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Sarah Lu for Spectator /

Charles Murray, a controversial social scientist, was invited to speak by Columbia’s chapter of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

In anticipation of controversial social scientist Charles Murray’s lecture on campus Thursday, nearly 150 faculty members have signed a statement condemning Murray’s work but firmly supporting his right to speak at the University.

Murray was invited to speak by Columbia’s chapter of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. Following an incident earlier this month when Murray was violently protested at Middlebury College, Columbia students and faculty have been debating free speech in the context of his upcoming visit.

Murray’s 1994 book, “The Bell Curve,” has been criticized for its claim that African Americans and other people of color are genetically inferior, which, he claims, is the primary cause of social inequality. On Thursday, Murray will be discussing his 2012 book, “Coming Apart,” which focuses on poor and working class white people.

“Murray has every right to publicize his ideas, but we have a duty to object when he does so by assaulting foundational norms of sound scholarship and intellectual integrity,” the faculty statement reads.

The statement goes on to counter several of Murray’s claims, arguing that much of his methodology is based on inaccurate science. However, the statement repeatedly emphasizes that despite this disagreement, the goal of the University should be to “encounter and encourage ideas that challenge settled notions of truth.”

The statement also addresses legislation initiated by the Goldwater Institute and the Ethics and Public Policy Center that seeks to limit student protests on campus, noting that students should retain the right to express opposition to certain speakers.

“We believe strongly in the right of student groups to invite speakers of their choice to campus. But by the same token, those who find those speakers’ views abhorrent have an equal right to express their disagreement in a vigorous, although nonviolent, manner,” the statement reads.

The full statement and its signatories can be found below:

We are Columbia University and Barnard College faculty committed to maintaining a diverse intellectual community in which teaching, learning, and academic research flourish, where any particular intellectual orthodoxy is eschewed, and where we encounter and encourage ideas that challenge settled notions of truth.

We note that Charles Murray has been invited to give a lecture on our campus on March 23, 2017. The event’s pre-publication material indicates that Murray will be “expand[ing] upon the arguments he originally made in Coming Apart by discussing the cultural divides between America’s ‘new upper class’ and ‘new lower class.’”[1]

There may be members of the Columbia community who will welcome the opportunity to hear Murray’s views on the election of Donald Trump, read through the lens of his book Coming Apart. Without engaging in anticipatory condemnation of Murray’s remarks, remarks that have yet to be given, we take his invited speech at Columbia as an invitation for a pedagogical moment. Beginning with his 1984 book Losing Ground and taken up more fully in The Bell Curve[2] in 1994 and through his most recent writing, the corpus of Murray’s work has amounted to an ideological polemic that justifies the ongoing disenfranchisement of African Americans and other people of color, and more recently, poor and working class white people. Although his writings carry the rhetorical patina of science, Murray is largely regarded in academic circles as a rank apologist for racial eugenics and racial inequality in the United States. Murray has every right to publicize his ideas, but we have a duty to object when he does so by assaulting foundational norms of sound scholarship and intellectual integrity. We offer some important background on Murray’s writings in an effort to stand with those members of our community who are demeaned by Murray’s claims.

In The Bell Curve and in subsequent writings Murray argues that economically successful people can attribute their success to a kind of cognitive endowment, understood to amount to a high IQ. Given his view of the innate basis for IQ, most people are not suited to college-level study, Murray argues, and thus it is bad policy to encourage all Americans to go to college. Only 10-12% of 18-year-olds are cognitively equipped to thrive in college, according to Murray’s “expert” opinion. The “reality of IQ,” he maintains, shows that the overwhelming majority of young people get “nothing” out of college and thus should be tracked in their education toward a trade where they will live a happy, if modest, life. While Murray rests most of his claims on an analysis of class, it just so happens that Murray’s analysis suggests that African Americans do not enjoy the genetic endowment that would suit them to college-level study or economic prosperity. This is an outrageous insult to a significant part of the Columbia community.

