College students protest speaker branded white nationalist

Middlebury College students turn their backs to Charles Murray, unseen, who they call a white nationalist, during his lecture in Middlebury, Vt., Thursday, March 2, 2017. Hundreds of college students on Thursday protested a lecture by a speaker they call a white nationalist, forcing the college to move his talk to an undisclosed campus location from which it was live-streamed to the original venue but couldn't be heard above protesters' chants, feet stamping and occasional smoke alarms. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (AP) — Hundreds of college students on Thursday protested a lecture by a speaker they call a white nationalist, forcing the college to move his talk to an undisclosed campus location from which it was live-streamed to the original venue but couldn’t be heard above protesters’ chants, feet stamping and occasional smoke alarms.

Speaker Charles Murray wrote “The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life” and “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.” The Southern Poverty Law Center considers him a white nationalist who uses “racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women and the poor.”

Murray hasn’t responded to an email seeking comment.

Middlebury College students turned their backs on Murray just as he started to speak Thursday and chanted “Who is the enemy? White supremacy!” ”Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Charles Murray, go away!” and “Your message is hatred. We cannot tolerate it.”

They continued their chants until the college announced that Murray would speak from another location on campus. Students continued their protests, drowning out the talk.

More than 450 alumni also signed a letter calling the decision to have Murray on campus “unacceptable.”

“Both students and other community members came out to show that we are not accepting these kind of racist, misogynistic, eugenist opinions being expressed at our college,” said student Elizabeth Dunn, a protest organizer. “We don’t think that they deserve a platform because they are literally hate speech.”

The student group American Enterprise Institute Club invited Murray, believing it’s important to bring speakers from all intellectual and ideological backgrounds to campus, said Alexander Khan, its vice president.

“Our goal really was to get a conversation started, whether you believe in what Dr. Murray has to say or whether you vehemently disagree with him,” he said.

The Political Science Department co-sponsored the lecture.

Middlebury College said the student group had a right to invite Murray and a sponsorship doesn’t mean a department endorses a speaker’s point of view. Middlebury President Laurie Patten, who attended the event at the request of students and community members, said she “profoundly disagrees with many of Mr. Murray’s views.”

The college said it was disappointed that the event was so heavily disrupted.

“We do respect the right of people to protest, to make their views heard, but ultimately not to disrupt an event to the point where it can no longer continue as designed,” college spokesman Bill Burger said.

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