Raymond Diaz ’23 won the Student Government Association (SGA) presidential election on Tuesday, April 19 with 435 votes — 56.1% of the 775 total ballots cast. His opponent, current Junior Senator Aubrianna Wilson ’23, received 43.9% of the vote.
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At the very end of last spring — when Riley Board ’22, Lucy Townend ’22 and I (The Campus’ executive team) started planning for this year’s Campus issues — we got really excited about an idea. The idea was creating a Campus radio show where we’d share a little about the stories from each week.
In January 2019, we published our first staff issue. It detailed the impact of workforce planning — a concerted administrative effort to reduce employee compensation costs by 10% — on the staff of the college. Three years (and one global pandemic) later, we again find ourselves in a critical time to better understand the experiences of Middlebury staff.
This is a developing story. It will be updated as The Campus learns new information or as the Covid-19 situation on campus changes.
This story is currently ongoing. It will be updated as The Campus learns new information or as the Covid-19 situation on campus changes.
Update — Thursday, Dec. 2
Update — Tuesday, Nov. 23
Dear Vice President for Student Affairs Smita Ruzicka, Vice President for Administration and Chief Risk Officer Mike Thomas and Public Safety Director Dimitria Kirby,
Things are finally starting to feel normal again here at Middlebury. Proc is bustling, classrooms are full and Atwater residents are throwing ragers again. And with nearly 99% of on-campus students fully vaccinated, the days of universal twice-weekly testing, outdoor masking and close contacts have been relegated to the past — at least for now. But for some, Middlebury’s high vaccination rate isn’t enough. For immunocompromised students, students with autoimmune disorders, for anyone who is at higher risk of contracting Covid-19, the rapid return to pre-pandemic times is not just a respite from strict policies. It’s also cause for anxiety. Look. We’re not saying we want to return to the way things were last year, no one does. What we’re hoping is that the college will meet us somewhere in the middle — to make it possible for immunocompromised students and other high risk individuals to make informed decisions about their health. And while we can’t speak for all members of the Middlebury community who are at higher risk of contracting Covid-19 or becoming severely ill, we wanted to share what’s been on our minds for the past few weeks. We know the vaccine is effective. Even though there have been breakthrough cases, these have nearly all led to mild illness. But we also know that for some people — including immunocompromised individuals — the vaccine is not as effective. And we know there are people with autoimmune disorders or who are otherwise at higher risk of contracting Covid-19 here at Middlebury. You’re hearing from two of them right now. So for Middlebury community members who are unsure how effective their two (or three) shots will be against the Delta variant, seeing packed dining halls and teeming classrooms and knowing that there is no campus-wide testing in place is a major cause for concern. Middlebury admin, we’ll level with you. We’re pretty frustrated with the way high risk populations appear to have been overlooked this semester. It feels like we’re fending for ourselves on a campus where most people think they’re invincible. Here’s what we propose. The school is currently testing in-season athletes and unvaccinated students. It’s also offering optional “asymptomatic testing” on Mondays for those who have a known or suspected exposure to someone with Covid-19 or who have engaged in activities that put them at higher risk for contracting the virus. But limited testing for small portions of Middlebury’s community isn’t enough to keep its most vulnerable members safe — and it’s unacceptable given what the college has said it’s capable of. (Not to mention, every other NESCAC is regularly testing students as of this writing.) Midd, you’ve said you have the capacity to set up a regular testing program and that current conditions have not made it necessary. But how will you even know if and when testing becomes necessary considering the absence of campus-wide screening? Testing should be proactive, not reactive. And how will your decision not to test all students impact the community members who stand to lose the most? If Middlebury still deems testing unnecessary, we ask that, at a minimum, the college supports students and is transparent about the presence of Covid-19 on campus. While many professors have been incredibly understanding about students needing to miss class, some even advocating that anyone feeling even a little sick should take the day off, this has not been universal. We ask that all professors discourage sick students from coming to class until they’ve received a negative test, and provide a Zoom link or other resources to help prevent students from coming into class to avoid missing something important. We also ask that the college support students who make the choice to quarantine after a known exposure — even though CDC guidance doesn’t require it for those who are vaccinated — by offering a dean's excuse to students who have to miss class. The campus Covid-19 reporting dashboard was updated twice-weekly last semester, but it is now updated only once a week. The dashboard doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the real case counts, even contradicting other messages sent out by the college. A Sept. 16 email from Dean of Students Derek Doucet said that the college had identified positives — in the plural — since students had arrived, but only one case was displayed on the dashboard at the time. On the same day, Vermont reported its highest number of positives in a single day since the start of the pandemic. What we’re asking is for the college to give us more information. Regularly update the Covid-19 case dashboard — even if there really are no new positives on a given day. Give us updates on all cases in the on-campus college community. Let us know if there are contacts in quarantine. We need this information because, even though our peers may not need to worry about getting severely ill if they contract Covid-19, not everyone can assume the same. We need this information so we can make our own decisions about what we need to do to stay safe — whether that’s double masking, avoiding crowded dining halls or seeking more regular testing off campus. As much time as we’ve put into thinking about and writing this op-ed, what we really hope is that it will be obsolete by the time it’s printed. We know we’re not the only ones feeling overlooked by current Covid-19 measures. Recently, we’ve seen posters around campus calling for similar measures. We all want to get back to normal. But normal shouldn’t come at the expense of the students who have the worst prognosis. Abigail Chang is a managing editor for The Campus and a member of the class of 2023. Anna Metzler is a member of the class of 2023.5.
