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Berthold on Ernest Martin Hopkins

Yesterday’s post on Fred Berthold ‘45’s recollections of College life contained another nugget worth thinking about. His below observation about President Ernest Martin Hopkins illustrates a first principle that seems to be passing from the scene, at least for some members of current student generation. Hopkins was a member of the Class of 1901, and he served as President of the College from 1916-1945:

Berthold on Hopkins Comp.jpg

This year a large number of Middlebury students couldn’t seem to stomach the presence on their campus of Harvard scholar Charles Murray, yet in the above quote we have Dartmouth’s conservative President Hopkins open to the idea of a lecture by the USSR’s bloody dictator, Josef Stalin. In a better time, the Midd students would have boned up on their Murray and engaged the professor in a vigorous, fact-filled debate (as Dartmouth students did, to their credit, less than a year before the Middlebury near-riot). Isn’t that a more thoughtful posture — and ultimately a more productive one — than trying to muzzle a scholar?

The principle of free and unimpeded speech should be a bedrock belief in the academy, supported by both a humility that one might be wrong on any given issue, and also by the belief that even the most pernicious beliefs should be analyzed, understood and then argued against or supported as the case may be. Did the Midd students even read any of Murray’s works, or had they just heard third-hand that The Bell Curve was a racist book, and therefore Murray was to be prevented from speaking? If the latter is true, and I expect that it is, then those students forfeit any right to the terms student and scholar. Brownshirt would be more appropriate.

Addendum: The “quota” to which Bertold refers is the reprehensible, but all too common among institutions of higher learning at the time, limit on the number of Jewish students at the College. A modern-day equivalent would be much-discussed Ivy League restriction on the percentage of Asian-Americans at each school. Dartmouth’s anti-Semitic restrictions were documented in a senior thesis written by Alexandra Shepherd ‘92, a 95-page paper entitled Seeking a Sense of Place: Jewish Students in the Dartmouth Community: 1920 to 1940. (Does anyone know of a link to this paper? It is in the College’s library catalogue.)

Addendum: In its Jan/Feb 2015 edition, the Alumni Magazine published several lighter vignettes about Hopkins:

Ernest Martin Hopkins Vignettes.jpg

Addendum: Click here to access a wide range of Rauner interviews regarding the Hopkins administration.


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