University of Miami Will Host Racist Author Charles Murray This Month

Update: After this story was published, a University of Miami spokesperson confirmed that Murray will speak on the campus at the end of the month.

"The University of Miami is a dynamic and diverse community that is dedicated to creating and sharing knowledge to meet societal needs. The university is committed to the principles of free speech and to fostering respectful discourse on controversial topics. The university continues to work with the Miami Law Federalist Society, the student organization that invited Dr. Murray to speak at the university in a debate on Free Speech on Campus between Dr. Murray and Miami Law Professor Mary Anne Franks. The event, originally planned for fall 2017 but canceled due to Hurricane Irma, will now take place in late March at the University of Miami School of Law."

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Charles Murray is best known for his book The Bell Curve, which tries to use so-called science to argue that individuals from some races (the whiter ones) are more intelligent than those from others (the darker ones). Actual scientists have called out the book as racist and stunningly dishonest and odious. Though Murray couches his book in the cold language of data analysis, it rests upon the same pseudoscientific foundations used for centuries by white supremacists.

But that has not stopped a conservative group of University of Miami law students from inviting him to campus to talk up his ideas. UM Law's Federalist Society, a group of self-described "conservatives and libertarians" confirms to New Times they have extended the political scientist a warm welcome to speak on campus.

"We have invited Dr. Murray to debate our very own Professor Mary Anne Franks on the topic of free speech and academic freedom on campus," a Federalist Society representative messaged New Times yesterday. "He will be sharing his views on student free speech rights on college campuses, among other things. Professor Franks will presumably be offering an opposing viewpoint." The rep added they hope the event will "bring the law school and the university together."

The Federalist Society's national leader, Leonard Leo, is one of the most influential people working behind the scenes in Washington. According to the New Yorker, Leo is effectively in charge of handpicking conservative judges for President Donald Trump to appoint. At UM, the Federalist Society's president is a law student, Stephen Mark Smith, who previously worked at the Charles Koch Institute, a libertarian think tank founded by the 11th-richest man in the world.

UM has pushed back on Murray's appearance by demanding $7,646 for security costs — which the group objected to in a letter leaked to the libertarian (and Koch-funded) magazine Reason. But there's good cause to demand extra security: A March 2017 speech by Murray at Middlebury College ended after hundreds of students disrupted the event and injured a faculty member. When avowed white nationalist Richard Spencer spoke at the University of Florida in 2017, three Spencer supporters were arrested for allegedly shooting at protesters.

But the Federalists argue that UM's security fees are "censoring free speech" — despite the fact that the university is privately funded and, therefore, constitutionally allowed to invite or disinvite whomever it pleases.

Releasing the letter publicly seems to have worked in the Federalists' favor. Now UM spokesperson Peter Howard tells New Times the university will cover the event's security costs after all. He did not say what prompted the change.

David Pringle, another law student at UM, says he's disappointed in the university's decision.

"I think a lot of students are frustrated that, more often than not, what seems to happen when we talk about this 'marketplace of ideas' is that voices of marginalized communities are never equally allowed to participate in that 'marketplace,'" he says. Pringle, who is black, is a senator in the school's Student Bar Association and is a Public Interest Scholar focusing on social justice and public service issues. (He stresses he is speaking only for himself and not for any groups to which he belongs.)

"I see very little weight given to the impact that elevating the platform of a modern-day scientific racist will have," he says.

Murray, who works for the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, is basically the Neil deGrasse Tyson of white, male supremacy. The Southern Poverty Law Center, the nation's premier hate-tracking nonprofit, has labeled Murray a "white nationalist extremist" 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's most famous book, The Bell Curve, has been savaged by critics across the political spectrum since it was first published in 1994. In short, Murray used the book to argue that Americans' IQ scores are inextricably tied to race and that IQ scores are dropping because people of color are having more children than white Americans.

Those ideas are obvious nonsense: IQ scores are an extremely poor measure of a person's intelligence, and they change for social groups through history. Most scientists agree that taken as a whole, IQ tests tend to measure a given population's wealth and access to education. Many commentators also noted that Murray even fudged data to make his points, and criticism of the book has only increased over the years.

Murray's other writings attempt to dress up the most banal, obvious "conventional wisdom" about race and poverty into smart, "academic" arguments. He has repeatedly argued that the poor are just lazy: In 2000, Murray wrote a piece in the National Review titled "Deeper Into the Brain," which is basically just a rehash of 19th-century racial-superiority science with all the references to phrenology removed.

In the essay, he argues that the poor are genetically inferior to the rich, noting that the "population below the poverty line in the United States has a configuration of the relevant genetic makeup that is significantly different from the configuration of the population above the poverty line."

Racists tend to love Murray's work because he dresses up garden-variety intolerance in fancy language that makes them feel smart for enjoying theories that, at their core, are monstrous and nonsensical. The Federalist Society's own letter to UM labels Murray a "renowned political scientist, author, and public speaker" who has authored "groundbreaking scholarship" in the past. (The letter hilariously does not explain exactly what Murray's scholarship was about.)

"He is an elderly academic that poses no risk to the University's operations," the Federalist Society wrote, demanding that the university drop the $7,646 security fee. "The only risk he poses is upsetting the established norms of academic thought and behavior at the University of Miami."

Again, the letter doesn't address Murray's opinions and instead complains that the rest of UM's students are basically just snowflakes if they don't want to hear Murray babble about haplogroups and FBI crime statistics.

