Controversial author Charles Murray’s visit sparks student protest
November 2, 2017
In the pouring, freezing rain on Wednesday evening, students protested Libertarian speaker Charles Murray’s appearance at DePaul. College Republicans hosted the event inside of Cortelyou Commons with Chicago police, Public Safety and a privately contracted company providing security.
Protesters first held a walk-out of the event, holding signs and yelling into a megaphone, condemning him for his views on race and class. Days before the event, Students for Reproductive Justice (SRJ) and DePaul Socialists organized a Facebook event which attracted over 100 students not affiliated with either organization to join the groups in protest.
Murray is one of the first speakers to visit DePaul that was also controversial enough to spark a large student protest since May 2016, when Milo Yiannopoulos paid a visit to the university courtesy of College Republicans.
According to university spokesperson Carol Hughes, the university is not paying the speaker. John Minster, president of College Republicans, said that his organization paid Murray a $10,000 honorarium.
On Tuesday afternoon, DePaul sent out an email stating that it does not endorse the views of Murray, nor “do they reflect our values as a Catholic Vincentian university.”
“We are committed, however, to the free exchange of ideas through intellectual discussion and dialogue within our educational environment,” read the email, signed by vice president of Student Affairs Gene Zdziarski and vice president of the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity Elizabeth Ortiz.
Last month, student protesters at the University of Michigan shut down an event that Murray was speaking at because of the views and research the speaker highlights in his book, “The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life.” The book attempts to show how intelligence can be attributed to genetics rather than environmental factors.
While Murray is notably known for his research in “The Bell Curve,” the speech given on Wednesday was in regards to his most recent book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.” Murray said “Coming Apart” gives insight into how Donald Trump utilized a polarized America to win the presidency.
“Let’s say you’re a working class white guy and that as part of the electorate which is identified as a poor, Trump supporting group,” Murray said. “You don’t consider yourself a sexist or a homophobe or a racist. You don’t think of yourself in that way in your heart of hearts, and you aren’t. Yet year after year, you are called a sexist, a racist, homophobic, bigot.”
According to Murray, as this misrepresentation of the ideals and views of working class white Americans continues, anger rises amongst this group. Murray said this anger is what lead to working class whites to vote in a block this election cycle, which is “uncommon in this voting group.”
Following his speech was a question and answer panel, which despite protests outside event doors, went uninterrupted and served its purpose as a platform for discourse.
“I want to add that the event went off really well,” Minster said. “We had some good back and forth. I thought some people challenged him, which I liked. I wish those people who walked out had stayed and challenged him too.”
Protesters were not deterred by hard rains as they showed up to make their opposition to Murray being invited to campus heard. Chants of “Murray is a racist” and “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, right wing bigots go away” filled the street.
Student protesters like Gabriel Bullock felt like the newly-established speaker review board dropped the ball on allowing Murray to be invited to campus.
For students who wanted to express their disagreement with Murray’s speaking engagement without protesting, professor of Art, Media and Design Matthew Girson organized a “flash murmur” in the John T. Richardson Library where students and staff gathered to read the works of people who have survived racism and oppression.
“I don’t think Murray is worth much of both my attention and DePaul’s attention,” Girson said. “Instead of protesting him directly, I’m offering another model for people to participate in something that’s productive, open and inclusive.”
The works of authors, poets and civil rights activists like Maya Angelou and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were spread out over tables on the second floor of the library for attendees to read aloud and discuss. Freshman Maya Baker read a passage fitting for the occasion from a speech on Guatemala’s Day of No Violence Against Women.
“Today is a day where we are pooling all of our positive energy so we can make tomorrow better than today,” Baker read.
Benjamin Conboy contributed to this article.