Middlebury’s Bad New Speaker Policy

by John McClaughry

Last year Middlebury College gave us a pathetic example of cowardice in the face of left wing protestors who objected to sociologist Charles Murray speaking on campus. Murray was driven from a campus stage, and both Murray and a Middlebury professor were physically attacked as they tried to escape the mob.

Now the college has announced a new guest speaker policy. Proposed events will be evaluated by a Threat Assessment and Management Team; if the Team feels that an event attracts an “imminent and credible threat to the community,” it could be cancelled.

A prominent Middlebury alumnus, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, objected that this gave disruptive protestors a “heckler’s veto”. Robby Soave, writing at reason.com, says “If protesters who oppose a certain speaker know that Middlebury will shut down the event if they threaten the community, this gives them an incentive to issue such threats. This is the heckler’s veto: giving the hecklers the power to choose whether an event proceeds.”

“The policy says event cancellations may occur when there is an ‘imminent and credible threat,’ but doesn’t specify what they mean by a ‘threat.’ People may interpret ‘threat to the community’ differently. If Middlebury intends to limit its policy to credible threats of imminent violence, it should say so. A university should make it clear that it will only cancel a speech, if ever, only as an absolute last resort to stop violence.”

Let’s hope Middlebury grows some backbone.

- John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

A. Smith September 29, 2017 at 9:36 pm

Incredible. This is a perfect example of the tail wagging the dog, except the dog, in this case, is in sync with its tail.. The administration, as well as the students, have no interest in hearing an opposite viewpoint to ANY liberal idea. They are simply using this “Threat Assessment and Management Team” to fulfill their preference for not having alternative -i.e. conservative – ideas presented. And they call themselves ‘educators’. Disgraceful. They should all be removed from their posts.


Jim Bulmer September 29, 2017 at 11:51 pm

In case you missed something, Middlebury is a “liberal”arts college. Is anyone surprised at the intolerance toward folks who in their view “do not toe the line.” Welcome to the mush that is being foisted upon the under grads. In cased you missed something, it cost upwards of $50,000/year to attend this open minded tolerant institution.


j paul giuliani September 29, 2017 at 11:51 pm

I can think of something else the Middlebury administration should grow.


The Resolute Voice September 30, 2017 at 1:11 am

This new policy is a convenient way for left-wing schools like Middlebury to get around the 1st Amendment and free speech. Just declare a potential speaker dangerous ( all conservatives presumably ) Disgraceful.


Mark Shepard October 1, 2017 at 2:59 am

Are the alumni all as frail as the current administration and students?


Robert October 2, 2017 at 2:34 pm

Putting the patients in charge of the asylum, as it were.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

About Us

The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

Latest News

Shumlin’s Decade Old Climate Prediction Revisited

March 16, 2018 by Rob Roper In 2007, then Senator Peter Shumlin said in an interview with Jane Lindholm, “Any reasonable scientist will tell you that we’re going...

Florida school shooting policies

March 15, 2018 by John McClaughry Jarrett Stepman of the Daily Signal adds an important fact to the Florida school shooting case. He writes: “Prior to the mass...

Peter Welch Admits Government’s “Well-Intentioned Flop”

March 14, 2018 by Rob Roper  Vermont congressmen Peter Welch has been an advocate of doing away with Ethanol subsidies for a while. As the program’s serious failures...

EAI Town Meeting Week Survey Results

March 12, 2018 479 people took the Ethan Allen Institute Town Meeting Week Survey. We marketed this on social media to a general audience of Vermonters aged 25...

Washington state carbon tax fails

March 9, 2018 by John McClaughry The governor most intoxicated with the idea of enacting a carbon tax – and even using it as a springboard to a...