Indiana University students, faculty and staff have signed an open letter denouncing a social scientist who is slated to speak on campus next week.
The speaker, Charles Murray, is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a white nationalist who uses “racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women and the poor.”
Murray is scheduled to speak on Tuesday, April 11th, at Franklin Hall. The event was announced yesterday. As of this afternoon, 74 people had signed an open letter calling the event “highly irresponsible” and “detrimental to the university community.”
Rafael Khachaturian, a graduate student in the IU political science department, is one of the authors of that letter.
“(Murray’s) arguments have been used to advance justifications for the racial superiority of certain social groups and justifications for cutting, let’s say, government aid to particular groups,” Khachaturian said in an interview this afternoon.
Murray has drawn particularly serious criticism for his views on differences between gender and racial groups. In 2005, he wrote an article titled, “Where Are the Female Einsteins?” in which he stated that: “No woman has been a significant original thinker in any of the world’s great philosophical traditions.”
Murray made national news last month when his speech at Middlebury College was effectively shut down by protesters. That incident ended in violence after a small group of protesters confronted Murray and some members of the Middlebury staff. There are competing accounts of what transpired during that incident, but ultimately a professor was injured.
Khachaturian says he is not advocating for Murray’s IU speech to be interrupted, nor is he necessarily arguing that organizers should cancel the event.
“The purpose of my letter really was not to impose any kind of censorship upon the kinds of events that are being organized on campus or in town,” Khachaturian said. “What I did want to point out first and foremost was really the problematic character of a lot of Murray’s work, which was not really being put forward very openly within the initial advertisement that was being circulated around the university.”
A flyer for the event describes Murray as a political scientist, author and libertarian. The flyer does not mention recent controversy, though it does note that Murray’s 1994 book, The Bell Curve, “sparked heated controversy for its analysis of the role of IQ in shaping America’s class structure.”
The speech at Franklin Hall is sponsored by a student group, the American Enterprise Institute Executive Council at IU, as well as the university’s Tocqueville Program.
The director of the Tocqueville Program, Aurelian Craiutu, says Murray’s speech is part of the program’s efforts at fostering an understanding of what he calls the Trump phenomenon.
“We live in a society in which we take free speech seriously,” Craiutu said. “I do not think that we should deny (Murray) the right to speak…on campus. What I am personally interested in…is the Trump phenomenon. We live in bubbles. We need to understand how other people think.”
Craiutu says the Indiana University Police Department has been involved in arranging certain details of event, including the selection of Franklin Hall as a venue.
A flyer states that all attendees must present a valid university ID. Craiutu says he does not yet know if there will be a question and answer portion of the event.
Khachaturian, who wrote the opposition letter with political science graduate student Mike Kovanda, says he plans to present the document to event organizers on Monday, the day before the speech, which is scheduled to begin at 6PM on Tuesday.