Middlebury’s Mead Memorial Chapel, named for John Mead, a Vermont governor and member of the class of 1864, lost the name Mead this morning in acknowledgement of its namesake’s role in promoting eugenics in Vermont during the early 1900s. The piece of stone bearing the chapel’s name was removed as of this morning.In a message to the community, college President Laurie Patton and George Lee, chair of the Board of Trustees, announced that a working group and the trustees had engaged in a careful deliberative process and decided to remove the Mead name. “We want to stress upfront that this was a process involving deep reflection and discussion. No issue like this should be undertaken lightly or often,” they wrote. The chapel will now be referred to as “The Middlebury Chapel” or just “the chapel.” In 1914, Mead and his wife Mary Madelia Sherman donated $74,000 to the college to create a new chapel. In 1912, two years before his donation, Mead gave a farewell address to the Vermont legislature in which he advocated for the use of eugenic theory in creating legislation and policy. His comments in that speech about marriage restrictions, segregation and sterilization inspired the research behind the Eugenics Survey of Vermont and led to the legalization of voluntary eugenical sterilization two decades later. The renaming follows unanimous decisions in the Vermont House and Senate earlier this year to “sincerely apologize and express sorrow and regret” for the state’s role in the eugenics movement, including the forced sterilization of 250 Vermonters. A Middlebury working group convened in May after the Vermont Legislature’s apology to examine the college’s relationship to Vermont’s eugenics history and the role of Governor Mead. After reviewing archival research regarding Mead and the history of eugenics in Vermont, considering the history and use of the chapel today, and reflecting on actions taken by other organizations that acknowledged historical connections to eugenics, the group recommended that the Mead name be removed.“Following its review, citing his central role in advancing eugenics policies that resulted in harm to hundreds of Vermonters, the working group determined that ‘the name of former Governor Mead on an iconic building in the center of campus is not consistent with what Middlebury stands for in the 21st century,’” Lee and Patton wrote in their email this morning.Patton then sent the working group’s recommendation to the Board of Trustees’ Prudential Committee, which voted unanimously to remove the name.The email from Patton and Lee also clarified that the decision was not made in response to student protest, nor was it an effort to erase part of the college’s history. The college said they “will be candid” regarding the decision to remove the Mead name where there are currently references to the chapel and that they are considering “educational signage.”The chapel is an iconic feature of Middlebury’s landscape and branding. It marks entry into the Middlebury community as the site of convocation, appears on merchandise and can be seen far and wide due to its location at the highest point on campus. In addition, alumni of the college, along with faculty and staff and their children, can use Mead Chapel for weddings.Mead’s financial gift to the college was not conditional upon his name being put on the building, so the college is not obligated to return the gift to the Mead family. Changing the name is not a fundraising opportunity, and there are currently no plans to rename the chapel, according to the announcement. Other signage around campus and text on the website containing the Mead name had not been changed at the time of writing, but is expected to be altered soon.