For Murray, gene pools are primarily responsible for the stratification of American society, and “hand outs” to the genetic losers are not only ineffective, they’re counter-productive. Murray praises the “cognitive elite” for being “well mannered, good parents, and good neighbors,” while maintaining that “a lot of poor people are born lazy,”[3] and that “the mean IQ of welfare mothers is somewhere in the 80s, which means that you have certain limitations in what you're going to accomplish.”[4]

The problem is that the science on which Murray bases these claims has been thoroughly debunked by a wide range of scholars. The scientific veneer of which Murray makes use is made up of references to articles published in and writers associated with Mankind Quarterly, an anthropology journal well known for its racism and anti-Semitism. The journal’s founders were apologists for Nazi eugenics policies and the system of Apartheid in South Africa, and have robustly defended the mental inferiority of African Americans. Furthermore, much of the “scholarship” upon which Murray relies was funded by the Pioneer Fund, an organization with a distinctly eugenicist and racist agenda that funded research like Murray’s that maintained that “raising the intelligence of blacks or others still remains beyond our capabilities.”[5]

The through line of Murray’s polemic is one that rests almost exclusively on the notion of personal responsibility and desert: lower income people, particularly African Americans, bear responsibility for their disadvantage given that they are less intelligent, more lazy, and less God-fearing than more affluent people in the United States. By individualizing and naturalizing success and failure in American society, Murray underwrites the libertarian case that government measures to address systemic forces that create economic disparity (such as racism, capitalism, and neo-liberalism) are unnecessary. William Julius Wilson’s widely acclaimed 1987 book, The Truly Disadvantaged, systematically refuted Murray’s attack on the welfare state from a rigorous, scholarly standpoint. The consensus among sociology scholars is that Wilson won that argument.

Finally, while we reiterate our commitment to the robust exchange of ideas on Columbia’s campus – to which this letter seeks to make a contribution – we strongly condemn recent legislative efforts initiated by the Goldwater Institute and the Ethics and Public Policy Center that would censure, or worse criminalize, student protest or disruption on campus. Cynically mistitled “Campus Free Speech Bills” these bills seek to impose serious sanctions on students who engage in a range of otherwise protected speech and action in educational settings. Their effect would be to radically undermine the robust campus environment where ideas are hotly debated, contested, and argued in the name of eliminating any “disturbance.” We believe strongly in the right of student groups to invite speakers of their choice to campus. But by the same token, those who find those speakers’ views abhorrent have an equal right to express their disagreement in a vigorous, although non-violent, manner. Efforts to vanquish disturbance from our campus mirror similar efforts to impose civility norms on academic inquiry and debate. In our view, one of the primary aims and methods of a liberal arts education is to disturb well-settled beliefs, opinions, and notions of truth through reasoned and rigorous interrogation.

Katherine Franke, Sulzbacher Professor of Law

Martha Howell, Miriam Champion Professor of History

Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History

Samuel K. Roberts, PhD, Assoc. Prof. of History & Sociomedical Sciences

Director, Institute for Research in African-American Studies (IRAAS)

Sheldon Pollock, Raghunathan Professor of South Asian Studies

Gregory Mann, Professor, History

Kendall Thomas, Nash Professor of Law

Robert G. O'Meally, Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature and

Director, Center for Jazz Studies

Robert Gooding-Williams, M. Moran Weston/Black Alumni Council Professor of African-American Studies and Professor of Philosophy

Karen Van Dyck, Kimon A. Doukas Professor, Classics

Ezra S. Susser, Ezra Susser, Professor of Epidemiology and Psychiatry

Marianne Hirsch, William Peterfield Trent Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Professor, Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality

Farah Jasmine Griffin, William B. Ransford Professor of English & Comparative Literature and African American Studies

Herbert Gans, Robert S Lynd Professor Emeritus of Sociology

Elizabeth Castelli, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Religion, Barnard College

Zoe Crossland, Associate Professor

Department of Anthropology, Sarah Knuckey, Associate Clinical Professor of Law, Director, Human Rights Clinic, Faculty Co-Director, Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School

Steven Gregory, Professor of African American Studies and Anthropology

Meredith Gamer, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History and Archaeology

Nico Baumbach, Assistant Professor of Film

Todd Gitlin, Professor of Journalism and Sociology, Chair, Ph. D. Program in Communications

Jelani Cobb, Ira Lipman Professor, Graduate School of Journalism

Mary McLeod, Professor of Architecture, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation

Shamus Khan, Professor of Sociology

Risa E. Kaufman, Executive Director, Human Rights Institute, Lecturer-in-Law, Columbia Law School

Catherine Fennell, Associate Professor of Anthropology

Susan Sturm, George M. Jaffin Professor of Law and Social Responsibility, Director, Center for Institutional and Social Change, Columbia Law School

Jane Spinak, Edward Ross Aranow Clinical Professor of Law

Anupama Rao, Associate Professor, History (Barnard) and Associate Director, ICLS (Columbia)

Benjamin Hoffman, Senior Clinical Teaching Fellow, Human Rights Clinic, Lecturer-in-law, Columbia Law School

Tey Meadow, Assistant Professor, Sociology

Peter Bearman, Cole Professor of the Social Sciences

Tovah Klein, Director, Barnard College Center for Toddler Development

Gil Eyal, Professor of Sociology

Gil Eyal, Professor of Sociology

Jack Halberstam, Professor of English and Gender Studies

Christia Mercer, Gustave M. Berne Professor of Philosophy

Jean L. Cohen, Nell and Herbert Singer Professor of Contemporary Civilization and Political Theory, Department of Political Science

Mae Ngai, Lung Family of Asian American Studies and Professor of History

Bette Gordon, School of the Arts/Film

Courtney Bender, Professor and Chair, Department of Religion

James Schamus, Professor of Professional Practice, School of the Arts

Katharina Pistor, Michael I. Sovern Professor of Law, Director, Center on Global Legal Transformation

Lila Abu-Lughod, Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science

Mary Gordon, Millicent C. McIntosh Professor in English and Writing, Barnard College

Yvette Christianse, Professor, English Literature and Africana Studies, Barnard College

Andreas Huyssen, Villard Professor of German and Comparative Literature

Jesús R. Velasco, Professor, Dept. of Latin American and Iberian Cultures, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought

Joseph Slaughter, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature

Richard Billows, Professor, Dept. of History

John Pemberton, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology

Yasmine Ergas, Director, Gender & Public Policy Specialization, SIPA

Kim F. Hall, Lucyle Hook Professor of English, Barnard College

Karen Seeley, Lecturer, Anthropology

Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature

Nicholas Bartlett, Assistant Professor, Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, Barnard College

Nicholas Bartlett, Assistant Professor, Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, Barnard College

Jean Howard, George Delacorte Professor in the Humanities, Department of English and Comparative Literature

Vanessa Agard-Jones, Assistant Professor, Anthropology

Wayne Proudfoot, Professor of Religion

Bruce Robbins, Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities

Brian Boyd, Department of Anthropology

Elizabeth Bernstein, Professor of WGSS and Sociology, Barnard College

Edgar Rivera Colon, Narrative Medicine, SPS

Gauri Viswanathan, Class of 1933 Professor in the Humanities

Allison Busch, Associate Professor, MESAAS

Angela Aidala, Research Scientist, Sociomedical Sciences and Sociology

Naor Ben-Yehoyada, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology

Alexander Alberro, Virginia Bloedel Wright Professor of Art History, Barnard College

Patricia Dailey, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality

Susan Bernofsky, Associate Professor, School of the Arts/Writing, Director, Literary Translation at Columbia

Debashree Mukherjee, Assistant Professor, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS)

Keith Moxey, Barbara Novak Professor of Art History Emeritus

Jennifer Wenze, Associate Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature and Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies

Nara Milanich, Associate Professor of History, Barnard College

Victoria de Grazia, Moore Collegiate Professor of History

Rebecca Jordan-Young, Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Barnard College

Ying Qian, Assistant Professor, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures

Herbert Sloan, Professor Emeritus of History, Barnard College

David Rosner, Ronald Lauterstein Professor of Public Health and Professor of History

Deborah Valenze, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of History, Barnard College

Joel Kaye, Professor of History, Barnard College

Ellie M. Hisama, Professor of Music

Robert Hymes, Carpentier Professor of Chinese History

Celia. E. Naylor, Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies, Barnard College

Natasha Lightfoot, Associate Professor, Columbia University Department of History

