Virginia Tech Debates Upcoming Visit by Charles Murray

March 15, 2016

Some students and faculty members at Virginia Tech want the university to withdraw an invitation from its business school for Charles Murray (right) to give a lecture later this month. Murray, a political scientist based at the American Enterprise Institute, has written a series of books and is best known (and most criticized) as co-author of The Bell Curve, a 1994 work that argued for links between intelligence and heredity. The analysis was widely criticized for suggesting a link between intelligence and race and ethnicity. Murray's talk at Virginia Tech is about capitalism, but some students and faculty members, calling him a "white nationalist," say that he should not be welcome on campus.

Tim Sands, president of the university, issued an open letter both criticizing Murray and declining to withdraw the business school's invitation. "Dr. Murray is well known for his controversial and largely discredited work linking measures of intelligence to heredity, and specifically to race and ethnicity -- a flawed socioeconomic theory that has been used by some to justify fascism, racism and eugenics," wrote Sands.

But he said that principles of free expression mean that the invitation should stand. "There is room in the intellectual life of the university for perspectives that sharpen our critical-thinking skills and evoke thought and discussion on topics such as ethics, morality, logic and the scientific method," he wrote, adding that "this will not be the last time that a student group, a faculty member or the administration invites a speaker whose views will be regarded by some in our community as repugnant, offensive or even fraudulent. The dichotomies of free speech vs. censorship and civil discourse vs. hostile discourse intersect but are not equivalent. While we cannot prevent others from finding their place on each of these axes, let us set an example for free speech and civil discourse."

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