In “The Outspoken Campus” (Review, June 10), Middlebury College President Laurie Patton states her commitment to a robust public square for open and fearless debate on campus. Her positive steps for building a culture of free and open discourse are wholesome. However, Middlebury’s disciplinary actions in response to the violation of Charles Murray’s right to speak and the right of others to hear him were toothless, and President Patton gives no indication that the policies governing such egregious offenses will change.
Elsewhere, Middlebury knows how to be firm. Its College Handbook states: “Any infraction of the honor system is normally punishable by suspension from the College.” Does the silencing of an invited speaker and the assault on a faculty member really merit so much weaker a response? Arguably, the students who prevented Dr. Murray from speaking did something worse. They cut at the heart of free inquiry and norms of civil discourse. Severely disciplining students is never pleasant, but without appropriate penalties, President Patton’s vision is a quixotic aspiration.
Middlebury’s administration, with the active guidance of its trustees, has a duty to establish and enforce sanctions that will deter such outrages in the future.