Blacksburg, Virginia— Dr. Charles Murray, a political scientist and W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, will be speaking at the Pamplin College of Business’ BB&T Distinguished Lecture Series. The lecture is on Friday, March 25 at 3:30 p.m. in the Latham Ballroom at the Inn at Virginia Tech, and is free to the public.
Established in 2007, the BB&T Distinguished Lecture Series is a part of the Pamplin teaching program that features two speakers each year and is designed to “explore the foundations of capitalism and freedom,” as stated by VT News. Last year, the BB&T welcomed Nicole Gelinas, a Searle Freedom Trust Fellow, and Michael Barone, a political analyst and journalist, as its two speakers. Each speaker provides a unique, helpful look into the world of economics and business by talking about capitalism with his or her own spin. As the business college Dean Robert Sumichrast provided in a statement for The Roanoke Times , these lectures are intended to help students gain new perspectives that “contribute to a deeper understanding of the important academic and social issues.”
Dr. Murray has been a notable figure in the discussion of governmental policies since the publication of his book in 1984, Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980, which discusses the effectiveness of welfare state policies in the United States. He is also known for his controversial theories on the connection between race and intelligence in his co-authored book The Bell Curve, so his scheduled talk at Virginia Tech has sparked numerous reactions among faculty and students.
After failing to cancel Dr. Murray’s visit, “a group of faculty, student & community members responding to the March 25 visit of Charles Murray to give an invited lecture at Virginia Tech” called Still Concerned: A VT Faculty Initiative has focused on making around one hundred signs to boycott Murray’s visit on the 25. A Counter-lecture, with Dr. Jason Glenn from the medical branch at the University of Texas, will take place on the same day at 5 p.m. in Torgersen Hall in room 2150.
In response to this criticism, Virginia Tech’s President Timothy Sands released “An Open Letter to the Virginia Tech Community” on March 10, which states that “there is room in the intellectual life of the university for perspectives that sharpen our critical thinking skills and evoke thought and discussion on topics such as ethics, morality, logic and scientific method.” The Roanoke Time also quotes Menah Pratt-Clarke’s, vice provost for inclusion and diversity and vice president for strategic affairs at Virginia Tech, reasoning for not canceling the lecture. She states in an email that “our students will find diversity of ideas and opinions expressed throughout their lives—giving them opportunities to be more engaged citizens.”
Defenders of Murray’s visit assert that the BB&T Distinguished Lecture Series has and will continue to serve as a great resource for willing undergraduate and graduate students interested in economics and business. This lecture in particular, as President Sands writes, will “let us [Virginia Tech] set an example for free speech AND civil discourse,” for the campuses watching across the nation.