Mayhem at Middlebury College

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Incident and Its Aftermath

Similar Incidents on the Free Speech Tracker

Point / Counterpoint

What is the role of discipline in this case? What was Middlebury, as an institution, claiming to support? What are the principles behind the faculty and student point of view?

Discussion Questions

  1. What really went wrong at Middlebury College on March 2, 2017? Could the college faculty and administration have handled Murray’s visit differently? What was the underlying cause of the unseemly violence, and how could it have been avoided?
  2. On the same night, a controversial and contested speaker appeared at another small liberal arts institution, Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Why did that visit go more smoothly?
  3. How are we to understand the similar incidents, documented in the Free Speech Tracker, at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California? Could the students at these schools have achieved their goals more effectively using different tactics?
  4. The conventional wisdom is that such disruptions almost always involve a liberal shutdown of conservative speech. But there are two examples here of just the opposite. Is it equally offensive that a Jesuit speaker was prevented from talking at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., because of his views? And that a Princeton professor’s commencement address at the University of California, San Diego, had to be canceled after she received death threats when her comments at Hampshire College in Massachusetts were circulated in cell phone videos?
  5. How can U.S. colleges and universities restore civility to such conversations?


Click on these themes below: Violence/Threats + Hate Speech + Identity

Discuss: What does this confluence of stories with these filters tell us about Free Speech issues and race in the United States? Free Speech and violence?

Tracker Entries