Author brings hate speech vs. free speech debate back to the Bay Area

On the Stanford University campus Thursday night, a battle between free speech and those who say what was allowed is actually hate speech.

Author Charles Murray actually sparred with a Stanford staffer for an hour and a half, as part of the “Cardinal Conversation” series. But even before the two squared off over the current state of cultural affairs, students let their collective voices be heard.

“What this is, is just a new phase of eugenics,” said Zach Kirk, a Stanford sophomore who organized a protest.

On Stanford’s History Corner, a few dozen students gathered to protest the happenings feet away inside Hoover Institution. Signs decried what some believe is racism, after a university committee upheld an invitation for author Charles Murray to appear. Even some school staffers were opposed..

“This is not okay. This is not who we are. What happened to the intellectual rigor of the university that we allowed a sudo-scientist to represent us,” said Stanford Associate Dean Dereca Blackmon of the Diversity & First-Gen Office.

The appearance, closed to the general public, drew a sizeable crowd. Most attendees chose not to share why they came, and the ones that did talk said very little.

“Just here to hear the talk,” said one man who rushed inside without giving his name.

The 90-minute discussion featured Murray, sitting on the right, intellectually jousting with Stanford’s Francis Fukuyama, on the far left. But for the most part the two agreed on a wide-range topics. The failings of the intellectual elites. The rise of populism, and what it means for the 2020 presidential election. And where is this country headed with President Trump at the helm? 

“You’re going to have a lot of people who got the short end of the stick, not just in terms of I.Q. or charm, but other attributes that are positive. And they need to live a life of meaning and satisfaction too. And they can if they have valued places,” said Charles Murray, sitting on the far right of the stage.

“The focus needs to be on things that give people dignity and pride, and not simply the level of income,” added Francis Fukuyama.

Those comments fell on deaf ears for anyone outside Hoover, as protestors say a growing racial impasse on this campus has more do with how decisions are made, than what’s said when the cameras are rolling.

“We think this is an attack on the communities of color here. And that the committee that brought, that convened this conversation here today is illegitimate,” said Kirk.

Stanford’s leadership declined to comment on camera, but they did talk about the decision to bring Murray to campus in the school’s student newspaper. Part of the statement read: “If a legitimate campus group wants to hear from a speaker, we will allow the speaker to come. The university’s actions should not be seen as an endorsement of abhorrent white supremacists viewpoints.”

The “Cardinal Conversation” series, as it’s called, continues in April when Anne Applebaum and Ted Koppel come to campus to discuss  “Real and Fake News.”