It’s been 553 days since we last printed an issue of our newspaper. It’s been 555 days since we were told that we were being sent home from campus due to the pandemic; it’s been 555 days since we gathered in our basement office to work on publishing an issue that looked very different than it did mere hours earlier. It’s been 557 days since we sat in a circle outside of our office, munching on Green Peppers pizza, while we discussed an emerging pandemic that seemed miles away from our small Vermont campus.In the past 553 days, we’ve continued to write, even while scattered across the globe. We’ve advocated for a safer environment for students and fairer wages for staff. We’ve written about all of the ways that Covid-19 has touched student life, and community life, at and away from Middlebury.Despite navigating lives marked by isolation, uncertainty and sometimes grief, we’ve still managed to put out a paper each week. And now, we return to print. Among the writers of this piece, one of us has never edited a print copy of our paper. Our staff is full of new faces, the majority of whom entered our office this past week for the first time. And even for some of our more seasoned staff, this fall was the first time they stepped foot in our humble basement office.It’s been a week of introductions, reunifications, and a cautious sense of normalcy, even as many editors are unaware of what “normal” is. While our paper has persisted online, the return to print represents a new era of The Campus, but in a familiar form. This print paper may feel like just a collection of words and photos, but our return to print is about more than taking what we run online and putting it on paper. With a newspaper, we are able to hold the material, tangible product of our work; we can see it scattered across dining hall tables, on the newsstands outside of the student center. Most importantly, it can reach the hands of our readers, of our friends, colleagues, professors, and staff, regardless of their ability to access our content online. In print, we present a collection of stories and photos written by a collection of students, curated within twelve, thin pages that bear witness to the actions of those around us and provide a capsule of a point in time — of this particular point in time. And at a time when many of us are relearning what it means to be a Middlebury student, we’re relearning what it means to be a community newspaper at Middlebury.
Since the 1960s, Middlebury has conducted intermittent diversity climate assessments every six to seven years, according to Chief Diversity Officer Miguel Fernández. The most recent of these initiatives is the Action Plan for Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, a multi-year plan published in September by the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (OIDEI). OIDEI began writing the plan in fall of 2019 and circulated the plan to key stakeholders in the spring. Like many of its predecessors, publication of the 2020 Action Plan followed a discrete campus or national event: in this case, the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolisis police officer last summer, which set off a fresh wave of protests about racial justice and equity in communities around the country. The plan is ambitious in both objective and scope, aiming to “identify and implement strategies that will engage the entire campus community in the work of fostering greater access, equity, inclusion, and full participation for Middlebury students, staff, and faculty.” Though Fernández and Directory of Equity and Inclusion Renee Wells spearheaded the Action Plan, they consulted numerous constituencies, including students, faculty, staff, administration, trustees, committees and alumni. They also looked at nearly two dozen reports, assessments and data to identify the institutional barriers that are mentioned in the report. From the feedback they received, the original plan underwent several iterations of revision. “Diversity plans often present lofty goals but lack specificity and strategy and therefore lead to ‘diversity clutter’ with a host of disconnected initiatives,” reads the Action Plan. To avoid these usual pitfalls and increase accountability, the Plan is broken into five foci: Faculty and Staff; Students; Fostering and Restoring Community; Accessibility; and Transparency and Accountability. For each of the 61 initiatives described, the Action Plan details the responsible units, a proposed timeline and a measure of accountability which delegates the responsibilities of the initiative. Still, the Action Plan introduction specifies the document should be viewed as a “roadmap,” not a “mandate.” When asked to confirm if strategies in the Plan would definitely be accomplished, Fernández acknowledged that fiscal realities as well as student and faculty initiatives could slightly shift the Plan’s approach. Wells said that the timeline may accommodate strategies as they become financially feasible. “Our goal is that all of this gets accomplished and more,” Fernández said. This Middlebury Campus investigation reports on the progress of the initiatives in the Action Plan with a particular focus on those with a proposed timeline of the 2020-2021 academic year. This project is split into five sections — one for each the Action Plan — and is the product of dozens of interviews with staff, students, committees and administrators. “The United States of America has not solved racism or issues of equity and inclusion in 200- plus years. I do not expect Middlebury will resolve it in five years,” said Fernandez in an interview with The Campus. “So I'm sure there is going to be plenty of work to do in five years, [but] I hope we'll be in a much better place.” Introduction by Hannah Bensen '21.
