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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

A Personal Statement

Editor's Note: Nia Robinson '19 is president of the Middlebury College Student Government Association. 

In a conversation I had a few weeks ago, we talked about how grateful we were for a mild year, compared to the previous years. We made sure to knock on wood, so we didn’t jinx it. Perhaps the wood was fake or we didn’t knock loud enough. Maybe we were naïve for thinking knocking on wood would do anything in the first place.

So far, April has been one of the hardest months for our campus, for SGA, and for all of us personally. From the chemistry professor to the Legutko talk to campus life speeding up as it does every spring, our minds are spinning in millions of directions trying to process the environment around us. In classes, I hear people talk about whether or not they think Legutko should have spoken. In Proctor, I hear students planning protests and talking about how they are going to respond right before needing to run to class. Whether it is in the dorms or in Crossroads, the atmosphere on campus is heavy and exhausting.

I am sure you have all heard rumors about SGA and the plans to dissolve. I have spent the last week wrestling with where I stand on it and what responsibility I have to SGA, students, and the general Middlebury community and to myself. On one side, I think about how I talk to alums and hear about how they approached similar grievances marginalized students are currently facing. I share the frustration of the students around me who spend countless hours in Old Chapel feeling like their voices are not acknowledged. When I think about the Black Lives Matter flag that is still under my bed, when I console my peers who question why they’re doing all of this work for free, when there are students who are ambivalent and undisturbed in the face of their peers’ hardships—these are the moments where I too question the purpose of the work that we do.

On the other side, dissolving SGA would put more work on students who too are struggling with the same questions I asked above. How can I expect the “essential” operations of SGA — like the finance committee — to still function if I myself refuse to show up? Who is going to pick up the pieces if the same people part of SGA are taking them apart? As president, as a person who cares about this school, and as a member of this community, I have realized it is my job to weigh all aspects. When I talked to my cabinet to get their opinion, they all raised valuable points. Drew Platt '20.5, co-director of external affairs, said, “Governments that shut down are not the ones we want to emulate.” Later he asked, “Are we trying to make a statement or are we trying to make change?” When I heard these comments, I took a moment to consider the moment we’re in. Students are in a crucial moment where we can drastically help move this community in a positive direction. And in any moment like this one, there needs to be work done on all fronts.

Students didn’t elect me to tell them what they want to hear. They didn’t elect me to sit by and watch them make the same errors of those who came before us.

I believe in learning from history. I believe in the power of students. I believe in the student organizers and the students on SGA. I also believe in calculated risks and understanding a problem fully before making a decision. For the final weeks, I will continue to support those who come to me and offer advice to any students who will listen. I will continue to advocate for them whether in trustee or SLG meetings when I am the only student in the room. I will continue make strides to increase how many students are in the room. I will continue to work within (and sometimes outside) of my power to ensure students are involved in the decisions that affect the way they live, work, and exist on campus. My sole goal is, and has always been, to help leave this campus in a better state than I found it.