Campus Free Speech

A Photo of Charles Murray Is Too Traumatizing for Some Middlebury College Students

"I recognize that it may be especially jarring, particularly for students of color..."


Charles Murray
Brian Cahn/ZUMA Press/Newscom

One year after Middlebury College students shut down a planned debate between the American Enterprise Institute's Charles Murray and Professor Allison Stanger—injuring Stanger in the process—the student newspaper decided to print a retrospective photo of Murray taken at the aborted event.

This decision was apparently controversial: An apologetic note from The Middlebury Campus's editor-in-chief revealed that "most of the section editors, and the managing editor" thought it would be inappropriate to print a photo of Murray. A photo.

According to Ethan Brady, the editor-in-chief:

I wish to explain the photograph on page A1 to the readers. I recognize that it may be especially jarring, particularly for students of color who feel that Charles Murray's rhetoric poses a threat to their very humanity. I also recognize that Murray's visit to campus last March is an open wound for a campus trying desperately to move forward from it.

During a heated debate in the newsroom on Tuesday night, most of the section editors, and the managing editor, said that running this photograph would be inappropriate. Though I deeply respect the input of my editors, I decided to run the photograph anyway. I take full responsibility for this decision. It was mine alone, and any criticism should be directed at me alone.

This photograph is not meant to troll, or to cause pain, but to ask how that protest still lives with us today, one year later. For many, this image is burned in our collective memory. As much as we try to distance ourselves from that moment, we are made from it.

Even if one accepts the claim that Murray's rhetoric somehow constitutes a literal attack on marginalized students—a ridiculous claim, to be sure—a mere picture of him is not an expression of violence. Wouldn't it be useful to show a photo of Murray, even if the only point was to criticize him? This is verging into He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named territory.

It's worth keeping in mind that the people who think Murray's words are violence were the ones who physically assaulted him and Stanger while they fled the chaos last year. Stanger ended up in the hospital with a neck brace. You might say that makes the students hypocrites—they're against violence, and yet they engage in it—but I know from speaking to leftist students that the most radical activists would say there's no tension here. They do not recognize a difference between words and actions, so when Murray and his problematic racial views came to campus, he essentially threw the first punch. The students' violence was an act of self-defense, in their opinion.

The college-students-are-all-delicate-snowflakes charge is often leveled unfairly. But a bunch of young newspaper editors cowering in fear of printing a picture of Charles Murray is a reminder that there's at least a kernel of truth to it.

Hat tip: The College Fix