This fourth section of the Plan includes eight initiatives, which are designed to address barriers to accessibility in the built environment, academic settings and technology or online systems. Though none of the strategies are slated for completion in 2021, work on many of them has already begun. And, as Chief Diversity Officer Miguel Fernández explained, some of the strategies will never truly reach completion since they introduce what he hopes will be ongoing principles and processes regarding accessibility. “The whole action plan is about removing barriers,” Fernández said. “A student shouldn’t have to go through a lot more steps and barriers to get the same education as someone else.” Physical accessibility The physical aspects of Middlebury — its sprawling 350-acre campus, rolling hills and historical buildings — can prove challenging for some students with physical disabilities to navigate. Several initiatives in the plan are aimed at identifying and addressing accessibility issues in the physical campus environment. The principles proposed in Strategy #7 — which introduce more inclusive construction and renovation protocol — have already been implemented to some degree in many of the college’s most recent construction projects, according to Fernández. In 2016, the college formed the Advisory Group on Disability, Access and Inclusion (AGDAI) — a committee of faculty, staff and students formed after conflict regarding the construction of the Ridgeline Suites, some of which are not accessible up to the third floor. AGDAI is one of the responsible units listed for a number of the Accessibility section initiatives, including Strategy #7. Fernández, who sits as co-chair of the body along with Professor of American Studies Susan Burch, said part of the group’s responsibility is to assess accessibility issues in the built environment. The group has advocated for college building projects to incorporate universal design, the practice of making a space accessible to all beyond Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. AGDAI called for universal design in the renovations of Warner Hall, which the Board of Trustees reapproved this January, and Munroe Hall, which underwent renovations last academic year. But, despite the push for universal design, not every entrance in Munroe Hall is accessible for all — the west entrance of the building has a step up to the door. AGDAI was not involved in the early part of the planning process for the Munroe renovation, Fernández explained. “We were able to make some tweaks but maybe didn’t get everything that we had hoped,” he said. Going forward, however, the college does plan to fully incorporate universal design. This fall, Middlebury is planning to break ground on a new dorm on the north end of Battell Beach and has hired a consultant who specializes in universal design to advise the process, according to Fernández. Dana Auditorium, which is scheduled to be renovated beginning in August, will also incorporate universal design, according to a February recap of the January Board of Trustees meeting. Work on the other three strategies that address issues of accessibility in the built environment — a publicly available campus map with detailed accessibility information, a timeline for tackling barriers and a platform for reporting barriers — has not begun. Regarding the timeline for addressing barriers, Fernández said that Facilities Services asked that they reconsider the strategy given the immense amount of time and resources it would require to produce. Instead Facilities proposed a project-based model. Mike Moser, director of Facilities Services and member of AGDAI, did not respond to interview requests for this article. Fernández said he expects the timeline for the campus map, currently 2021–22, will need to be pushed back. As for the system for reporting accessibility barriers, he said they are still ironing out the details for how reports would be addressed. Inclusive technology and web-based electronic systems Work has already begun on the third and fourth strategies, which address accessibility in academic technology and online systems. The pandemic sped up the college’s plans to make changes to academic and classroom technology, according to Fernández. Some software and technology for remote study such as Zoom has already been purchased and implemented to facilitate education during the pandemic. Fernández also mentioned the possibility of rewiring classrooms such that they include a microphone or speakers. Information Technology Services is currently developing a roadmap and public education materials to explain changes to Middlebury’s web-based electronic systems, which they expect will be completed by the fall. The college is currently engaged in a review of Information and Communication Technology through the Paciello Group, a web accessibility consulting group. “In the short term (this fiscal year) they will be helping us understand our current position, conducting a gap analysis, and drafting a roadmap which will include policy recommendations,” Fernández said. “Part of this project will also be the creation of a public information hub for technology accessibility, training, and a communication plan.” Exam scheduling and extra time Work on the second initiative in the accessibility section, which is designed to address difficulties in scheduling exams with extra time or make-up exams, is scheduled to occur from 2021–22. Students have noted that professors sometimes have the ability to deny certain accommodations. In an earlier article, Isaac Byrne ’21, who runs the Divergent Learners Collective (DLC), said that a member of the DLC was denied accommodations due to old paperwork. For some kinds of accommodations, it is up to professors to decide whether or not to comply with them. Isabel Linhares ’22, a Social Entrepreneurship Fellow working on a project about accessibility in STEM education, said that the Disability Resource Center makes some of the accommodations included in students’ Letters of Accommodation optional, leaving them up to each professor’s discretion. “I've had conversations with the Disability Resource Center about why they're making certain aspects in accessibility optional because then that treats it as a favor and not a human right,” Linhares said. Linhares noted that ADA requires that reasonable accommodations be provided to disabled students, leaving the definition of “reasonable” up to individual institutions and their members. The DRC did not respond to interview questions by publication time. Resources and workshops According to the plan, Director of Education for Equity and Inclusion Renee Wells will design and offer workshops around how to organize accessible events beginning next year. However, these workshops have already begun, according to Fernández, and other offices such as the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research (CTLR) and Digital Learning & Inquiry (DLINQ) have also started work in this area. Wells runs the Inclusive Practitioners Program, which provides workshops for faculty and staff. “About 75% of what I do is people asking me specifically to do things with and for them,” she said. “And then the other 25% is the Inclusive Practitioners Program, which I set up and offer workshops for faculty and staff all the time.” In April and May, the program offered workshops that addressed best practices for administering exams and the use of a variety of tools to assess student learning outcomes. Maintaining momentum Much of what the college’s plan addresses are concrete solutions to specific issues that students and employees face during their time at Middlebury. But what some are looking for is a broader cultural shift in the way disability is perceived and treated. Linhares said she feels that some of the people with the ability to implement change still view disability through the lens of the medical model rather than the social model — which proposes that disability occurs due to the interaction between individuals and their environment. Linhares noted that tangible changes are still immediately necessary, but worries that there is not enough emphasis on changing the way people perceive disability, and that momentum will fizzle out without a deeper understanding of and sense of responsibility for solving systemic and structural accessibility issues. “At some point you’re going to have to start thinking not even, ‘outside the box,’ but, ‘get rid of the box altogether,’” Linhares said. “You’re going to have to dig up the foundations and build something entirely new because the way that higher education as a whole was designed — it was not designed with disabled students in mind.”
At the height of midterm season, 50 people joined a Zoom webinar titled “Can We Reasonably Believe in God?” featuring Christian apologetic and Boston College professor Peter Kreeft. The event became a source of controversy after students — both inside and outside of Newman Catholic Club, which organized the event with co-sponsorships from the Department of Religion, Middlebury College Activities Board and Middlebury InterVarsity Christian Fellowship* — discovered Kreeft’s views about the transgender community. In an interview with The Catholic Sun — which he gave before speaking about “transgenderism” at a fundraiser for the John Paul II Resource Center for Theology of the Body and Culture — Kreeft compared a desire for gender reassignment surgery to a desire to torture or murder. “The mind is not mutilated by educating it to accept its body,” he said in the interview. “The attitude toward one’s own body that is behind the demand for gender reassignment surgery is exactly the same as the attitude toward someone else’s body that is behind torture or murder.” Tensions on campus also mounted when Newman Club president Pedro Guizar ’22 referred to inactive members as having “gone rogue” or “anti-Kreeft” in an email response that was accidentally sent to the entirety of the club’s membership. In the fallout, several students criticized Guizar’s email and asked to be removed from the mailing list. Organizing the talk Conversations about inviting Kreeft began in February, according to Guizar, who said he suggested the possibility to the other club officers and Religious Life Cluster Liaison Ellen McKay. “Dr. Kreeft was an obvious choice as he is a world-renowned Catholic philosopher who teaches at Boston College [and] has written over 80 books...” Guizar said in an email to The Campus. “Peter Kreeft is also known to be a Catholic who is in agreement with the teachings of the Catholic Church.” When asked to clarify whether he knew about Kreeft’s stance regarding the LGBTQ community prior to inviting him, Guizar declined to provide more information and referred The Campus back to his original statement. In order to invite and secure funding for speakers, organizations must seek the permission of their faculty or staff advisor. Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life and Presbyterian minister Mark Orten said he was the club’s advisor at the time, based on a list created by McKay. Orten said that transitions taking place during the 2019–20 academic year left a gap, and he became the advisor pro tempore until the group found a better fit. “We always prefer that a group has someone from within its tradition, speaking religiously, to be the advisor, so it was never preferable for me to be the advisor,” Orten said. Newman was working with McKay to plan the event, according to both Guizar and Orten, up until the club needed to seek their advisor’s signature. Maddie Tango ’21.5, who served as president last year and treasurer this fall, said that the club often went to McKay for scheduling and administrative requests. Orten said he decided to meet with Newman leadership to have a conversation about his concerns after learning Kreeft’s views about the LGBTQ community. At this point, according to Orten, he had not made a decision about whether or not to sign the speaker contract. In the meeting, he requested that Newman leadership reconsider their invitation. In an interview with The Campus, he clarified that this was not a request to “cancel” the speaker — referring to the idea that not inviting Kreeft might be perceived as a manifestation of “cancel culture.” “I was very explicit with them that I was very seriously and intentionally asking them to consider the full weight of the implications of their invitation,” Orten said. Following the conversation and after spending 24 hours thinking about the decision, Orten said he decided not to sign the contract. “The decision that I made ultimately was out of conscientiousness about the multiple entities on campus for whom I have care and our office has care, and I came down on the side of not doing harm,” he said. Guizar requested an advisor change to Professor of Mathematics John Schmitt in an April 7 and 8 email exchange with Director of Student Activities Amanda Reinhardt. McKay — not Orten — was also copied in Reihardt’s reply. “He is a practicing Catholic, so we thought that the switch was a logical move for the Catholic club,” Guizar said. Newman successfully changed their advisor to Schmitt, who Guizar said signed off on inviting Kreeft. Schmitt declined an interview and did not respond to further inquiries. To host speakers, clubs also must gain approval from the Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB) Speakers Committee by submitting a Presence form with information about the speaker, venue, budget and funding. The Speakers Committee did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Names to call on The day before the April 14 talk, Guizar replied to an email from professor of Political Science and Q&A moderator Gary Winslett with the subject line “Names to call on” in which Winslett had requested a list of Newman club members. Guizar’s response, which went to the entire club email list, included a list of nine “active members” and said that the inactive members had “gone rogue and are anti-Kreeft.” Guizar apologized after two students condemned his email in replies to the chain. He also clarified that his email to Winslett was not on behalf of the Newman Club board and was instead a personal mistake. But several other members of the Newman email list, including some listed in the group of active members Guizar had sent to Winslett, announced their departure from the club following the apology. Tango was the first to reply to the mistaken email and criticized Guizar’s response and Kreeft’s views, linking Kreeft’s Catholic Sun interview. Others replied to the thread to indicate that they were not in favor of inviting Kreeft. Zoe Sipe ’23.5, who was named among Guizar’s list of active members, clarified that she was not in support of the event and asked to be removed from the Newman email list. “I guess I was included on that list because I was attending Bible study and the student Masses,” Sipe said. “It was saying that the active members — it implied that we’re pro-Kreeft, which was really not OK.” According to Guizar, he and Winslett made an effort to call on every attendee who raised their hand during the Q&A session. The talk Guizar introduced Kreeft and — in a conversation before the start of the event — had told Kreeft that he had heard from Middlebury professors excited that Kreeft would speak at the college. Since the event was held as a Zoom webinar, attendees were only able to see Kreeft and could not see who else was watching. The chat function, which allows attendees to send messages to panelists and other viewers, was disabled throughout the event. The Q&A function — available for webinar-style Zoom meetings — remained open. In the talk, Kreeft drew on the 20 philosophical arguments for the existence of God that he and a co-author presented in one chapter of his book, “Handbook of Christian Apologetics.” Every once in a while, he strayed from analysis of Thomas Aquinas’ Five Ways or Blaise Pascal’s Wager to relay a personal — and occasionally playful — anecdote in support of his arguments. “I know three ex-atheists converted by the music of Bach,” Kreeft said. “So, I formulate this argument very succinctly as ‘There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Therefore, there must be a God.’” Eighteen minutes into the talk, an attendee who had changed their screen name to “Trans Rights” inquired about Kreeft’s views on women in the priesthood in the Q&A box. Winslett sent a reply asking the attendee to hold their question until the end