Tom Kalin, Professor, Film Program, School of the Arts

Merlin Chowkwanyun, Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences

Francine Cournos, MD, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry (in Epidemiology), Mailman School of Public Health

Susan Crane, Parr Professor of English and Comparative Literature

Gwendolyn Wright, Professor of Architecture

Jonathan Crary, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Modern Art and Theory

Debbie Becher, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Barnard College

Claudio Lomnitz, Professor, Department of Anthropology, GSAS

Laura Ciolkowski, Adjunct Associate Professor of English and Associate Director, Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality

Jennifer S. Hirsch, Professor of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health

Brian Larkin, Professor, Barnard College

Reinhold Martin, Professor of Architecture

Conrad Johnson, Clinical Professor of Law

Susan Riemer Sacks, Professor of Psychology, Barnard College

Michael Thaddeus, Professor of Mathematics

Premilla Nadasen, Professor of History, Barnard College

Robert Y. Shapiro, Wallace S. Sayre Professor of Government and Professor of International and Public Affairs

Paige West, Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology

Lydia Goehr, Professor of Philosophy

Melissa Fusco, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Adam Reich, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Sanford Biggers, Associate Professor, School of the Arts

Laura Kurgan, Associate Professor of Architecture, GSAPP

Brinkley Messick, Professor of Anthropology and of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies

Shelly Silver, Associate Professor of Art, Director of Moving Image, Visual Arts Program

James Colgrove, PhD, MPH, Professor and Deputy Chair for the Master's Program, Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health

Constance A. Nathanson, Professor of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Peter L. Strauss, Betts Professor of Law

Pablo Piccato, Professor of History

Branden W. Joseph, Frank Gallipoli Professor of Modern and Contemporary, Art, Department of Art History and Archaeology

Casey N. Blake, Mendelson Family Professor of American Studies

Saskia Hamilton, Professor of English, Barnard College

W. B. Worthen, Alice Brady Pels Professor in the Arts, Chair, Department of Theatre, Barnard College, Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature

John Collins, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Philosophy

Hana Worthen, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies (Barnard College), Associate Director, The Center for Translation Studies (Barnard College)

Nadia L Abu El-Haj, Professor, Department of Anthropology

Najam Haider, Assistant Professor, Department of Religion, Barnard College

Gray Tuttle, Leila Hadley Luce Associate Professor of Modern Tibetan Studies, EALAC/ History/ CSER

Brent Hayes Edwards, Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature

Julie Crawford, Mark van Doren Professor of Humanities, Chair, Literature Humanities

Nan Rothschild, Professor of Anthropology

Deborah Paredez, PhD, Associate Professor of Writing, School of the Arts & Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race

Michael Harris, Professor of Mathematics

Mabel O. Wilson, Professor, Architecture

Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology

Professor, Anthropology & Gender Studies, Chair, Department of Anthropology

Elsa Stamatopoulou,, Director, Indigenous Peoples' Rights Program, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, and Adjunct Professor, Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, & Department of Anthropology

Sharon Schwartz, Professor of Epidemiology at CUMC, Mailman School of Public Health

Sandra Goldmark, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice, Barnard College Department of Theatre

Rob King, Associate Professor in Film Studies, School of the Arts

Joshua Simon, Assistant Professor of Political Science

Mignon R. Moore, Associate Professor of Sociology, Barnard College

Marilyn Ivy, Associate Professor of Anthropology

Frank Guridy, Associate Professor of History

Rosalind Morris, Professor, Anthropology

Fredrick C. Harris, Professor of Political Science, Director, Center on African American Politics and Society

Richard Peña, Director Emeritus, New York Film Festival, Professor of Film Studies

Keith Moxey, Barbara Novak Professor of Art History Emeritus

Elizabeth Hutchinson, Associate Professor of Art History, Barnard College

J. Blake Turner, Ph.D., Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry

Alisa Solomon, Professor of Journalism; Director in Arts Concentration, MA Program

Nefertiti Tadiar, Professor and Chair of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Barnard College, Director, Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Columbia University

Carole S. Vance,Department of Anthropology

Taylor Carman, Chair, Department of Philosophy, Barnard College

jessica.spitz@columbiaspectator.com | @jjspitz1

charles murray free speech
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