Campus Disgrace: Will There Be Consequences for the Violent Middlebury Mob?

Posted: Mar 07, 2017 10:25 AM

UPDATE - In a statement, Middlebury's president says that an independent investigation is underway to identify and sanction students who violated school policy and/or the law. Rightly stresses difference between peaceful, non-violent protest and hooliganism:

*** Original Post ***

We touched on this story briefly on Friday, but I want to shine a spotlight on it again, now that the dust has settled a bit. To recap, a left-wing mob of students at Middlebury College disrupted, and eventually forcibly canceled, a speech by conservative scholar and author Charles Murray last week. Their conduct was reprehensible, fascistic and juvenile. Watch for yourself, starting at the (19:00) mark:

Toward the end of the clip, a female professor tries to reason with the shrieking pack of hyenas, assuring them that she had prepared a litany of questions with which to challenge Murray during the Q&A session. She was shouted down. In the ensuring melee, as she helped escort Murray out of the secondary venue (the original lecture hall was abandoned due to loud and relentless interruptions), she was physically assaulted and sent to the hospital:

As Stanger, Murray and a college administrator left McCullough Student Center last evening following the event, they were “physically and violently confronted by a group of protestors,” according to Bill Burger, the college’s vice president for communications and marketing. Burger said college public safety officers managed to get Stanger and Murray into the administrator’s car. The protestors then violently set upon the car, rocking it, pounding on it, jumping on and try to prevent it from leaving campus,” he said. “At one point a large traffic sign was thrown in front of the car. Public Safety officers were able, finally, to clear the way to allow the vehicle to leave campus. “During this confrontation outside McCullough, one of the demonstrators pulled Prof. Stanger’s hair and twisted her neck,” Burger continued. “She was attended to at Porter Hospital later and (on Friday) is wearing a neck brace.”
This professor is a self-described Democrat who disagrees with Murray, yet she hoped to facilitate a productive discussion in the spirit of academic inquiry. Instead, she was besieged and attacked by her fellow "liberals," later calling the experience "the saddest day of my life." Via Reason's Robby Soave:
I agreed to participate in the event with Charles Murray, because several of my students asked me to do so. They are smart and good people, all of them, and this was their big event of the year. I actually welcomed the opportunity to be involved, because while my students may know I am a Democrat, all of my courses are nonpartisan, and this was a chance to demonstrate publicly my commitment to a free and fair exchange of views in my classroom. As the campus uproar about his visit built, I was genuinely surprised and troubled to learn that some of my faculty colleagues had rendered judgement on Dr. Murray's work and character, while openly admitting that they had not read anything he had written...

I want you to know what it feels like to look out at a sea of students yelling obscenities at other members of my beloved community. There were students and faculty who wanted to hear the exchange, but were unable to do so, either because of the screaming and chanting and chair-pounding in the room, or because their seats were occupied by those who refused to listen, and they were stranded outside the doors. I saw some of my faculty colleagues who had publicly acknowledged that they had not read anything Dr. Murray had written join the effort to shut down the lecture. All of this was deeply unsettling to me. What alarmed me most, however, was what I saw in student eyes from up on that stage. Those who wanted the event to take place made eye contact with me. Those intent on disrupting it steadfastly refused to do so. It was clear to me that they had effectively dehumanized me. They couldn't look me in the eye, because if they had, they would have seen another human being.

Click through for her description of their frantic departure when the mob discovered where they'd ended up on campus -- they'd resorted to using a "decoy route" to elude the enraged crowd -- and her subsequent physical assault.  "I feared for my life," she wrote on Facebook.  Setting aside the criminal acts (have there been any arrests?) the Weekly Standard reports that the unhinged students who shut down the event were explicitly warned that doing so would violate university policy: "The auditorium quickly filled to capacity. College president Laurie Patton opened with remarks reiterating the college's commitment to free speech. 'If there ever was a time for Americans to take on arguments that offend us it is now, Patton said. 'If there ever was a time for us to challenge influential public views with better reasons, better research, better logic, and better data it is now. I remind you of the rules. If any person or group of people shuts down the speech of another, they're in violation of the college policy,' she said. The crowd applauded. Then Murray took the stage. Students, backs turned, protested for almost half an hour. Many of them chanted. Some stood silently. 'It was apparent that some of the protests violated college policy,' said Bill Burger, a spokesman for the college."

So they were clearly admonished by the college president, and a school spokesman confirmed that policy was willfully violated. There is video of the confrontation. Students can be easily identified. The worst offenders should face academic sanctions such as suspension, and those who became violent and destructive should be arrested and face expulsion.  What is the point of having rules if they are not enforced, especially after such an egregious spectacle?  And what message does it send to students if unpopular voices are allowed to be silenced with impunity through violence and physical intimidation?  It seems that some Middlebury students drew a lesson from the disgrace at Berkeley, where only one criminal was arrested following massive violent riots -- in which people were assaulted and property was set on fire and smashed -- that forced the cancellation of a lecture by Milo Yiannopolous last month.  If mob rule is permitted to prevail at our institutions of higher learning, that does not bode well for our future as a free republic that values and protects speech.  I'll leave you with a devastating essay by an Iranian Middlebury professor who says the thuggery he witnessed last week was an unsettling reminder of what he experienced in his homeland decades ago, as well as Murray's reflections on the incident -- including his perspective on how the End of Discussion jackals are more emboldened than ever before:

By the way, I discussed this episode on Fox News Friday evening, and pulled no punches in my assessment of the crazed students. Full video is here. Liberal Richard Fowler defended their "right to protest," ironically scolding me for trying to interject a few facts while he attempted to justify the students' rude interruptions. If I'd had an opportunity to respond, I'd have explained that of course Murray's critics had a right to protest. They could have picketed outside, asked hard questions after the lecture, stood in silent opposition, or chosen not to attend. They did not have the right to shut down the event, in violation of Middlebury's code, the rights of the speaker, and the rights of those who wanted to hear the lecture. And they certainly did not have the right to send a faculty member to the hospital or damage a university official's vehicle: