Photo of conservative speaker may have been ‘jarring’ to students, college newspaper editor admits

A photo of conservative writer Charles Murray appeared on the front page of Middlebury College's student newspaper — and the editor said the photo of Murray itself may be "especially jarring" to students. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

Dave Urbanski

It was bad enough that conservative writer Charles Murray had the nerve to come to Vermont’s Middlebury College last year to speak, culminating with a left-wing mob shutting down the event and then assaulting a Middlebury professor — a Democrat, no less — who agreed to dialogue with and debate Murray.

Now a simple photograph of Murray in the student newspaper is apparently a potentially triggering act.

Ethan Brady, editor in chief of the Middlebury Campus, issued an explanatory editor’s note about the photograph of Murray that appeared on the paper’s front page last Wednesday.

“I recognize that it may be especially jarring, particularly for students of color who feel that Charles Murray’s rhetoric poses a threat to their very humanity,” Brady wrote of the photo. “I also recognize that Murray’s visit to campus last March is an open wound for a campus trying desperately to move forward from it.”

Brady went on to say that while numerous newsroom colleagues were against running the photo of Murray, calling such a deed “inappropriate,” he decided to do it. “I take full responsibility for this decision,” he added. “It was mine alone, and any criticism should be directed at me alone.”

More from the editor’s note:

This photograph is not meant to troll, or to cause pain, but to ask how that protest still lives with us today, one year later. For many, this image is burned in our collective memory. As much as we try to distance ourselves from that moment, we are made from it.

I recognize that running this photograph is a political act. Yet I see no way to comprehend this institution without seeing ourselves as part of American society, which is itself political.

I also believe moving forward requires looking inside, however unpleasant that may be. We cannot escape our history. We can only confront it.

Murray reacted to the newsroom flap over the photo with a certain degree of irony:

Allison Stanger, the Middlebury professor assaulted by the left-wing mob — and who called one of her attackers a “thug” — said the ordeal “was the saddest day of my life.”

While it’s clear that the idea of running Murray’s photo didn’t sit well with much of the Middlebury Campus editorial staff, it isn’t clear if the appearance of the photo on the front page presented a problem for anyone outside the newsroom. TheBlaze on Thursday reached out to Brady to see if that was the case, but he didn’t immediately reply.

This writer’s perspective

When a simple photo gets hands wringing and fears multiplying, that’s just beyond-the-pale tragically comedic.

As many continue to tiptoe around any sort of speech or expression that could possibly be offensive to anyone at any time, one could argue that fewer and fewer people as time goes on will risk saying what’s really on their minds. Who wants to invite the possibility of being labeled a racist or any number of other broad-brush charges when outnumbered by a mob?

Colleges and universities need to stand up and stop giving in to students and faculty who complain that this or that greatly offends them and absolutely stop rewarding students and faculty who shut down free speech and free expression.

But that’s not likely to happen any time soon — if at all. Think things are broken now? Consider this: An untold number of college students today who endlessly claim offense and stage all manner of violent protests against speakers they know next to nothing about will tomorrow become our newest crop of college professors.

Now go forth and think happy thoughts.