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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.

To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

Charles Murray The Bell Curve anti-intellectualism free speech bigotry
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