Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said at a Senate hearing focused on free speech on college campuses Thursday that President Donald Trump has emboldened “extremist hate groups” and blamed him for the violence on higher education campuses across America.
Murray said there is a need to have a conversation about how students can speak freely on college campuses but “as a part of that conversation, we need to discuss how elected leaders, community members, and college and university administrators, can best exercise their First Amendment right to do everything in their power to push back against those driving an agenda of extremism, racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and misogyny.”
“I think we can all agree there is no place for violence on our college campuses but unfortunately—in the last ten months—we have seen more and more of this across the country,” Murray said in her opening remarks.
Murray did not, however, note that the violence on college campuses has been mostly aimed at conservative students and speakers and perpetrated by liberal students and professors.
Instead, she directly placed blame on the president.
“When you look at who we have in the White House right now—some of the rhetoric he has used and continues to use, some of the people he has hired, and some of the groups he has encouraged—it should not come as a surprise when we see an apparent resurgence of hate, bigotry, xenophobia, and misogyny on our campuses,” Murray said.
“This normalization of attacks based on how a person worships, who they are, and where they come from seems to have emboldened extremist hate groups to come out of the shadows,” Murray said. “And with that—in some parts of the country—we’ve seen reports of a rise in hate crimes and violence—especially in our college campuses.”
Murray said that since Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015 hate groups “found a voice they could rally behind.”
“It’s no secret that leadership in this country have made disparaging public comments against Mexican Americans, women, and Muslims,” Murray said.
But one of the witnesses at the hearing was Allison Stanger, a Russell Leng ’60 professor of international politics and economics at Middlebury College in Vermont. Stanger said she was assaulted because of her support for a conservative author speaking on campus.
“Last February, several of my students asked me to moderate a talk with the libertarian scholar Charles Murray and another set of students asked me to moderate a talk with Edward Snowden,” Stanger said in her prepared testimony.
“As I wrote in the New York Times, this was a chance to demonstrate a commitment to the free and fair exchange of views in my classroom,” Stanger said. “While Mr. Snowden’s presentation went forward without a problem, Dr. Murray’s was drowned out by students who never let him speak, we were forced to retreat to another location to live stream our conversation, and he and I were intimidated and physically assaulted while trying to leave campus.”
“Why did this happen in the United States of America, on a bucolic college campus in the Green Mountains of Vermont?” Stanger asked.
Stanger said the very liberal ideology in a state that elected self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) is part of the problem in her particular state.
Stanger also said that fellow professors encouraged the students to be violent.
“The second reason I wound up injured follows from the behavior of a small minority of Middlebury faculty, who cheered on the protests, which is their right,” Stanger said. “However, these faculty also did not encourage their students to read Charles Murray or listen to him first before drawing their own conclusions about his work or his character, which was their obligation as educators.”
Those professors, Stanger said, admitted they had reached their conclusion on Murray based on the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center’s website.
“Our responsibility as educators is to encourage students to read and think for themselves, not to outsource their thinking to others,” Stanger said. “The SPLC’s blurred lines between advocacy and information also must bear a portion of the blame for what transpired.”
Stanger also said that some students and faculty actually believe that shutting down certain speech is a means to achieve “social justice.”
“Some members of the Middlebury community would like to draw a distinction between what happened inside the lecture hall and what happened outside it, where I was injured,” Stanger said. “They are mistaken.”
“Shutting down speech is always an invitation to violence,” Stanger said. “There was a direct line between the fighting words on campus, the suppression of speech and the angry mob that gave me a concussion.”
“All violence is a breakdown of communication,” Stanger said.
The Alliance Defending Freedom held an event this month highlighting how four students at different colleges were threatened because they wanted to express their free speech rights — all with conservative views. The freedom for everyone to express their beliefs through speech, writing, visual, or performing arts, or not to speak at all,” the ADF website states. “This includes what you wear, read, say, paint, perform, believe, protest, or even silently resist.”
Free speech is “the freedom for everyone to express their beliefs through speech, writing, visual, or performing arts or not to speak at all,” the ADF website states. “This includes what you wear, read, say, paint, perform, believe, protest, or even silently resist.”