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The beating of Middlebury professor Alison Stanger for daring to converse with Charles Murray instead of screeching at him has struck a lot of liberals as a disgrace. For example, black studies professor Cornel West joined with Robert P. George in issuing an open letter in response to Middlebury:
Sign the Statement: Truth Seeking, Democracy, and Freedom of Thought and Expression – A Statement by Robert P. George and Cornel West
March 14, 2017
The pursuit of knowledge and the maintenance of a free and democratic society require the cultivation and practice of the virtues of intellectual humility, openness of mind, and, above all, love of truth. These virtues will manifest themselves and be strengthened by one’s willingness to listen attentively and respectfully to intelligent people who challenge one’s beliefs and who represent causes one disagrees with and points of view one does not share.
That’s why all of us should seek respectfully to engage with people who challenge our views. And we should oppose efforts to silence those with whom we disagree—especially on college and university campuses. As John Stuart Mill taught, a recognition of the possibility that we may be in error is a good reason to listen to and honestly consider—and not merely to tolerate grudgingly—points of view that we do not share, and even perspectives that we find shocking or scandalous. What’s more, as Mill noted, even if one happens to be right about this or that disputed matter, seriously and respectfully engaging people who disagree will deepen one’s understanding of the truth and sharpen one’s ability to defend it.
Also, the sharp decline in applications to the U. of Missouri after its Black Fall in 2015 (seven dorms are now shuttered) has brought home to campus grown-ups that there can be a cost for egging on shameful behavior.
At Harvard, some students formed the Open Campus Initiative and invited Murray to speak in September and U. of Toronto psychologist Jordan Peterson to speak earlier this week. They succeeded in shaming the Illiberal Left into letting Peterson, who is in trouble over transgressing some World War T mandate involving pronouns, speak on campus without violence or even chanting to drown him out.
The Harvard Crimson editorial board sort of more or less kind of come out in support of OCI.
They should invite Murray and Stanger to recreate their aborted discussion at Middlebury on the big stage at Harvard in front of a peaceful, quiet, respectful audience. Have Harvard be the role model for how intellectual debate should be carried on in American academia.
The Harvard administration should back this symbolic redress of American academia’s disgrace by announcing that the Harvard campus police will enforce
Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 268 Section 34 against wearing a mask for the purpose of getting away with riot.
It would be very helpful if free speech became associated with the most prestigious universities such as Harvard, while masked vigilanteism came to be seen as the mark of a déclassé college.
If Harvard won’t do this, a challenger such as the U. of Chicago should take the lead.