and saying he would be happy to call on them then. “I’m finished. Your turn,” Kreeft said at the end of his prepared remarks. The Q&A During the Q&A, nearly all questions were related to arguments for the existence of God. No one asked about Kreeft’s stance regarding women in the priesthood. Cameron Culwell ’23.5 asked the last question of the event. “I am a believer in God who also firmly believes in the rights of transgender people to self-determination,” Culwell said. “I’m wondering if you think that’s a contradiction to my views and whether I can still be a Christian.” Kreeft argued that science disproved the idea that gender is socially constructed, citing the human genetic structure as evidence for his claim. Later in the several-minutes-long exchange, Culwell began to tell Kreeft that his presence had made some students on campus feel unsafe. Kreeft interrupted Culwell, asking how a “controversial issue” made Culwell feel unsafe. “Because identity is different from an issue,” Culwell said. “It’s not something we can reasonably always have a divide on. This is who people are. It’s fundamental, and the problem with it isn’t that God is being used to justify these things — which sometimes is the case — the problem is rather that people associate certain religious beliefs with an epidemic of violence and persecution that takes countless trans lives every year.” In response, Kreeft asked Culwell to cite the number of murders occurring each year. And when Culwell cited a number, Kreeft questioned why the media did not report on it. “The Boston Globe is one of the most left-wing newspapers in the world, and I’ve never seen an article about the murder of a transgender person,” Kreeft said. In an interview with The Campus, Culwell said they asked the question not because they hoped to change Kreeft’s mind, but because they hoped to reach other students in the audience. “I wanted to give people an alternative to the speaker in my challenge,” Culwell said. “I guess my goal was to be sort of respectful enough in tone that I could kind of breakthrough to them a little bit.” Father Luke Austin, pastor of St. Mary’s, and Nick Maille, who is employed by the church and responsible for faith formation and campus ministry, commended Culwell for the exchange with Kreeft. “As we are created in the image of the triune of God, we are called to dialogue, not to cancel,” they wrote. Guizar said that he had wanted to prioritize questions from Newman members since the club had organized the event, but noted that he and Winslett still called on all those who raised their hands. “As this was an event organized by the Newman Catholic Club, we wanted to make sure that active Newman members were able to ask their questions germane to the topic at hand,” he said in an email to The Campus. Guizar said that the club was glad to have called on every student who raised their hand, especially those with strong disagreements with Kreeft. “This was certainly a highlight of the event,” he said. Club leadership Newman has faced turnover among members of its leadership this year. Francis Shiner ’23, who was slated to serve as president of the club for the 2020-21 academic year, stepped down from the position at the beginning of the fall. Tango, the fall semester treasurer, said she had begun to notice changes in Newman’s culture and membership during her time as president the year before. “I noticed the club starting to get a bit more conservative and just like not very inclusive, and it was starting to be dominated by white male athletes,” she said. Tango said she had hoped to take the club in a different direction in the 2020–21 academic year, but when this did not happen, she served out the semester as treasurer and left Newman at the end of the fall. Instead of remaining in Newman, Tango is working with Sipe and Culwell to restart and re-envision Gather. The club — a self-described “progressive community for Christians and friends” — had paused operations for the spring. But following the invitation of Kreeft, Culwell and Sipe saw a need for a progressive Christian space. “Many progressives and leftists see their views as incompatible with religion, and some religious people believe that, whatever their own personal beliefs may be, the conservative stances of their religious authorities are accurate and correct,” Culwell said. “But there’s an intersection between progressivism and religion, and I think more and more people, particularly Christians, are discovering that the Bible is a radical text that is deeply at odds with the modern construction of some churches and worldviews.” Tango said they plan to start holding meetings in the fall. * Editor’s Note: Following the publication of this article, a user emailing from the Middlebury InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) account denied that the club was an “official sponsor” of the event. However, Newman president Pedro Guizar ’22 told The Campus that IVCF did serve as a co-sponsor for the event in communication both before and after the article was published. Guizar said that IVCF was not listed on event posters because they had already been sent to print before the club became a co-sponsor. The sponsors listed on the event posters are Newman Catholic Club, the Department of Religion and MCAB. For clarity, this article has been updated to reflect the complete list of sponsors according to the posters and Guizar’s statement. Given that IVCF’s specific role is disputed, the caption has also been updated.
