Middlebury College political science professor Allison Stanger has broken her silence on the assault that occurred during conservative author Charles Murray’s campus visit in March.
Appearing in a C-SPAN interview late last month, Stanger discussed the student protest that prevented Murray from speaking at Middlebury and addressed the students who attacked her following the event, leaving her with a serious neck injury.
“This is the first interview I’ve done and I’m glad to be doing it with you because we can have an extended conversation,” Stanger told Brian Lamb, host of C-SPAN’s “Q&A” program. “But I didn’t want to speak to journalists until my brain had been restored to me, because once something like this happens, you’re angry. It’s emotional.”
During the one-hour interview, Stanger said she faults some faculty more than students for what happened on campus, saying that some individuals claimed that what happened outside the lecture hall (the assault on Stanger and Murray) “has nothing to do with what happened inside the lecture hall.”
Following the protest, Murray was labeled a “troll” by Middlebury scholar and climate activist Bill McKibben.
Stanger painted a picture of the campus as existing as a “bubble within a bubble” of academic privilege and monolithic liberal politics.
“Middlebury College is in the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Champlain Valley — so, in some sense you can, in part, explain the reaction because it’s almost a bubble-within-a-bubble,” Stanger said during the interview. ” … It’s in Vermont, which is the home of Ben & Jerry’s, the home of Bernie Sanders, and also is the state in the union with the smallest percentage of voters who voted for Donald Trump. So, that context, I think, is very important for understanding what transpired.”
The incident, which saw leftist student protesters and outside agitators shout down guest lecturer Murray, received international attention.
Stanger was violently attacked by protesters as she and Murray made their way to a car after the lecture abruptly ended. She was approached by as many as eight black-masked persons, dressed like Antifa militants, as she and Murray left the McCullough Student Center auditorium on the evening of March 2. She had been escorting Murray from the building amid protesters both inside and outside the student union.
Stanger was taken to nearby UVM Porter Medical Center and treated for a neck injury. No charges were filed in the campus assault. Shortly after the incident, Stanger left Middlebury for a two-year-long sabbatical.
Most people know Murray for his book “The Bell Curve,” but the speaker had been invited by Stanger to discuss “Coming Apart,” a more recent book about the moral decline of white America and the growing economic divide.
Stanger said students are often intolerant of other views, even though they should be capable of finding unity around a common set of American values.
“They’re (students and faculty) voting Democratic, and so a scholar associated with the Republican Party is controversial to them, which is unfortunate since the Republican Party is the other major party in the United States,” she said.
“I think it’s really easy to paint it as a story of mean conservatives versus students of color, but really what’s taking place is that we have a situation where American values are at stake, and they don’t belong to a particular party or a particular identity group — they belong to all Americans, and I think that’s at the heart of this issue we’re discussing.”
While Stanger, who received her Ph.D. at Harvard University, has never identified herself as either a staunch liberal or conservative, she has appeared in the media as being more open-minded than most of her Middlebury colleagues.
“Part of the reason I want my students to engage with someone like Charles Murray is I, myself, at Harvard, benefited enormously from interacting with some of the great conservative thinkers there — people like Harvey Mansfield, James Q. Wilson, even Samuel Huntington,” she said.
Middlebury College officials seemed to distance themselves and the institution from Stanger’s interview.
“We don’t have any comment on Allison’s testimony,” Bill Burger, Middlebury College’s vice president of communications and chief marketing officer, told True North Reports.
Burger drove the car in which Stanger and Murray fled the campus protesters.
Sarah Ray, director of media relations at the college, said only that Stanger is “away on academic leave” and that she’s “currently a cybersecurity policy fellow at New America, a think tank in D.C.”
However, Robin Newton, C-SPAN’s media relations specialist, told True North that the network “thought it was an important story.”
On camera, Stanger was philosophical about the incident. She said she prefers America’s constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech to extremist action when there are growing differences of opinion within society.
“(Radical faculty and students are) directly connected because shutting down speech is an invitation to violence. We have these heated passionate exchanges of views precisely to avoid having to pull out guns or swords or have a duel,” she said.
“It’s unfortunate to me that there are some very smart people who have said publicly they’re giving up on America. I would never give up on America for all its flaws. If you look at its trajectory since the Revolution, it’s the story of gradual progress to make those ideals reality.”
Lou Varricchio is a freelance reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.