CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Students gathered at Harvard University on Wednesday to denounce a speech by an author who co-wrote a book discussing racial differences in intelligence and touched off a boisterous protest earlier this year in Vermont.
Chanting “black, brown, Asian, white, Harvard united for human rights” and “you can’t turn us around,” dozens of students stood on the front lawn of the university’s Museum of Natural History to protest the appearance of Charles Murray as his speech got underway inside.
Murray, a political scientist who co-authored the 1994 book “The Bell Curve,” has said his views are misunderstood. His speech on Wednesday was closed to the media.
Student speakers, part of the organizing Black Students Association and the Undergraduate Council’s Black Caucus, condemned what they say is Murray’s hateful rhetoric, which they believe is an attack on the existence of minorities.
“He’s trying to whitewash our existence,” said Ian Hayes, a 19-year-old sophomore. “He isn’t misunderstood, he’s wrong – plain and simple.”
One of the organizers of the demonstration, Anwar Omeish, a 21-year-old junior from Fairfax, Virginia, said Murray’s ideas are “flawed.”
“If it’s about contributions to global conversations, his is not a particularly worthy one,” Omeish said.
A parallel talk at the university’s northwest building, involving professors and students, was held shortly after the demonstration. The professors identified Murray as an empirically discredited and overtly racist speaker whose work is heavily reliant on biological determinism.
Murray’s speech at Vermont’s Middlebury College in March prompted a demonstration that involved up to eight masked people. A Middlebury professor suffered a neck injury during a subsequent physical confrontation. Dozens of students were disciplined.
Murray’s Harvard appearance was sponsored by the Open Campus Initiative, a student-run group that advocates free expression and has been inviting provocative speakers.
The Southern Poverty Law Center labels Murray a White nationalist, but he denies that.