Middlebury cowers before 'heckler's veto' with new policy
- Middlebury College is instituting a new policy allowing it to cancel speakers who are “likely to be the target of threats or violence,” effectively codifying the “heckler’s veto.”
- The college promises to take "measures to maximize safety," but says it will "consider cancelling" speaking events if administrators think there is a "credible threat" that cannot be adequately mitigated.
Middlebury College is instituting a new policy allowing it to cancel speakers who are “likely to be the target of threats or violence,” effectively codifying the “heckler’s veto.”
“Following the tragic events this summer in Charlottesville and other recent threats to the safety of college and university campuses, the administration, in discussion with the Board of Trustees has been reviewing our institutional preparedness for events that may threaten our own campuses,” Provost Susan Baldridge said in a statement Friday.
Notably, the Vermont college was subject to its own disruption earlier this year, when a violent mob disrupted a Charles Murray event on campus and hospitalized a liberal professor as she escorted him from the venue.
The new policy includes changes requiring event reservations requests to be submitted “at least three weeks prior to the event date” so that various departments at the college and local police can conduct a “risk assessment” and “identify any events that are a likely target of disruption, threats, violence, or other acts of intimidation, or are likely to draw unusually large crowds.”
The university will then review the risk assessment to “determine resources or measures that might be necessary to ensure that the event can proceed without undue risk.”
In “exceptional cases” that present “significant risk to the community,” the administration says it will “work with event sponsors to determine measures to maximize safety and mitigate risk.”
When there is a “credible threat to the community that cannot be mitigated by revisions to the event plan,” however, the college says it will “consider cancelling the event.”
According to the letter, the new policy is temporary until it is replaced by “more permanent procedures by the end of the term.”
Ari Fleischer, former White House Press Secretary under George W. Bush and an alumnus of Middlebury College, warned in a series of tweets that the interim policy “rewards the heckler’s veto,” calling the move a First Amendment issue.
“Speakers will not be allowed on campus if groups on campus say they will shut down the speaker,” Fleischer tweeted Friday. “Midd will actually legitimize hecklers [sic] veto.”
Campus Reform reached out to Middlebury College for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.
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