“Our dual commitment to free expression and to making all students full members of our communities must be embraced fiercely and with conviction. But an educational institution does not become more inclusive by limiting freedom of expression. Nor does it achieve greater freedom by reducing its commitment to building an inclusive, robust, brave public square where all students are equally welcomed and valued.”
—Laurie L. Patton, President
Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2017
The idea for Critical Conversations grew out of the events that occurred in the spring of 2017 on the Middlebury College campus. The disruption of the appearance by political scientist Charles Murray; the violence that ensued outside McCullough Hall; the pain so clearly felt by hundreds of Middlebury students who do not feel fully included in the campus life of the College and those who are allied in support of them; the anger of so many others on and off campus who felt that the events tarnished the institution’s reputation—all of these actions and pressures created deep divisions across the Middlebury community.
This is not Middlebury. At her inauguration address in October 2015, Middlebury President Laurie L. Patton summoned the community to find a better path.
“I challenge us to have more and better arguments, with greater respect, stronger resilience, and deeper wisdom,” Patton said. She called these “arguments for the sake of heaven.”
This is the goal of Critical Conversations. At a time when too many people label those with whom they disagree as unworthy of consideration; when too many isolate themselves in media and social media cocoons; when too many turn away from voices that don’t echo their own, we hope here to bring people together, not in agreement, but in dialogue.
We hope you will join us.