Charles Murray’s Upcoming Talk Prompted Faculty Letter to Hamilton
March 24, 2017
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Charles Murray believes that intelligence is based on race. He co-authored the 1994 book “The Bell Curve” — which explains this hypothesis — and is scheduled to speak with the NYU branch of the American Enterprise Institute today at the Torch Club.
Murray also asserts that social welfare programs are doomed to fail. His controversial viewpoints spawned students at Middlebury College in Vermont to protest the speech he was giving on campus, as reported by the New York Times. They reported that his talk was therefore truncated.
Yesterday at noon, 12 members of the Faculty of Color Caucus at NYU wrote a letter addressed to NYU President Andrew Hamilton and Provost Katherine Fleming that expressed their dismay about Murray speaking on campus. The letter is posted on the NYU Sanctuary website and received over 140 faculty signatures from various schools within NYU — no Stern or School of Professional Studies faculty members were included of the major schools.
The letter expresses that while the faculty members believe freedom of speech is paramount, they find Murray’s invitation troubling. The letter states that the event is shrouded in more mystery than the faculty is comfortable with. Rather than fully advertising the event, the faculty feels it seems that NYU has let it fly under the radar.
“If you read the letter, you may have noticed that we are very perturbed by the idea that he is speaking at an NYU venue almost under the cover of secrecy: there is no on-campus sponsoring organization and no-one to whom questions can be addressed,” Associate Professor of History Rebecca Karl said, who signed the letter. “Murray is a man whose work is based in white supremacy and eugenicist racist thinking. These are not ‘ideas’ — this is hate, and hate is not an idea.”
Professor of Neural Science Andre Fenton, who is part of the Faculty of Color Steering Committee also saw Murray’s ideas as hateful and therefore thought it was important to take action. Fenton said he undersigned the letter due to the possible effects that Murray’s ideas could have on his community.
“I signed the letter because, whether or not I agree, the fact is that Charles Murray and what he promotes is important and therefore demands engaging, understanding and as necessary, confronting,” Fenton said. “Because Murray’s ideas are insulting and threatening to me and my daughter and family and friends, as well as many of us in the NYU community, because his ideas are widely recognized as hateful, and because he is nonetheless influential, Murray’s invitation to NYU is a special case that demands my attention.”
But attention was exactly what Fenton thought this event lacks — he said that once one of his colleagues heard about the event yesterday, the tickets required to attend the event had already run out.
“Contrast this with how easy it is to find out that I will be an invited lecturer in the Biology Department’s lecture series in a month or so,” Fenton said. “Search online for my lecture and Murray’s. Eventually I learned that it was not even possible to get a ticket to attend the Murray lecture.”
While this letter was purported to express grievances, it was not meant to bar Murray from coming — signees such as Professor Marion Kaplan of the Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies believed that Murray should still be allowed a platform. Kaplan has studied eugenics and said that Murray’s claims have been debunked many times.
“To put it simply, Murray peddles the insidious argument that disadvantaged people are disadvantaged because, on average, they cannot compete with white men, who are intellectually, psychologically and morally superior,” Kaplan said. “This is not simply a matter of a serious scholarly debate. It is junk science purporting to be serious. It is seriously racist.”
Additional Reporting by Coco Wang. Email Htoo Min at [email protected]