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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

Banner Year for Mindless Commons Spending

Author: Kevin King

Life at Middlebury may as well be built around the idea that the more work students are assigned, the less time they will have to realize the sheer lunacy of the way the campus around them is run. I, for one, refuse to let pending term papers and extraordinarily sub-par grades blind me to some of the more entertaining administrative mysteries which pass for college policy around here.

This week's lesson involves a paradox rooted in College policy that is perhaps on the order of such modern conundrums as why the American government can successfully intercept ballistic missiles via satellite guided laser beams but is somehow unable to deliver mail from one city to the next on a reliable schedule. The mystery I speak of involves ten oversized, screen-printed banners which currently hang up in Nelson Gymnasium and the funding decisions which made them possible.

These ten banners, two per Commons, feature artistic renditions of watered down mascots students didn't choose, and were presumably commissioned to represent the "teams" competing in Nelson for the tradition-steeped Cameron Intramural Cup. Interestingly enough, the social houses are also officially participating in the Cameron Cup contest, yet not one of the six houses has a banner signifying its inclusion in the competition. If one ever wanted to make a case for the institutionalization of disrespect for the houses here at Middlebury, this might be good evidence to include. What is implicit in the conspicuous absence of social house banners along side those representing the Commons is the idea that the houses will either not be around long enough to warrant representation or are somehow not endorsed by the College. While the banners themselves are really a trivial matter, the message their absence sends is both instructive and unacceptable.

Those banners which do hang from the ceiling in Nelson must have cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars collectively. What I want to know, and what all of you should be asking yourselves, is why in the world the College is spending its money on decorative banners displaying mascots students don't care about when it is fully aware of long needed campus improvements such as updated and expanded laundry facilities. Currently, students living in Allen, Battell, Hepburn, and other large dormitories have to schlep their way through snow and sleet while carrying their laundry to other buildings which do have facilities, yet the money spent on our ever so necessary commons logo banners could easily have paid for a washer and dryer or two in one or more of these dorms and made student life that much better. That such a poor spending decision was able to have the additional effect of disrespecting the social houses must have been all the merrier for the out of touch folks who made it. Where are our priorities, and why in the world are they ordered in a way that makes debacles like this one possible?

When faced with the question of how to allocate scarce budget resources at Middlebury College, apparently those in charge feel that fashion far outranks function.