Note: This article contains graphic content.
It was a reality that became all too clear on the campus of Vermont's Middlebury College on Thursday, due to a planned lecture by political scientist and American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray.
As Fox News reports, however, the trouble at Middlebury went beyond concerns about muzzling free speech, after protesters attacked one of the university's own professors, sending her to the hospital.
A controversial figure — notably as a result of his 1994 New York Times bestseller “The Bell Curve” — Murray is no stranger to backlash. The Southern Poverty Law Center has gone so far as to label the libertarian author a “white nationalist extremist.”
The intensity of Thursday night's protests stunned even him, however, which he said devolved into “an out-of-control mob”:
Even after protesters shouted down Murray, forcing him to move to another room to broadcast his speech online, they reportedly began “began pulling fire alarms, temporarily shutting off power to the live stream.”
Not long after, Murray — accompanied by Middlebury Professor of International Politics and Economics Allison Stanger — attempted to leave campus with the aid of security officers.
The local Addison County Independent reports what happened next:
As Stanger, Murray and a college administrator left McCullough Student Center last evening following the event, they were “physically and violently confronted by a group of protestors,” according to Bill Burger, the college’s vice president for communications and marketing.
Burger said college public safety officers managed to get Stanger and Murray into the administrator’s car.
While Murray, the target of the protests, managed to escape unharmed, Middlebury's Bill Burger explained that the Harvard-educated, nationally-recognized Stanger wasn't so lucky:
“The protestors then violently set upon the car, rocking it, pounding on it, jumping on and try to prevent it from leaving campus. At one point a large traffic sign was thrown in front of the car. Public Safety officers were able, finally, to clear the way to allow the vehicle to leave campus.
During this confrontation outside McCullough, one of the demonstrators pulled Prof. Stanger’s hair and twisted her neck. She was attended to at Porter Hospital later and (on Friday) is wearing a neck brace."
Afterwards, Murray took to Twitter to praise Stanger, whom he says remains “as devoted to academic freedom as anyone I've ever met”:
As Murray also noted, the college administration itself was not the problem, but rather the “seriously scary” student protesters.
Middlebury President Laurie L. Patton has since apologized to all who showed up to attend Thursday's lecture in good faith, saying she was “deeply disappointed” by the “deep and troubling divisions that were on display last night.”
She added that it appears that the protests did include “outside agitators, but there are indications that Middlebury College students were involved as well.”
For his part, Murray — referring to both the protesters' refusal to let him “speak at all” and the “ferocity” of the demonstrations — has said that he's “never encountered anything close to” what happened on Middlebury's campus Thursday night.