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Middlebury College punishes students who disrupted Charles Murray talk

Middlebury College campus.

Corey Hendrickson for the Boston Globe

Middlebury College campus.

Middlebury College has punished dozens of students who disrupted a conservative author’s campus talk in March, in a violent episode that left a professor injured and scarred the reputation of the elite liberal arts institution.

Over 30 students have accepted disciplinary sanctions for their actions on March 2, when guest speaker Charles Murray’s talk was interrupted, the college said in a recent statement posted to its website.

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The punishments were first reported by the Middlebury Campus, a student newspaper.

“The College’s investigation has identified more than 70 individuals it believes may be subject to disciplinary procedures under student handbook policies,” said the statement, dated April 17. “We are almost halfway through with the investigation and disciplinary process and we hope to bring it to a close by the end of the academic year in mid-May. We will not comment on the nature or range of the sanctions until the process is complete.”

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Murray, the controversial author of “The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life” and “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” had arrived on campus to give a talk at the invitation of the student chapter of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington where Murray is a scholar.

But things got out of hand.

Murray, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “white nationalist” who believes in the intellectual and moral superiority of white men, was shouted down as he began to speak, prompting college officials to move him to a video studio so the talk could be broadcast online.

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Some protesters began pulling fire alarms, temporarily shutting off power to the live stream. When Murray finished his speech, he left the building with Allison Stanger, professor of international politics and economics, and other college officials, then was confronted by a group of protesters who wore bandanas over their faces.

One threw a stop sign with a heavy concrete base in front of the car Murray was in, and several others rocked, pounded, and jumped on the vehicle. One protester pulled Stanger’s hair and injured her neck. She was taken to a hospital, where she was treated and released.

Bill Burger, a college spokesman who was with Murray and Stanger during the fracas, said Friday night that school officials “don’t believe the individuals who assaulted Professor Stanger were Middlebury students.”

He said Middlebury police are close to completing their own investigation. Police officials could not be reached for comment on Friday night.

The episode garnered national headlines and ignited a fierce debate over free speech on traditionally liberal campuses, particularly in the wake of President Trump’s November election victory that left much of the country sharply divided along ideological lines.

Murray, a graduate of Harvard and MIT, took to Twitter soon after the protest and derided the demonstrators as “an out-of-control mob” that physically assaulted him and Stanger. “The Middlebury administration was exemplary,” he tweeted. “The students were seriously scary.”

Stanger described the incident on Facebook as the saddest day of her life.

“Please instead consider this as a metaphor for what is wrong with our country,” Stanger wrote. “And on that, Charles Murray and I would agree.”

She also published an op-ed in the New York Times, describing herself as a Democrat who disagrees with Murray. She said she suffered a concussion caused by whiplash during the attack.

Lauren Krantz of the Globe staff and Globe Correspondents Felicia Gans, Olivia Arnold, and Jacob Geanous contributed to this report.
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