Letter to the Editor

By Richard W. Porter, Middlebury Alum

Dear President Patton,

I am sorry to make your acquaintance in the wake of such ugliness at Middlebury. Obviously, the scope and the scale of the Honor Code violations that occurred at the American Enterprise Club event present a challenge to you and ultimately to Middlebury as a liberal arts institution.

I watched videos of the club event from the introductory remarks until the cancellation of the public forum. I was deeply saddened by the Illiberalism on display — it looked and felt like a book burning. Indeed, those images of smug, sometimes gleeful, illiberal Middlebury students now circle the globe as a reminder that evil is often rooted in a person’s zealous conviction of virtue.

As uncomfortable as your position is at the moment, an institutional response is essential to avoid lasting damage to our college’s mission and standing. As a former member of the College’s Honor Code judicial panel, I have been thinking through an appropriate response and would like to share the following suggestions:

1). Each student that can be identified as having assaulted, or participated in, the assault of the professor and speaker at the end of the evening should be expelled for the remainder of the semester and readmission should be conditioned on participation in anger management counseling and reimbursement for any and all property damages or medical expenses.

2). Each student that can be identified as participating in shouting down the speaker and preventing the forum from being conducted in an orderly public manner should either (a) have a notation added to the student’s transcript that he or she believes that he or she has the right to silence anyone with whom he or she disagrees or (b) read the Bell Curve or any other book by Charles Murray and submit to your office an essay of not less than seven pages summarizing at least three key findings asserted by the author and two issues that warrant further research and why.

The Honor Code embodies a respect for each member of the community, as well as for the free, respectful exchange of ideas and intellectual inquiry. The members of the club who spoke conducted themselves magnificently, as did the professor serving as interlocutor. Their conduct, and the stark contrast between Mr. Murray’s calm demeanor and the turmoil in the audience, are both testaments to liberal thought and inquiry. Your response should communicate a similar tone — and a resolute affirmation of the values of robust, free and diligent intellectual inquiry.
Richard W. Porter, ’81