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Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024


Last Wednesday, President of the College Ronald D. Liebowitz delivered his annual State of the College address, taking the opportunity to outline the current financial status of the College. He did so to a crowd comprised almost entirely of faculty and staff, despite his invitation to the entire College community to attend — and the speech’s location in the McCullough Social Space.

In the past, we’ve editorialized on the lack of student presence at Liebowitz’s speeches, decrying what we perceived to be an unacceptable level of student apathy. Numerous times we have criticized the administration for lack of transparency or an inability to connect with the student body. But this week, a clear message didn’t pop out at us — scheduled for 12:15 p.m. on a Wednesday, it wasn’t immediately obvious that students should be blamed for not attending the speech, but it also felt wrong to criticize Liebowitz for delivering a speech geared toward faculty and staff at a time largely geared toward faculty and staff.

So it doesn’t seem right to call out student apathy or administrative disconnect for a lack of student presence at our president’s state of the College address, but the reality of the situation is still worth commenting on. Theoretically, though, we should be interested in what the leader of our institution has to say, even if it doesn’t seem pertinent to our day-to-day lives. On the contrary, the vast majority of the money the College spends comes directly from our comprehensive fees — why wouldn’t we want to know how that money is being spent? More to the point, we are all passengers on the ship that is Middlebury College — is it not in our collective best interest to know the course we’re charting, the status of the seas we’re sailing through, and the stability of the vessel carrying us?

But it’s easy to see apathy where there is actually excess activity — students lead incredibly busy lives on this campus, and a speech at 12:15 p.m., unless it’s declaring either the bankruptcy of the College or the reopening of Atwater Dining Hall, might not be as important as finishing a lab report or going to practice. Realistically, if the goal was to draw students to the speech, then holding it in the Social Space was a good idea, but having it at lunch time in the middle of the week was not.

Astute readers have probably gotten to this point still wondering what, exactly, our point is. Wondering that ourselves, we looked more closely at the content of Liebowitz’s speech and were struck by the tone. It reminded us that although we often label Middlebury as an “institution of higher learning,” it is, in fact, a business. Like any other money-making enterprise in this capitalist economy, Middlebury takes in raw resources and churns out products — perhaps the most important product of all: well-informed global citizens. And the optimistic tone of Liebowitz’s speech further reminds us that we are a pretty darn good business, capable of weathering a national recession with minimal sacrifice and no casualties.

As students, we are the consumers of Middlebury’s product — it is our money which greases the wheels of the business, and for our betterment that it exists. Like consumers of any product, we can choose to be informed on the ways our money is being spent, or we can choose not to. Either way, chances are high that we’ll graduate and benefit from our Middlebury education. For those interested to know the numbers behind that education, the information is readily available.