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Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024

Editorial: Stand for Nothing Less

This week, one student in Ross Commons fell victim to an incident of vandalism and homophobic harassment. In another outbreak of aggression, a poster promoting Gaypril events was found ripped from its mount.

We at The Campus stridently condemn these acts of intolerance and call on students, faculty and staff across the College to decry such flagrant attacks on fellow members of the community.

Almost exactly two years ago, a series of similar incidents befell the campus. Boards were defiled in Allen and Starr, a commons dean targeted in a stairwell and a degrading note left in a senior thesis carrel. In the wake of the disturbing events, the Office of the President issued a strongly worded letter, students and administrators immediately met to discuss the incidents and a student town-hall meeting was scheduled for later that week. Members of the Middlebury Open Queer Alliance (MOQA) distributed posters across campus in the days prior to the meetings.

This time, aside from an expression of outrage from Dean of Students Gus Jordan, outcry over these latest incidents has been muted. But rather than level charges at the administration for not putting up a stiffer fight, we argue that Old Chapel has met its responsibilities swiftly and forcefully.

The rest falls to us. As future leaders and thinkers, we ought to to continue where the administration left off.

We cannot afford to overlook these offenses, no matter their scale. As MOQA Co-President Nick Ballen ’09 said in an interview with the Campus in April 2008, “This sort of incident reminds us to pay attention [...] because when we ignore the little things, something big like this happens.”

When it comes to vandalism and harassment, no offense should ever be considered too small. We need to remember the possibility that these sorts of incidents occur more frequently than we know. They just may not get reported. Hate speech violates College policy and Vermont state law.

We are not interested in pushing a political viewpoint. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of beliefs on gay rights, we can all agree that this was a violation of decency. It disturbs us to imagine not only that a member of this community would act in such a hateful manner, but would also seek to bring pain and distress to a fellow peer — an equal.

We hope that with the re-launch of the Alliance efforts on campus, there will be more open forums for students, faculty and staff to talk about an issue that generally goes undiscussed.

“Discomfort contributes to one’s education,” Liebowitz wrote to students last year. When discomfort crosses the line to harassment, however, no one’s education is advanced.


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