We are Columbia and Barnard faculty who find Charles Murray's book “The Bell Curve” (co-authored with Richard Herrnstein) not only wrong-headed but reprehensible. It rests on eugenicist pseudo-science to claim that, on balance, people of African descent are genetically and immovably less intelligent than whites. Moreover, we consider much of Murray’s work to be tendentious dogma ruled by hostility to the idea that government can do anything useful to benefit disadvantaged people of any color.
But whatever our views of the merits and demerits of Murray’s latest work, we insist that the student chapter of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute has the right to invite him to speak, and that he has the right to speak uninterrupted. The fact that his sponsor is a wealthy right-wing organization is irrelevant.
We urge the audience to permit Murray to give his speech unimpeded. This is a matter of the principle of free speech. As John Stuart Mill put it, even good ideas wither into “dead beliefs” when they are not openly contested. But practical politics are also at issue here. Any attempt to obstruct Murray will be instantly weaponized by supporters of President Donald Trump into yet another reason to hate “elitists” and to divert from the damage his regime intends.
We must be mindful that precisely this happened earlier this month, when protesters at Middlebury College drove Murray from the lecture hall and, in the process, struck a professor and seriously injured her. At a time when universities are under fire from an anti-democratic, anti-liberty, anti-scientific regime and white supremacy rides high, we at Columbia must not fuel the fires of bigotry and anti-intellectualism.
Casey Blake, Mendelson Family Professor of American Studies
Vincent Blasi, Corliss Lamont Professor of Civil Liberties, Columbia Law School
Jean Cohen, Nell and Herbert M. Singer Professor of Contemporary Civilization in the Core Curriculum
Samuel G. Freedman, Professor of Journalism
Todd Gitlin, Professor of Journalism and Sociology, Chair, Ph.D. Program in Communications
Richard R. John, Professor of History and Communications
Deanna Kuhn, Professor of Psychology and Education, Teachers College
Nicholas Lemann, Pulitzer-Moore Professor of Journalism
Mark Lilla, Professor of the Humanities
Claudio Lomnitz, Campbell Family Professor of Anthropology
Deborah Martinsen, Associate Dean; Adjunct Associate Professor of Slavic Languages
John McWhorter, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature
Roosevelt Montas, Associate Dean/Director of the Center for the Core Curriculum
Bruce Robbins, Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities
Michael Schudson, Professor of Journalism
Robert Y. Shapiro, Wallace S. Sayre Professor of Government and Professor of International and Public Affairs
Alexander Stille, San Paolo Professor of International Journalism
Michael Thaddeus, Professor of Mathematics
Andie Tucher, Professor of Journalism, Director, Ph.D. Program in Communications
Nadia Urbinati, Kyriakos Tsakopoulos Professor of Political Theory and Hellenic Studies
David Hajdu, Professor of Journalism
Michael Gerrard, Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice in the Faculty of Law
Peter L. Strauss, Betts Professor of Law
Avery W. Katz, Milton Handler Professor of Law
Jelani Cobb, Professor of Journalism
Jeffrey Sachs, University Professor
The authors are members of the Columbia University faculty.
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