After Middlebury, Syracuse University should foster free speech, invite Charles Murrary to speak
The events that have recently occurred at Middlebury College should be of the utmost concern to Syracuse University and the entire academic community. A controversial conservative speaker, Charles Murray, was recently invited to speak at the college, but protesters were successful in shutting down his speech through extraordinary means. Even more troubling, following the disruption of the talk, the protesters then engaged in violent intimidation tactics that included injuring the professor who had moderated the talk.
Such tactics must be renounced by the entire academic community, including Syracuse University.
Dr. Murray is best known for his controversial views on race and IQ but his writings extend to a whole host of topics that are within the broad umbrella of academic debate, including family processes. In my view, many of Dr. Murray’s views are troubling and wrong. However, even more troubling and wrong is the failure of the academic community to engage with those views through critical debate by allowing illegal and censorious means to silence such views. While many of us would disagree vehemently with Dr. Murray on a whole host of issues, our disagreement must take the form of engagement through critical, even fierce, debate. No members of the academic community should have the right to suppress the views of those with whom they disagree.
If we stand for one thing in this academic enterprise, it is the free exchange of ideas and this event should force us to look inwards to examine how we as a community foster free speech. In light of these events, Syracuse must examine if we have established a community that allows for dialogue on all issues or whether such events as occurred at Middlebury might happen here. Indeed, the Syracuse community should be proactive in ensuring that we counter such threats to free speech. After all, critical engagement with all ideas is the essence of our academic enterprise.
Syracuse University should do everything that it can to ensure that speech — even politically incorrect and potentially offensive speech — is fostered. I therefore encourage Syracuse University to invite Dr. Murray to speak on campus in order to demonstrate that we stand on the side of free debate and against those who would silence discourse in the academy.
Matthew K. Mulvaney
Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Science
Published on March 7, 2017 at 10:21 am