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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

EDITORIAL A Respectful Protest; Following the Recommendations

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A Respectful Protest

Ari Fleischer's visit to campus this Sunday will be met with anticipated protest and criticism of the administration that the Middlebury alumnus represents in his daily work as press secretary for the Bush White House. This criticism and the demonstrations planned for Fleischer's visit are a healthy sign that political activism at Middlebury is not extinct, and that members of the College community are committed to demonstrating their belief in two of the fundamental principles of American democracy — the freedoms of expression and association.

Though the alumnus is not scheduled to speak on the planned war on Iraq, Fleischer's presence on campus demands questions from students, faculty, staff and citizens from beyond College and town boundaries about the motivations of that war and the Bush administration's plans for Iraq should it succeed in toppling Saddam Hussein. And Fleischer should be prepared to respond to those queries, either during his public talk in Mead Chapel or in smaller conversations with members of the College and local communities. To refuse opportunities for broader dialogue would be antithetical to the spirit of liberal arts learning, and it would prove an opportunity lost for Fleischer to present his case for war to an expectant audience.

Bush's response to the country's economic woes has been lackluster at best, and much remains to be done to protect the nation against another terrorist attack. This makes short and long-term plans for Iraq still appear, despite public utterances by Fleischer, the president and members of his cabinet, like a costly distraction at a time when economic crisis and domestic safety remain very much at the forefront of voter concerns.

Questioning of Bush's policy of "regime change" should be forceful but constructive, and protesters of all stripes and political persuasions must ensure that the fine line between the two be walked carefully during Fleischer's appearance at Mead Chapel. Otherwise the demonstration risks being drowned in its own cacophony of varied opinion and dissenting alternatives to Bush's war on Iraq, a possibility too risky at a time made precarious by secrecy and ignorance. Demanding answers of Fleischer and hearing his responses in an atmosphere of respectful protest is the best means of gaining insight into a war that still has not been justified.

Following the Recommendations

The recommendations made by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of Athletic Life, which were unanimously endorsed by College faculty on Monday, are a clear indication that Middlebury has committed itself to resolving the perennial tension between athletics and academics.

These recommendations deal specifically with recent findings on the role of athletics at liberal arts colleges like Middlebury, findings that over the last two years have provoked much introspection on the nature of the collegiate identity.

That the College has set a clear direction for change in its admission and recruitment policies, however, may be uncomfortable to some. This is to be expected: Middlebury, considered by many to have been the most active in its recruitment of promising athletes, must now level the playing field so that the College's athletics more closely resemble Division-III, and not Division-I, sports.

Such a trend will only deepen the discussion about what constitutes the identity of a Middlebury student. This conversation is important, however, and that it has been addressed formally by a faculty committee sets an important and refreshing precedent for other NESCAC schools to follow.