Middlebury College canceled his speech. Then, a few students redeemed the situation.

By Helle Dale | The Daily Signal

Prior to two weeks ago, Middlebury College in Vermont had become just another poster child for the war on free speech on American college and university campuses.

Back in March 2017, administrators at the small liberal arts college disinvited conservative sociologist Charles Murray under threat of violence and protesting students.

The week before last, however, professor Matthew Dickinson and the students in his philosophy class saved the college from yet another free-speech embarrassment, giving hope that the spirit of intellectual inquiry has not gone entirely extinct in American academia.

Good for them.

Wikimedia Commons/Sławomir Kaczorek

Polish politician and political philosopher Ryszard Legutko

The controversy this time was precipitated by an invitation to Polish politician and political philosopher Ryszard Legutko by the college’s Alexander Hamilton Forum. The forum was founded by the political science department after the Murray debacle to promote free speech on campus and encourage unfettered debate.

Legutko is an interesting choice of speaker. An anti-communist dissident who fought against Poland’s Cold War oppressors, he served in the administration of now-deceased President Lech Kaczynski.

Today, Legutko represents Poland in the European Parliament. He has also become an astute commentator on the current state of Western democracy and a critic of the European Union.

His book “The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies” warns of precisely the kind of political correctness-imposed conformity that met the announcement of his speaking engagement at Middlebury.

The script for what followed has become all too familiar. Students protested his appearance and accused Legutko of criticizing multiculturalism and gay marriage. They falsely claimed he “has built his career off of homophobic, xenophobic, racist, misogynistic discourse.”

Organization of a campus protest was launched and demands made for the cancellation of his appearance.

Predictably, college administrators caved, canceling the speech just three hours before it was meant to take place, citing “potential security and safety risks for both the lecture and the event students had planned in response.”

But this time, the story has a different ending. An enterprising student in Dickinson’s nine-student philosophy seminar proposed they invite Legutko to address the class as a guest speaker.

Dickinson, a Harvard-trained presidential historian, struck a blow for freedom of inquiry by agreeing, if his students agreed—which they did.

As word got out, 45 students attended Legutko’s speech, as well as the question-and-answer session.

Not surprisingly, college administrators later said they would have discouraged even this modest interaction, had they known, “for security reasons.”

Thanks to Dickinson and his students, Middlebury may now become a symbol of the budding rebellion against campus intolerance and for diversity of opinion and free debate.

Hopefully, other academic institutions will be inspired to follow their example.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Sławomir Kaczorek
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4 thoughts on “Middlebury College canceled his speech. Then, a few students redeemed the situation.

  1. Believe me, as a business guy who employs, if an applicant stated on their forms they “graduated” from a liberal institution, I would NOT hire.

    A “college education” now is about the same as a HS grad 30 years ago. These lib kids have a student loan problem of which many will never get from under—-unless Sanders comes to the rescue at the expense of the taxpayer. They are in debt for over $1 1/2 Trillion. The debt still has interest even if they go on welfare.

    Will lib “grads” get the reality message. Mom and Dad can’t afford you—get out of the house.

    Is this called Karma?

  2. Wow, so he spoke and thousands of Middlebury students died having suffered irreperable harm at having heard words and ideas different from their own? You would think that news of those who were mentally maimed and now on long term suicide watch would have been on every major media outlet. How could any school, especially an over priced elitist left wing indoctrination camp like Middlebury, allow the babies in their care to be subjected to such horrors as anti-communist ideas? Shameful! Middlebury should change it’s slogan to “Fighting global warming by creating one snowflake after another”

    • The horror, the horror (as snowflakes swoon gracelessly to the well cushioned floor). Reality check: real life and real learning come with a level of uncomfort. Get out there and do some real living and real learning.

  3. That’s the best news I’ve heard today. Maybe not all is lost in these liberal colleges..

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