Charles Murray’s “Provocative” Speech at Middlebury


Charles Murray

It was actually pretty “middle of the road.”

Two Cornell University human development professors, Wendy M. Williams and Stephen J. Ceci, took the text of Murray’s now infamous speech at Middlebury and sent it to seventy college professors at colleges around the country.  Some of those professors were told who authored the speech.  Others were not.

Inside Higher Ed reports on the results of their study.  Here is a taste:

Wendy M. Williams and Stephen J. Ceci, both professors of human development at Cornell University, wanted to see what professors would say about the talk Murray is giving about Coming Apart. So they transcribed his Middlebury talk (he gave it for broadcast by livestream). Then they sent the transcript to 70 professors at colleges around the United States, without telling them it was by Murray. The professors were asked to rank the talk politically, on a scale of 1 to 9, with 1 being very liberal and 9 being very conservative. Based on 57 professors who responded, the average score was 5.05, or decidedly middle-of-the-road. Then Williams and Ceci sent the speech to 70 other professors, this time telling them it was a Murray talk. The average score was 5.77, a more conservative ranking than that the first group but still in the middle-of-the-road category.

Williams and Ceci described their findings in an essay in The New York Times. Of their findings, they write, “Our data-gathering exercise suggests that Mr. Murray’s speech was neither offensive nor even particularly conservative. It is not obvious, to put it mildly, that Middlebury students and faculty had a moral obligation to prevent Mr. Murray from airing these views in public.”