On March 2, 2017, roughly 100 of our 2500 students prevented a controversial visiting speaker, Dr. Charles Murray, from communicating with his audience on the campus of Middlebury College. Afterwards, a group of unidentified assailants mobbed the speaker, and one of our faculty members was seriously injured. In view of these unacceptable acts, we have produced and affixed our signatures to this document stating core principles that seem to us unassailable in the context of higher education within a free society.
Our statement of principles first appeared in the Wall Street Journal on March 7, 2017.
The principles are as follows:
Genuine higher learning is possible only where free, reasoned, and civil speech and discussion are respected.
Only through the contest of clashing viewpoints do we have any hope of replacing mere opinion with knowledge.
The incivility and coarseness that characterize so much of American politics and culture cannot justify a response of incivility and coarseness on the college campus.
The impossibility of attaining a perfectly egalitarian sphere of free discourse can never justify efforts to silence speech and debate.
Exposure to controversial points of view does not constitute violence.
Students have the right to challenge and to protest non-disruptively the views of their professors and guest speakers.
A protest that prevents campus speakers from communicating with their audience is a coercive act.
No group of professors or students has the right to act as final arbiter of the opinions that students may entertain.
No group of professors or students has the right to determine for the entire community that a question is closed for discussion.
The purpose of college is not to make faculty or students comfortable in their opinions and prejudices.
The purpose of education is not the promotion of any particular political or social agenda.
The primary purpose of higher education is the cultivation of the mind, thus allowing for intelligence to do the hard work of assimilating and sorting information and drawing rational conclusions.
A good education produces modesty with respect to our own intellectual powers and opinions as well as openness to considering contrary views.
All our students possess the strength, in head and in heart, to consider and evaluate challenging opinions from every quarter.
We are steadfast in our purpose to provide all current and future students an education on this model, and we encourage our colleagues at colleges across the country to do the same.
Jay Parini, English and American Literatures
Keegan Callanan, Political Science
Julia Alvarez, Writer-in-Residence Emeritus
Molly Anderson, Food Studies
Glenn Andres, History of Art and Architecture
Christopher Andrews, Computer Science
Ata Anzali, Religion
Jason Arndt, Psychology and Neuroscience
David H. Bain, English and American Literatures/Creative Writing
Alexandra Baker, Russian
Mireille Barbaud-McWilliams, French
Stanley Bates, Philosophy
John Berninghausen, Chinese Studies
John Bertolini, English and American Literatures
Mary Ellen Bertolini, Writing
Lorraine Besser, Philosophy
Tom Beyer, Russian
Erik Bleich, Political Science
Amy Briggs, Computer Science
Jeff Buettner, Music
Jim Butler, Studio Art
Jeff Byers, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Sandra Carletti, Italian
Carole Cavanaugh, Japanese Studies
Sunhee Choi, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Nicholas Clifford, History
Robert Cluss, Chemistry and Biochemistry
David Colander, Economics/Interdepartmental
Marcia Collaer, Psychology
Catherine Combelles, Biology
Eric Davis, Political Science
Kyoko Davis, Japanese Studies
Sergei Davydov, Russian
Matthew Dickinson, Political Science
Stephen Donadio, Literary Studies
Murray Dry, Political Science
Hang Du, Chinese/Linguistics
John Elder, English and Environmental Studies
Mark Evancho, Theater and Dance
Diana Fanning, Music
Emory Fanning, Music
Ellie Gebarowski-Shafer, Religion
Eilat Glikman, Physics
Shalom Goldman, Religion
Erick Gong, Economics
Noah Graham, Physics
Leger Grindon, Film and Media Studies
Larry Hamberlin, Music
Maria Hatjigeorgiou, Religion
Jessica Holmes, Economics
Kirsten Hoving, History of Art and Architecture
Jonathan Isham, Jr., Economics and Environmental Studies
Bertram Johnson, Political Science
Damascus Kafumbe, Music
Michael Katz, Russian
Matthew Kimble, Psychology
Edward Knox, French
Michael Kraus, Political Science
Bethany Ladimer, French
Marjorie Lamberti, History
Sara Laursen, History of Art and Architecture
Tom Manley, Geology
Patricia Manley, Geology
Gary Margolis, College Mental Health Services, Emeritus
Bettina Matthias, German
Michelle McCauley, Psychology
John McWilliams, Humanities
Vanessa Mildenberg, Theatre and Dance
Paul Monod, History
Thomas Moran, Chinese Language and Literature
Amy Morsman, History
Stefano Mula, Italian
Jeff Munroe, Geology
Kamakshi Murti, German
Caitlin Knowles Myers, Economics
Peter Nelson, Geography
Paul Nelson, Political Science
Marybeth Nevins, Sociology and Anthropology
Victor Nuovo, Philosophy
Cynthia Packert, History of Art and Architecture
Clarissa Parker, Psychology and Neuroscience
Ted Perry, Film and Media Studies
Will Pyle, Economics
Richard Romagnoli, Theatre
David Rosenberg, Political Science
Pete Ryan, Geology
Theodore Sasson, Jewish Studies
Richard Saunders, History of Art and Architecture
Daniel Scharstein, Computer Science
Robert Schine, Religion and Jewish Studies
John Schmitt, Mathematics
Peter Schumer, Mathematics
Pavlos Sfyroeras, Classics
Christopher Shaw, English and American Literature/Creative Writing
Sallie Sheldon, Biology
Kathleen Skubikowski, English and American Literatures
Tatiana Smorodinska, Russian
Grace Spatafora, Biology
Allison Stanger, Political Science
David Stoll, Sociology and Anthropology
Stephen Sontum, Chemistry
Frank Swenton, Mathematics
Ioana Uricaru, Film and Media Studies
Hector Vila, Writing
William Waldron, Religion
Kristina Walowski, Geology
Christopher Watters, Biology
Frank Winkler, Physics
Marc Witkin, Classics
Richard Wolfson, Physics
Don Wyatt, History
Wei He Xu, Chinese
Amy Yuen, Political Science
Patricia Zupan, Italian
The opinions expressed herein represent only the personal views of the signatories.