At Middlebury College, students have a responsibility to hold the powers that be accountable. The high turnover of the college community makes this task incredibly difficult: often, the institution is "let off the hook" when people graduate because new students are unaware of how the college has diverged from its tenets of social justice and equity in the past. We noticed this trend occurring with the name of our beloved arts building and felt obligated to act.
In 2007, the CFA was dubbed the "Kevin P. Mahaney Center for the Arts" and was known as the CFA (Center for the Arts) for 12 years thereafter. In spring 2019, the administration put up posters, made stickers and asked faculty to enforce a name change from CFA to MAC (Mahaney Arts Center). The initiative was met with resistance by students who thought it was goofy and petty, and further was protested by students who discovered allegations relating to sexual violence. We could dig and debate the allegations, but either way, it felt like the college was trying to get ahead of and suppress a reaction from the students. That in itself is reason enough to call it the CFA. We don't want to be complacent in the institution being influenced by donors and money rather than the students it serves. As such, a large portion of students who were on campus at the time have continued to call the building the CFA. However, this tradition has slowed dramatically with each graduating class. We decided we wanted people to know and to try to keep the CFA name alive.
This is about more than Mahaney or the CFA. Institutional memory among students is vital for keeping Middlebury accountable. Everyone who was around for Charles Murray Round One has left, everyone who fought so hard for the Divest movement and remembers how hesitant the school was to the idea of divesting from fossil fuels has graduated, and pretty soon all of us who remember Legutko and Charles Murray Round Two will move on as well. The “MAC Is Now the CFA” campaign was a convenient way to spread the word about this story in particular. Hopefully, though, this op-ed will serve as a reminder to students and administration alike that, though the pandemic intensified the effects of student turnover, we as a student body are back and paying attention. We haven't forgotten the lessons or actions of the past.
Though not comprehensive, students should check out go/disorient as a good place to start learning about some Middlebury history some would rather have us not talk about.