Did Azusa Pacific College Join Leftists in Censoring Charles Murray?

Was Azusa Pacific College’s (ASU) “postponement” of libertarian sociologist Charles Murray’s on campus address for April 23 motivated out of political correctness?  ASU made it clear that it was merely postponing Murray’s talk possibly to when protests would not interfere with the event. Brandeis University also reversed its decision early this month to award on honorary degree to Hirsi Ali, due to her views on Islam.  Both Murray and Ali are associated with the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Azusa Pacific College is an accredited Evangelical Christian university with 6,500 students located in suburban Los Angeles. Notable alumni include many pro and Olympic athletes, actors, actresses, and musicians, noted U.S. megachurch ministers and African missionaries, and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

Murray was scheduled to talk about his new book “A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Do’s and Don’ts of Right Behavior.” The book about how elites should teach the working class proper manners.

The reactions on the political Left and Right media gave their audiences what they wanted to hear.  

Those on the Right claimed ASU violated Murray’s right to free speech, was ousted due to groupthink and illiberalism

On the Left, the Rice University Black Student Association protested Murray’s speech on April 7 as part of his national book tour.  The Leftist Daily KOS reported Texas Republican Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott had to cancel an April 9 press conference after Murray was charged with being an anti-feminist advisor to Abbott.

Only Michelle Goldberg writing at the Leftist TheNation.com website, has recently been writing about the “illiberal left” contrary to her website’s readership.

Azusa Pacific’s President Jon R. Wallace stated the reasons for postponement had to do with avoiding “hurting our faculty and students of color.”  Wallace added: “Given the lateness of the semester and the full record of Dr. Murray’s scholarship, I realized we needed more time to prepare for a visit and postponed Wednesday’s conversation.”

Murray wrote an open letter to the students of ASU asking them to explore the “full range” of his scholarship before libeling people and prodded ASU students to “think for yourselves.”

The Bell Curve

That raises the question: what is Murray’s “full record of scholarship?” The controversy over Murray’s scholarship goes back to his 1994 book “The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life” written with Richard J. Herrnstein.

The Bell Curve’s central argument is that intelligence as measured by IQ tests, is the best predictor of socio-economic achievement.  The book amassed arguable data that indicated racial differences in intelligence were the best predictor of achievement or of non-achievement such as incarceration rates.  The title “The Bell Curve” derives from a statistical bell-shaped curve of IQ test scores showing Whites around 100 and Blacks around 85 IQ.

Is Murray a throwback to the 19th century Social Darwinist and libertarian sociologist Herbert Spencer? Social Darwinists believe in the “survival of the fittest.” 

Or is Murray more aligned with those few lesser-known sociologists who call themselves libertarian because they don’t blame Capitalism for the miseries of the world?

Murray is definitely not a genetic evolutionist that believes in natural selection. Instead he has researched the cultural self-selection of the educationally advantaged that widens the intelligence gap in society. 

Murray’s most recent research is contained in his 2010 book “Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010.   In that book he describes the widening social class gap that has nothing to do with income inequality, economic recessions, or necessarily race but with in-marriage among the well educated.

What Did Murray Measure?

Ironically the eminent conservative sociologist Brigitte Berger in 1994 wrote one of the best critiques of Murray’s works.  To Berger what The Bell Curve measured was not “intelligence” but “modern consciousness.” Berger defined this as being socialized to think abstractly, to calculate economic gains and losses, to mentally multi-task, and a time orientation for productivity.  According to Berger, the lag in African-American intelligence scores is due to their living “distant from the centers of modernity.”  ASU is not distant from modernity and has many African American and native African students, faculty, alumni.

Berger criticized Murray’s view that society works best when everyone knows their “place” and their inherited social limitations.  Berger advocates emphasizing human qualities not having much to do with intelligence such as empathy, humor, or religious commitment.  She asks: “What type of individuals, for example, will staff the institutions of elder care that demography will increasingly require?  To put it succinctly: when I am about to die of Alzheimer’s, I emphatically do not wish to be taken care of by Charles Murray.” 

Berger cautioned: “The worst thing for conservatives to do would be to become identified with the Murray-Hernstein position.” 

Did ASU deny Murray of free speech yet or join “the websites that specialize in libeling people” as Murray infers?  Clearly no.

In his open letter to ASU students Murray chided them to think for themselves. Presumably, that also means thinking critically about Murray’s views.

Wayne Lusvardi, Pasadena, CA, writes for the Pacific Research Institute, a free market think tank, and MasterResource.org, a free market energy website.

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