The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

Middlebury College Cancels Speech by Polish Politician-Academic

The speech had been cosponsored by three faculty-run programs at the College.


[UPDATE: Also check out this analysis from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.]

From Seven Days Vermont (Molly Walsh):

Middlebury College officials cancelled a forum Wednesday that would have featured conservative Polish politician and academic Ryszard Legutko, saying they were concerned that they could not guarantee people's safety as protestors organized.

Legutko was to speak on The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies, and seems to be a pretty serious scholar:

Ryszard Legutko lived and suffered under communism for decades — and he fought with the Polish anti-communist movement to abolish it. But having now lived for three decades under a liberal democracy, he argues that western democracy has over time crept towards the same goals as communism, albeit without Soviet-style brutality. Both systems, says Legutko, reduce human nature to that of common man, who is led to believe himself liberated from the obligations of the past. Both the communist man and the liberal democratic man refuse to admit that there exists anything of value outside the political systems to which they pledged their loyalty. And both systems refuse to undertake any critical examination of their ideological prejudices.

Mr. Legutko is a Member of the European Parliament.  He has served as the Republic of Poland's Minister of Education, Secretary of State, and Deputy Speaker of the Senate.  As a Member of the European Parliament, he chairs the Parliamentary Group of European Conservatives and Reformists and serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee.  He has been an active participant in recent debates over Brexit in the European Parliament.

Under communist rule, Legutko served as editor of the illegal samizdat publication, Arka. After the collapse of the communist regime, he co-founded the Centre for Political Thought in Kraków. One of Poland's foremost public intellectuals, Mr. Legutko is Professor of Philosophy at Jagiellonian University (Kraków, Poland).  As a specialist in ancient philosophy and political theory, he has translated and written commentaries to Plato's Phaedo (1995), Euthyphro (1998), and Apology(2003). He is the author of several books, including Plato's Critique of Democracy (1990), Toleration (1997), A Treatise on Liberty (2007), An Essay on the Polish Soul (2008), and Socrates (2013).  

He had been invited by the Alexander Hamilton Forum, a faculty-run program, and his talk had been cosponsored by the Department of Political Science and the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs. But he drew opposition from faculty and students who argued that his views were "homophobic, racist, xenophobic, [and] misogynistic"; and the College administration canceled the lecture, writing (I quote here the Washington Free Beacon (Alex Griswold)):

In the interest of ensuring the safety of students, faculty, staff, and community members, the lecture by Ryszard Legutko scheduled for later today will not take place. This decision was not taken lightly. It was based on an assessment of our ability to respond effectively to potential security and safety risks for both the lecture and the event students had planned in response.

At least some of the organizers of the planned protest against Legutko say they weren't trying to prevent Legutko from talking:

"In light of the recent announcement by the Middlebury College administration to cancel the Legutko event this afternoon, we are reiterating that it was never our intention to shut this event down, nor prevent the speaker from speaking," Taite Shomo wrote.

But the administration did prevent it.

(Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.)