Last week at Middlebury College, administrators canceled a speech by a conservative over fears of protests. But the speaker was ultimately sneaked in by students who wanted to hear him speak.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Cowardice and Courage at Middlebury

Students at Middlebury College gave the school’s administrators a lesson this week in the difference between cowardice and courage when dealing with a controversial speaker.

Recall how in March 2017 protesters at the private Vermont liberal-arts college shut down a speech by Charles Murray, injuring professor Allison Stanger in the process. Partially in response to that fiasco, Middlebury’s political science department founded the Alexander Hamilton Forum, which promotes free speech. The forum planned to host a speech this week by Ryszard Legutko, a Polish member of the European Parliament.

Mr. Legutko has criticized multiculturalism and gay marriage and, following the usual pattern, some students launched a petition claiming he “has built his career off of homophobic, xenophobic, racist, misogynistic discourse.” They called for the political science department and Middlebury’s Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs to rescind co-sponsorship of the speech. They also planned to demonstrate.

But there was an unusual footnote to the protest. On a Facebook page to plan the demonstration, student organizer Taite Shomo wrote: “It is absolutely, unequivocally not the intent of this protest and those participating in this protest to prevent Legutko from speaking. Disruptive behavior of this nature will not be tolerated.”

Provost Jeff Cason and Dean of Students Baishakhi Taylor apparently missed this appeal to open-mindedness. Three hours before Mr. Legutko’s speech, they sent out an email saying it was canceled because of “potential security and safety risks for both the lecture and the event students had planned in response.” Ms. Shomo said protest organizers “were just as surprised as everyone else to learn that the speech had been canceled.”

What happened next was remarkable. One student proposed sneaking Mr. Legutko on campus and proceeding with his lecture in a political science class. Professor Matthew Dickinson said he’d allow it if every student in his class approved the idea on a secret ballot. All nine students voted yes. Word got out on social media, and other students trickled in. Mr. Dickinson estimates about 45 students attended.


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