March 3, 2017: Letter from President Patton Concerning Last Night's Events

March 3, 2017

 

Members of the Middlebury College Community:

As many of you are aware by now, a large group of student protestors disrupted Charles Murray's talk yesterday afternoon in Wilson Hall in McCullough Student Center. I am deeply disappointed by the events that I witnessed and it was painful for many people in our community to experience. I know that many students, faculty, and staff who were in attendance or waiting outside to participate were upset by the events, and the lost opportunity for those in our community who wanted to listen to and engage with Mr. Murray.

With some effort, we were able to move Mr. Murray to another location where he and Prof. Allison Stanger, who was scheduled to moderate the Q&A following his talk, were able—though with challenges—to go ahead with the talk and a probing conversation afterward.

Following the event, protests continued outside of McCullough as well. Unfortunately, one group of demonstrators aggressively confronted Mr. Murray and Prof. Allison Stanger as they left McCullough Student Center. That confrontation turned into a violent incident with a lot of pushing and shoving, and an attack on the car in which they were leaving campus. We believe that many of these protestors were outside agitators, but there are indications that Middlebury College students were involved as well.

We will be responding in the very near future to the clear violations of Middlebury College policy that occurred inside and outside Wilson Hall.

Today our community begins the process of addressing the deep and troubling divisions that were on display last night. I am grateful to those who share this goal and have offered to help. We must find a path to establishing a climate of open discourse as a core Middlebury value, while also recognizing critical matters of race, inclusion, class, sexual and gender identity, and the other factors that too often divide us. That work will take time, and I will have more to say about that in the days ahead.

Last night we failed to live up to our core values. But I remain hopeful. Last evening, several students, faculty, and staff representing a large spectrum of political perspectives remained in Wilson Hall to discuss the events and to talk about building bridges. Their ability to reach across differences in a rigorous but respectful way was a stark contrast to the events that preceded it. I firmly believe these are the Middlebury values that we have lived so long and that we must strive to embody in the future.

I extend my sincerest apologies to everyone who came in good faith to participate in a serious discussion, and particularly to Mr. Murray and Prof. Stanger for the way they were treated during the event and, especially, afterward.

Laurie L. Patton
President

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