college and its official publications
By An Anonymous Alum
I am a recent graduate of Middlebury College and I am writing to express my sincere disgust with how The College has handled the recent situation regarding Charles Murray. I’m not going to make an academic argument about what does or doesn’t qualify as free speech or hate speech or civil academic discourse. I’m writing to challenge you to take ownership of the inherent violence you committed against female students, low-income students, and especially students of color by allowing the college to host Charles Murray and by legitimizing his presence on campus by sharing a stage with him. I’d further urge you to halt any investigation or judicial action against students involved with the protest as it was a direct result of the institutional violence committed against them, violence that could have easily been stopped by a simple acknowledgement of the dissent and a decision to either postpone or cancel the event. I stand on the side of students and I refuse to watch them suffer punishment for standing up to a direct act of violence committed against them.
You are, I’m sure, fully aware of the sort of language and ideas that Charles Murray has become known for. Similarly, I am sure you understand how the dissemination of these words and ideas from someone in a position of authority is a real form of violence with real consequences. Additionally, I am sure you understand how far reaching the effects of this sort of dissemination of ideas are and that students of color, low-income students, and female students have, at some point in their lives and more likely at many points in their lives, been DIRECTLY impacted by his ideas and pseudo-logic. I challenge you to find a single student of color, low-income student, or female student who hasn’t encountered a person who has thought, because of their identity, that they are inherently/implicitly/genetically inferior. This act of belittling and erasure is violence on a number of levels with broad personal, social, and political consequences. Instead of nurturing the wounds inflicted by this violence, you allowed for the attacker to be invited to the campus and validated his appearance by giving an introduction.
I, again, challenge you to imagine a single other situation where you’d expect a victim of violence to sit calmly and listen to their attacker speak.
The students and alumni deeply confused and hurt by this act first spoke out in the way the institution asks them to by crafting extremely well written and nuanced letters arguing for the cancellation of the event or at least for your excusal from opening remarks. The only institutional reaction this provoked was for the creation of a “contingency plan” (in the words of Charles Murray) in the case that student protests got out of hand to ensure that the talk would still happen. You ask for civil discourse. The students gave it to you. You did nothing about it. What’s the lesson? When institutions with more money and power than you reject your arguments, even if you’re arguing on behalf of your own safety and dignity, you’re out of options? This is especially frightening as proposed bills are appearing in statehouses across the country limiting the rights of and increasing the penalties for protesters.
The students had no choice but to take matters into their own hands after the administration and college itself became complicit in the violence committed against them by refusing to take action to cancel the event, especially after the public outcry and civil, academic discourse. You mean to punish students for speaking out and standing up for not only their safety but their humanity? I am genuinely appalled to think this is the position my alma mater would take. Though, I am not surprised. The College was nowhere to be seen in defense of the gross mischaracterization of students as an “angry mob” or “thugs” in national news media. The College seemed to quietly allow this story to grow so that the narrative would shift off of the absolute disgrace of sponsoring a White Nationalist on campus to the supposedly deplorable and uncivilized behavior of its students.
The College has a lot to apologize for, but that list absolutely does not begin with the actions of its students. I ask you to deeply consider your role and your colleagues’ roles in the violence committed against students that day. I ask you to consider what it means to punish students for fighting for their safety and their humanity. I ask you to consider the real damage that will be inflicted upon students, many of whom are the most marginalized on this campus, if disciplinary action is pursued. I ask you to consider your legacy as the leader of this college especially in regards to how students of color, low-income students, and female students are treated.
Right now, I am disgusted. My disgust will remain until you begin to listen to the voices of students and alumni most deeply hurt by the recent events. With the pursuit of disciplinary action you are not only absolving yourself, your colleagues, the college, Charles Murray, and white supremacy, but you are sending a loud message to current students, potential students, alumni, peer educational institutions, the broader community, and beyond about who Middlebury College really cares about and how it plans to treat its most marginalized students.
Alumnus, Class of 2016