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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

News In Brief: Vandalism at The Knoll prompts investigation, anger

Unknown perpetrators committed vandalism at The Knoll over the weekend of March 29 and 30, damaging tools, materials and projects. Numerous items were burned in The Knoll’s fire pit, and live branches were broken off of nearby cherry and poplar trees. Other items burned included an Adirondack chair, gardening supplies, birch wood and bark. 

Middlebury Department of Public Safety is actively investigating the incident and is currently unable to share details on who is responsible, according to an email to The Campus from Demitria Kirby, associate vice president of safety at Middlebury.

Public Safety responded to the vandalism when they were informed about it by Knoll staff on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 2. The team then began their investigation by visiting the scene and taking photos. They have since been in further contact with Knoll staff to learn more details, according to Kirby.

Knoll staff members, including Associate Director of the Knoll Megan Brakeley ’06 and a number of student interns, published a blog post describing the damage inflicted on the garden. Brakeley declined The Campus’ request for comment on the vandalism, citing conflict transformation and restorative practices for her reasoning against a news story on the topic.

Both the Knoll blog post and Kirby noted that Public Safety will increase monitoring of the Knoll following this incident.

“We lament that the unthinking actions of an ignorant few impel us to employ surveillance of the site, but this cannot continue to happen,” the Knoll team wrote.

“[They] burned sheets of birch bark that we harvested with and have been charged with keeping safe for our partners of the School of Abenaki last June for covering the longhouse,” the Knoll staff wrote in the blog post. “There was specific signage, in Abenaki and English, instructing people not to disturb the birch bark. These materials are irreplaceable and this is a shame.”

Public Safety takes all instances of vandalism on campus seriously, according to Kirby. 

She added that Public Safety also collaborates with other departments on campus, if needed, to respond to vandalism. The department works with The Office of Community Standards to properly discipline students who cause damage on campus.

Middlebury has outlined a set of community standards that students are expected to uphold, including respect, responsibility, integrity and more. Students’ adherence to these standards is overseen by The Office of Community Standards, which is also responsible for imposing consequences for violations.

“If we are able to identify the responsible parties, we send our report to Community Standards (for students) who then determines next steps,” Kirby wrote.

The Knoll is used and appreciated by students, faculty and community members alike. In the blog post, the Knoll team reminded readers that there are rules regarding how the shared space is to be used. Use of the fire pit and pizza oven require written approval in advance, and alcohol and other substances are prohibited, according to the post.

The Knoll’s blog post emphasized the space’s role as a site for community gathering. 

“There is no fence around the Knoll and we will keep it that way,” they wrote. “This is not just another space to party and let destruction take over.”

The Knoll was founded by students in 2003 and celebrated its 20th anniversary this past fall with festivities and a new community-sourced book of Knoll memories. In the fall of 2022, Knoll student interns wrote an op-ed for The Campus describing how much the Knoll means to them, outlining why it is an important educational and community gathering space.

Kirby urged students to report any vandalism they observe on campus to Public Safety, even if they do not see the damage actively being done. She also encouraged anyone with information on the vandalism at the Knoll to share what they know with Public Safety.

“This is an unfortunate incident as the Knoll is meant to be a safe space where our community can gather and connect,” Kirby wrote. “If anyone has any information about what may have occurred, please call our office.”

The blog post describing the vandalism also concluded with a request for everyone to respect the Knoll as a shared space. 

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“It’s our joy and a source of pride to care for this space and the life and connection it stewards. Please let’s work together to respect this space and one another,” the Knoll team wrote.

Susanna Schatz

Susanna Schatz ‘24 (she/her) is the Senior News Editor. 

She previously served as Local Editor, Staff Writer, and Visuals Artist for The Campus. She is an English major and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies minor.   

Susanna is the social media and marketing intern for a small business started by Midd Alums, Treeline Terrains. In her free time you’ll find her taking in the Vermont outdoors hiking, swimming, skiing, reading in an Adirondack chair, or painting the scenery.