MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — A college that was the site of a rowdy protest against a guest speaker has announced a policy for hosting such events in what it calls the “new climate.”
Middlebury College announced the guidelines on Friday following a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and what it says are other threats to safety on campuses.
“In response to this new climate, Middlebury, like other institutions, is moving quickly to assess policies and procedures regarding events, guided by our commitment to the free and open exchange of ideas,” Provost Susan Bladridge said in a written announcement. “We are committed to building capacity so that Middlebury can host all events safely.”
The interim guidelines call for evaluating the safety risks and security needs of proposed events and say the school would consider canceling only events that cause imminent and credible threats that cannot be helped by changing the event plan.
Middlebury plans to work with the school community on a more permanent policy by the end of the term, Bladridge said, and is looking at what other institutions have done.
“As we begin the academic semester and events are currently being scheduled, we recognize the need to move quickly to put in place procedures that will allow us to be aware of any events that might present significant safety risks,” she said.
A March speech by author Charles Murray, who co-wrote a book discussing racial differences in intelligence, prompted demonstrations and a subsequent confrontation in which a Middlebury professor was injured.
The small liberal arts college has said 41 students were disciplined for taking part in the first stage of the protest, in which demonstrators shouted chants to prevent Murray from speaking, and 26 students faced more serious consequences for actions in the hall and outside the building.
The Middlebury Police Department investigated and said it was unable to identify any person who injured the professor in the confrontation afterward. The professor was treated for a neck injury and a concussion.
Murray had encouraged the college to sanction those involved in the turmoil. Murray, who describes himself as a libertarian and social scientist, warned that anything less could become an inspiration for other protests and had the potential “to be a disaster for American liberal education.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center labels Murray a white nationalist, but he denies that.