Charles Murray event to continue as planned, despite ‘Bell Curve’-inspired racist poster

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 - 10:59pm

This morning racist fliers were posted outside Stockwell Residence Hall, presenting the minority enrollment numbers at both the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, insinuating gaps in the average IQ of Black and white students. This correlation between race and mental ability was popularized in the late 1990s by Charles Murray, a political scientist slated to speak at the University next Wednesday.

The forthcoming event is sponsored by the University’s chapter of College Republicans and the American Enterprise Institute University of Michigan Executive Council, a public policy think tank where Murray serves as the W.H. Brady Scholar.

The event’s Facebook description says Murray will be discussing his 2012 book “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.” The lecture will be followed by a Q&A section “at which students are encouraged to ask tough questions, but engage respectfully with the speaker.”

Following incidents of racist flyering at the University in September 2016, the LSA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team released a statement disputing theories of biological superiority of race, directly addressing the “myths” of the “The Bell Curve.”

“Over the past 100 years, following a longer trend of scientific racism, some researchers have sought to demonstrate that there is a quantifiable correlation between racial group and mental ability, and that IQ (intelligence quotient) is a singular and innate biological trait,” the statement read. “This has never been proven. Nevertheless, it is one of the oldest cards in the racist deck, dating back to the early 1900s when the modern intelligence test was invented.”

After Murray's visit to the University was announced, Public Policy student Jackson Voss, chair of the Ford School of Public Policy’s Student Affairs Committee, made a post as the Public Policy School’s SAC denouncing the event. In an interview Tuesday, he urged other student leaders and student government figures to do the same.

“I think that for me and for others the way that I have started to think about it is that we actually do serve a public-facing role,” Voss said. “I think it’s our responsibility to make statements about things that are happening, especially things that are happening to our classmates and to the people we say were representing in these meetings and in our advocacy and in our activities.”

Voss said he strives to remain bipartisan in his role as a student leader but believes the ideas Murray promotes are problematic, not partisan.

“He put on this public persona, but the truth is the ideas he prescribes to and promotes are explicitly white supremacist, or anti-women,” he said. “He is pretty forthright with it, believes that white men are intellectually, socially, psychologically, superior to other groups of people, and that is the definition of being a white supremacist.”

If the University’s chapter of College Republicans want to distance themselves from white supremacists, Voss argues they must take direct action.

“If Republicans and Conservatives and groups like AEI are generally concerned about these things then they need to prove it, by not bringing speakers like Charles Murray to campus,” he said.

Engineering sophomore Lincoln Merrill, publicity chair of College Republicans, says Republicans have been making an effort to distance themselves from the recent expressions of racism and white supremacy on campus.

“All of the posters that came out this morning, those people are ridiculous,” Merrill said. “We do not agree with them at all. With the Charles Murray event, we’re just trying to have an event.”

LSA senior Ben Decatur, co-chair of the American Enterprise Institute Executive Council at the University, wrote in an email the Murray event will continue as scheduled, adding that Murray was invited specifically to discuss the 2016 election in the context of his book “Coming Apart.”

“Murray's 2012 book ‘Coming Apart’ in many ways predicts the rise of a candidate like Trump,” Decatur said. “In the book, Murray demonstrates that a new upper class and a new lower class have diverged so far in behaviors that the upper class is completed isolated from the culture and struggles of less fortunate Americans.”

According to Decatur, Murray has spoken out against nationalists groups using "The Bell Curve" as validation for their cause. 

“As far as ‘The Bell Curve,’ Murray has denounced the ‘alt-right’ as vile and any attempts to use his scholarship to justify this so called philosophy,” he said. “Murray, a libertarian, even opposed Trump in 2016.”

Voss said there has been talk of protesting the Murray event, though he does not know of any concrete plans at the moment. University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the sponsor's organization has been working with the Center for Campus Involvement to ensure student safety is a priority.

“The student organizations sponsoring Charles Murray’s visit to campus have been working with the Center for Campus Involvement, part of Student Life, and the Palmer Commons event staff to plan for this event,” Fitzgerald wrote in an email. “This is the normal process for student groups that host high-profile speakers on campus. Those plans are still being finalized and, as always, community safety is one of the critical elements being considered.”

Decatur invited students who oppose Murray to come to the event and engage in discussion with him.

“Dr. Murray will devote most of his time to hearing from audience members and we encourage students who disagree with Murray's worldview to listen to him firsthand and respectfully and frankly engage with him during this event,” he said.