Vincent Phillip Muñoz is the Tocqueville Associate Professor of Political Science and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at The University of Notre Dame. Following the violent protest that prevented his announced lecture at Middlebury College earlier this month, Prof. Muñoz invited Murray to speak at the University of Notre Dame next week. This occasioned some protests and objections from students and faculty at his own college, and he responded with an essay at RealClearPolitics, writing in part…
Charles Murray is speaking at Notre Dame because I and another Political Science professor assigned his book “Coming Apart” in our classes. His visit is one of several outside lectures that are part of this semester’s Constitutional Studies offerings. My class, “Constitutional Government & Public Policy,” addresses some of the most important and divisive issues in American politics: abortion, gay marriage, religious freedom, inequality, freedom of speech, death penalty, race and the meaning of constitutional equality, immigration, euthanasia, and pornography.The class is designed to prompt students to think more deeply and thoughtfully about contemporary moral and political issues. I don’t assign a textbook or “neutral” readings that summarize the issues; I require students to read principled thinkers who advocate vigorously for their respective position. I want my conservative students to read smart, persuasive liberal thinkers, and I want my liberal students to read thoughtful conservatives. Educated citizens can give reasons for their beliefs and can defend intellectually the positions they hold. That requires that we understand and articulate the positions with which we disagree.
…“But Murray is controversial and will make students feel uncomfortable,” my faculty colleagues say. Don’t I know that he has been accused of being racist, anti-gay, and a white nationalist? I’m told that bringing him to campus is not fair to Notre Dame’s marginalized students.
I have no desire to inflict unwanted stress or anxiety on any member of the Notre Dame community, especially our minority students. I appreciate the concern for student well being that motivates some of the opposition to Murray’s visit. But I believe what is most harmful to students—and, to speak candidly, most patronizing—is to “protect” our students from hearing arguments and ideas they supposedly cannot handle.To study politics today requires handling controversial, difficult, and divisive topics…
The price of a real education is hearing powerful arguments that make us realize our opinions are based on untested assumptions. Only then, when we realize that we do not know as much as we think we know, can genuine learning occur.
I invited Dr. Murray to Notre Dame months ago…Given what happened at Middlebury, it would be cowardly to disinvite Murray now. Rescinding his invitation would communicate that violence works; that if you want to influence academia, sharpen your elbows, not your mind. It would tell those who engaged in violence—and those who might engage in or threaten violence—that universities will cower if you just appear intimidating. Rescinding Murray’s invitation would teach exactly the wrong lesson…
Notre Dame faculty critical of Murray have implored me to think about the larger context of what his visit means. I am. That is why I will not rescind his invitation. As a professor and program director, my job is to do what we are supposed to do at universities: pursue the truth through reasoned dialogue and discussion. Whether you find Charles Murray’s scholarship persuasive or objectionable, his visit offers an opportunity to learn. That is why I invited him to speak at Notre Dame. After Middlebury, it’s all the more important that he do so.
It is almost an insult to academia to call Prof. Muñoz ‘s statement heroic. It should be obvious. Dissenters from the position he articulates should be instantly recognizable as regrettable outliers, the opponents of academic freedom and freedom of thought, the advocates of censorship and ideological indoctrination. Yet increasingly it is this traditional view of higher education that Muñoz advocates that is under attack.
Contrast his essay with the email to fellow Wellesley College faculty members sent yesterday afternoon, by a committee, the faculty Commission for Ethnicity, Race, and Equity, in which they outlined how they think future campus speakers should be chosen. The impetus for the e-mail was not the anti-Murray riot, but a recent appearance at Wellesley by Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis, who has incurred the wrath of the Left for criticizing Title IX implementation and what she terms the “culture of sexual paranoia” on campuses….
To: Wellesley Community
From: Faculty on Commission for Ethnicity, Race, and Equity (CERE)
Re: Laura Kipnis visit and aftermath
Over the past few years, several guest speakers with controversial and objectionable beliefs have presented their ideas at Wellesley. We, the faculty in CERE, defend free speech and believe it is essential to a liberal arts education. However, as historian W. Jelani Cobb notes, “The freedom to offend the powerful is not equivalent to the freedom to bully the relatively disempowered. The enlightenment principles that undergird free speech also prescribed that the natural limits of one’s liberty lie at the precise point at which it begins to impose upon the liberty of another.”
There is no doubt that the speakers in question impose on the liberty of students, staff, and faculty at Wellesley. We are especially concerned with the impact of speakers’ presentations on Wellesley students, who often feel the injury most acutely and invest time and energy in rebutting the speakers’ arguments. Students object in order to affirm their humanity. This work is not optional; students feel they would be unable to carry out their responsibilities as students without standing up for themselves.
Furthermore, we object to the notion that onlookers who are part of the faculty or administration are qualified to adjudicate the harm described by students, especially when so many students have come forward. When dozens of students tell us they are in distress as a result of a speaker’s words, we must take these complaints at face value. What is especially disturbing about this pattern of harm is that in many cases, the damage could have been avoided. The speakers who appeared on campus presented ideas that they had published, and those who hosted the speakers could certainly anticipate that these ideas would be painful to significant portions of the Wellesley community. Laura Kipnis’s recent visit to Wellesley prompted students to respond to Kipnis’s presentation with a video post on Facebook. Kipnis posted the video on her page, and professor Tom Cushman left a comment that publicly disparaged the students who produced the video. Professor Cushman apologized for his remarks, but in light of these developments, we recommend the following.
First, those who invite speakers to campus should consider whether, in their zeal for promoting debate, they might, in fact, stifle productive debate by enabling the bullying of disempowered groups. We in CERE are happy to serve as a sounding board when hosts are considering inviting controversial speakers, to help sponsors think through the various implications of extending an invitation,
Second, standards of respect and rigor must remain paramount when considering whether a speaker is actually qualified for the platform granted by an invitation to Wellesley. In the case of an academic speaker, we ask that the Wellesley host not only consider whether the speaker holds credentials, but whether the presenter has standing in his/her/their discipline. This is not a matter
of ideological bias. Pseudoscience suggesting that men are more naturally equipped to excel in STEM fields than women, for example, has no place at Wellesley. Similar arguments pertaining to race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, and other identity markers are equally inappropriate.
Third, faculty and administrators should step up in defense of themselves and all members of the Wellesley community. The responsibility to defend the disempowered does not rest solely with
students, and the injuries suffered by students, faculty, and staff are not contained within the specific identity group in question; they ripple throughout our community and prevent Wellesley from living out its mission.
Notes the Foundation For Individual Rights In Education (FIRE), which published the e-mail,
While paying lip service to free speech, the email is remarkable in its contempt for free and open dialogue on campus. Asserting that controversial speakers “impose on the liberty of students, staff, and faculty at Wellesley,” the committee members lament the fact that such speakers negatively impact students by forcing them to “invest time and energy in rebutting the speakers’ arguments.” And here we thought learning to effectively challenge views with which one disagreed was an important part of the educational process!
Oh, it is, it is. However, much of the educational field and academia has been hijacked by extreme ideologues from the Left, who view the purpose of education as the relentless indoctrination of young minds with what has been predetermined as the only truth. This has seeded totalitarian values and methods in modern American liberalism, and the threat posed by the process is urgent and real. That is why those willing to oppose this anti-intellectualism and the politicization of thought are ethics heroes. That is why Professor Muñoz must be cheered and supported as strongly as the six Wellesley professors are opposed and exposed in their “solidarity” for the suppression of thought.
Pointer: Glenn Logan