We were dismayed to read the article, “Former Student Was Falsely Accused as Charles Murray Protester,” posted on The Campus’ website last Friday. Seeing the false accusation and mistreatment of Addis Fouche-Channer ‘17 by our staff and administrative colleagues laid out in such chilling detail leads us to question the values of our community. We were not, however, shocked by the story. Many of us spent the spring semester advising and supporting Addis and other students similarly trying to navigate an always opaque, and often misleading and unfair, judicial system. Anyone who is shocked by a Black community member being treated as guilty-until-proven-innocent in 2017 has not been paying attention!
The publication brings to light some of the details of student mistreatment last spring in a way that allows us to openly confront the issues. Even though Addis’s story is the one that has been made public, her case is not a unique outlier, but part of a larger pattern of racial injustice that has material consequences beyond the demographic make-up of the student body and faculty. We want to commend Addis’s bravery in stepping up to tell her story; in our contemporary world of politically-legitimized white supremacy and weaponized social media, she is putting herself at risk in calling attention to her case. We are here to say publicly: Addis, we have your back!
This story becomes even more vital in light of recent announcements that our administration has committed to ramp up security for college events to ensure the safety of all when visitors come to campus. These policy discussions overlook that for many of our students, staff, and faculty of color, Middlebury does not adequately ensure their safety on a daily basis. While we certainly want to have policies and practices that ensure the safety of everyone within our community, including visitors, we must note that such security measures often have a heavier impact on people of color, and could exacerbate feelings of exclusion, alienation, and suspicion. As we invest in security and make our policies more pro-active, we must also address racial profiling on campus, ensuring that public safety, private security contractors, and administrators do not profile our students.
So where do we go from here? We call upon our colleagues in the administrative and staff offices involved in this fiasco to share publicly what they have learned from the mistreatment of Addis and last spring’s actions more broadly. We recognize the important boundaries of confidentiality, and urge our colleagues to avoid further trying our students in the press—they have already been subjected to those indignities enough. But as an institution predicated on learning as its core primary objective, we must be a learning institution that can admit mistakes and failure, and publicly share what we have learned from those mistakes. It is not just about taking responsibility in a broad and general sense, which President Patton has done repeatedly; it is about demonstrating the humble learning that comes from admitting specific mistakes, and highlighting how we can and will do better for our students going forward.
Information on Middlebury Faculty for an Inclusive Community can be found at go.middlebury.edu/inclusivecommunity.