The Federalists' letter also commits some glaring sins of false equivalency by comparing Murray to another recent, "controversial" campus speaker — Black Lives Matter cofounder Alicia Garza. The students complained that Garza wasn't charged huge security fees:

Just as one example, last year, the co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Alicia Garza, gave multiple stand-alone lectures at our University at the invitation of Osamudia James, a professor at Miami Law. At the time, the BLM movement was developing into one of the most powerful and controversial interest groups our nation has seen in decades. Their activities received national attention on a daily basis by virtually every major news source. By that time, the group had been responsible for numerous high profile demonstrations that inflamed passions across the nation and on both sides of the political aisle.

Of course, Garza's message — that police officers should not wrongfully arrest or kill people of color and that the U.S. criminal justice system is designed to hurt black and brown people — isn't hateful, as "controversial" as it may be. Plus, Garza's speaking engagements are not known to bring neo-Nazis and Antifa counterprotesters out into the open, unlike events for Murray, Anne Coulter, Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Spencer, and the rest of the "free speech" trolling crew. The letter's premise falls apart once you consider what Murray actually believes, which the Federalists are obviously dancing around discussing.

Instead, the students commit the classic conservative-troll sin of calling everyone else around them weaklings because they don't want to "hear Murray out" on his terrible ideas about race science.

"Rather than protecting your students, you are doing them a grave disservice by sheltering them from ideas that they have neither heard nor taken the time to fully understand," the Federalists write. "As future legal practitioners, students at Miami Law would behoove themselves to learn how to deal with unfamiliar and challenging ideas in a civil manner. We should not be encouraging our students to embrace emotional and intellectual frailty. Instead, we should be encouraging students to develop and exhibit mature adult traits, including the ability to listen and disagree courteously, or to simply exercise the choice not to attend events that may offend them."

Activists on the left argue that the right's recent obsession with free speech is selective. Conservatives aren't protesting Gov. Rick Scott's alleged decision to ban his staffers from using the words "climate change," for example." People who don't want to listen to racist drivel are instead called "immature snowflakes."

Pringle, the progressive student, hopes UM ultimately refuses to let Murray take part in any campus "debates."

"Very little thought has been given to the damage this will do to black people," he says. "There was very little weight given to how this impacts other marginalized communities."

Here's the Society's full letter:

We have just received the proposed security cost estimate from the UM Police Department. We are surprised and genuinely concerned about the implications that this request has for this event, the Federalist Society, and the law school. We ask that you quickly clarify (by March 6th) that no such fee will be required. Otherwise you will be censoring free speech—more precisely a debate on free speech.

The total cost listed for security is a minimum of $7,646, guaranteed to increase with the hiring of additional wanders and bag checkers. This is unprecedented and obviously unaffordable for any student group.

Just as one example, last year, the co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Alicia Garza, gave multiple stand-alone lectures at our University at the invitation of Osamudia James, a professor at Miami Law. At the time, the BLM movement was developing into one of the most powerful and controversial interest groups our nation has seen in decades. Their activities received national attention on a daily basis by virtually every major news source. By that time, the group had been responsible for numerous high profile demonstrations that inflamed passions across the nation and on both sides of the political aisle.

This all goes to say that the co-founder of the BLM Movement was—at the time—a highly controversial figure in American politics. Her controversial nature is simply not debatable. Nonetheless, we are not aware of any security costs that were charged for her individual speaking events. That event was sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Division of Student Affairs, Student Life, Multicultural Student Affairs, and Housing and Residential Life. If security cost were in fact imposed, we would be very interested to find out the amount charged and who ultimately paid those fees.

This situation boils down to the following: The Miami Law Federalist Society is the only student organization on campus that has been required to furnish security fees prior to an event, and it is the most prominent libertarian/conservative organization on campus. The imposition of these security fees is sure to have a chilling effect on the Federalist Society's operations at UM.

Dr. Murray is an Emeritus Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a renowned political scientist, author, and public speaker. His groundbreaking scholarship was the catalyst that led to the comprehensive (and bipartisan) Welfare Reform Act signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton. Dr. Murray was a Peace Corps Volunteer, worked with US-AID in Thailand. He received his B.A. from Harvard and his Ph.D. from MIT. He is a decorated scholar, having been awarded Honorary Doctorates from Rhodes College and Universidad Francisco Marroquín. He has also been a recipient of the Irving Kristol Award, the Kistler Prize, and the Edmund Burke Award. He has published over 18 books and hundreds of academic articles. He is not a danger to the welfare of University students; he is not a speaker that warrants almost $8,000 in security costs. He is an elderly academic that poses no risk to the University's operations. The only risk he poses is upsetting the established norms of academic thought and behavior at the University of Miami. That alone does not justify levying these impossible costs on the Miami Law Federalist Society. These security fees are only setting a bad precedent at Miami Law that conservative/libertarian leaning organizations will have to pay to play whereas other organizations are entitled to explore ideas free of charge, indeed with support from the school.

This event is a debate on free speech and academic freedom. If it cannot be held at one of Florida's most prestigious law schools, where can it be held? By assessing unnecessary security fees against the inviting student organization in response to threats of disruption, you are effectively giving those who threaten the safety of campus a Heckler's Veto over any topic, speaker, or discussion that they are not comfortable with.

Rather than protecting your students, you are doing them a grave disservice by sheltering them from ideas that they have neither heard nor taken the time to fully understand. As future legal practitioners, students at Miami Law would behoove themselves to learn how to deal with unfamiliar and challenging ideas in a civil manner. We should not be encouraging our students to embrace emotional and intellectual frailty. Instead, we should be encouraging students to develop and exhibit mature adult traits, including the ability to listen and disagree courteously, or to simply exercise the choice not to attend events that may offend them.

If for any reason you cannot eliminate this fee, please let us know what the reason is for the fee and how this event differs from other events where no fee was charged.

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