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Middlebury encourages leftists to threaten violence with ‘interim’ event policy

Please veto us, hecklers

If you don’t want libertarian social scientist Charles Murray to return to Middlebury College, just run your playbook again.

The administration has released an “interim” policy for “scheduling events and invited speakers” that incentivizes violent protests against speakers who are invited to campus.

Following a section that lays out a “risk assessment” to be performed and reviewed in the event that a speaker is likely to be confronted with “threats or violence,” the policy says:

In those exceptional cases where this review indicates significant risk to the community, the president and senior administration will work with event sponsors to determine measures to maximize safety and mitigate risk. Only in cases of imminent and credible threat to the community that cannot be mitigated by revisions to the event plan would the president and senior administration consider canceling the event.

This practically “rewards the heckler’s veto,” according to Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to President George W. Bush and Middlebury alum, who spoke on campus last year.

Middlebury Provost Susan Baldridge doesn’t mention the attack on Murray and his faculty interviewer Allison Stanger, whom protesters sent to the ER with a neck injury, in her Friday statement on the interim policy.

It’s portrayed instead as a response to “the tragic events this summer in Charlottesville and other recent threats to the safety of college and university campuses.” Baldridge does not attempt to explain how the “imminent and credible threat” provision would not functionally invite the heckler’s veto for any event that deeply offends one or more students or community members.

MORE: Dozens of Middlebury students punished in some way for Murray melee

Robby Soave at Reason reminds the Middlebury administration that its “exceptional cases” limitation would not have seemed to apply to the lecture last fall by Murray, whose most recent work (“Coming Apart”) is widely respected and long-ago work (“The Bell Curve”) is debatable but not beyond the pale:

If protesters who oppose a certain speaker know that Middlebury will shut down the event if they threaten the community, this gives them an incentive to issue such threats. …

The views Murray intended to articulate at Middlebury last year were perfectly conventional. He’s no [anti-feminist provocateur] Milo Yiannopoulos—and in fact, he has specifically refused to share a platform with the former Breitbart writer. And yet students resorted to explicit violence to silence him.

Adam Goldstein, legal fellow at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and former lawyer at the Student Press Law Center, tells Soave the interim policy “leaves open the possibility of censorship.”

Not only does it not define what a “threat” is, the policy does nothing to stop administrators from demanding hefty security fees from event sponsors in response to a heckler’s veto, which would chill speech, Goldstein says.

Brooklyn College Prof. KC Johnson raised a host of objections to the interim policy, as did Fox News political analyst and former ABC News reporter Brit Hume.

Read the policy, Baldridge’s email to the community and Soave’s post.

MORE: Professor injured in Murray melee blames ignorant colleagues

IMAGE: Frinkiac.com, Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” Previously he led media and public relations at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, a free-market think tank. Greg is developing a Web series about a college newspaper, COPY, whose pilot episode was a semifinalist in the TV category for the Scriptapalooza competition in 2012. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, where he co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon.

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