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On March 2, eugenicist Charles Murray attempted to give a lecture at Middlebury College in Vermont, with little success. Protesters shouted him down and he was sequestered in another room to answer questions over a livestream. Afterwards, Murray left the campus, but not before protesters blocked his car and injured a professor.
Labeled a white nationalist by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Murray is the author of the 1994 book The Bell Curve, in which he argues that inequalities of race, gender and income exist because white men are smarter and genetically superior to black people, Latinos, women and the poor. Numerous academics have panned the book for its faulty reasoning and unprovable points.
So why is someone with such fringe ideas invited to speak on college campuses, and who pays for it? It’s unlikely that many university departments would invite such an obviously racist and discredited figure. While co-presenting the Murray talk, the political science department did not invite Murray, nor did it contribute any funding for the event. The Middlebury student chapter of a far-right libertarian think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, asked him to speak, and AEI picked up the tab.
Murray is not the only controversial guest making the college circuit on a think tank’s dime. Another conservative nonprofit, Young America’s Foundation, also establishes student chapters at numerous universities and sends bigoted scholars and lecturers including Ann Coulter, David Horowitz and Ted Nugent to speak at their campus events free of charge. Bankrolling these nonprofits are conservative mega-donors including Charles and David Koch and the DeVos family, who by funding the organizations enable hate speech at institutions of higher education.
In addition, a production company connected to the right-wing billionaire Mercer family facilitated at least one college speaking gig of Milo Yiannopoulos, the former Breitbart News editor known for his racist, sexist, Islamophobic and anti-transgender vitriol.