Middlebury is holding a vaccination clinic for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) who live in Addison County — as well as members of their households — at the Athletics Complex this Wednesday in partnership with the Rutland Area NAACP and the Vermont Department of Health. The clinic will offer 102 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from 4–6 p.m. tomorrow. The college plans to host a clinic for administering second doses of the vaccine on May 19. “We are grateful to be able to help support the healthcare of BIPOC members of our community, including our own faculty, staff, and students," President Laurie Patton told the Middlebury Newsroom. "It's important for the college to contribute to the vaccination effort in Addison County, which has provided us with so much support during the pandemic. We're glad to be able to offer our facilities for the event, and to contribute to health equity in our own communities.” The clinic joins a state-wide effort to close the vaccination gap between white and BIPOC Vermonters. As of early April, just over 20% of BIPOC residents were partially or fully vaccinated, compared to around 33% of non-Hispanic white Vermonters, according to a press release from Governor Phil Scott. This gap has since narrowed to just over seven percentage points. BIPOC residents have also been overrepresented in the state’s Covid-19 case counts. BIPOC Vermonters made up 6% of the state’s population but 18% of its Covid-19 cases as of December 2020. Of the 2,142 BIPOC residents of Addison County, 55.2% have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the Vermont Department of Health Vaccine Dashboard. This figure is seven percentage points below the equivalent number for non-Hispanic white residents. BIPOC residents were prioritized at different stages in Vermont’s vaccine rollout. The state opened appointments to all BIPOC residents age 16 or older on April 1. Before that date, BIPOC residents who were eligible earlier in the rollout due to age, occupation or health reasons could also schedule appointments for members of their household. Currently, 59.3% of all eligible Vermonters have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and 41% are fully vaccinated. Eligible residents can make appointments through the Department of Health website or by calling the department at 855-722-7878.
Seniors may invite up to two guests to commencement and move-out has been shifted from May 29 — the Saturday of commencement — to noon on May 30, according to an email from President Laurie Patton and Provost Jeff Cason. Commencement will be split up across five different locations on campus so that the event abides by Vermont’s gathering regulations. The email also shared seniors may move final exams that fall on Friday, May 28 to an earlier date. In addition, members of the class of 2021.5 enrolled as in-person learners may remain on campus and attend the ceremony after receiving approval from the Dean of Students Office. “We have continued to monitor Vermont’s evolving COVID-19 guidelines—and have conferred with state health officials about how they affect colleges—while watching closely conditions on campus, Addison County, and the nation,” the email said. “Our focus has been and remains providing the best possible in-person experience for our senior class while protecting the health and safety of our entire community.” The changes follow pushback from students including a petition that called for a later move-out date, the inclusion of the class of 2021.5, and clearer communication regarding commencement, among other demands. The petition has 526 signatories to date — including current students, family members and alumni. Tia Pogue ’21.5, Kayla Lichtman ’21, Grace Metzler ’21.5 and Hannah Bensen ’21 created the petition, co-authored an op-ed and solicited more than six pages of student comments about the previous commencement plans. The changes also align with commencement plans announced by peer institutions. Nine out of the 11 NESCAC schools have shared that graduates may invite two guests to commencement. Tufts is the only NESCAC that currently plans to hold a fully virtual commencement, and Hamilton is not allowing guests. The past few weeks have also brought a drop in new Covid-19 cases in the state and the news that vaccine appointments for out-of-state college students will open on April 29. Though they remain significantly higher than they were in April 2020, Vermont’s new reported cases have fallen steadily from the record-high levels seen at the beginning of the month. Addison County is faring better than many other parts of the state, reporting 66 new cases in the past 14 days compared to case counts of more than 100 in other counties. Editor’s Note: Hannah Bensen is an editor at large and senior data editor.
Students struggle to reschedule appointments following halt in Johnson & Johnson vaccine administration
Many students have found their vaccination appointments canceled after Vermont paused the administering of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines through April 23. The decision follows a CDC and FDA recommendation to halt use of the vaccine until a rare blood clotting condition — found in six out of 6.8 million vaccine recipients — is investigated. Although Gov. Phil Scott has declared that students are not currently eligible unless they are permanent residents of Vermont or plan to remain in the state this summer, many who have accessed appointments to receive the J&J vaccine have struggled to reschedule them. Scott tweeted on Tuesday that Vermonters who had made J&J vaccine appointments for April 13 would be contacted about rescheduling. Those affected were instructed to contact the Vermont Department of Health vaccine call center to get an appointment before the end of the month, according to a tweet from the department. Kasey Mazzone ’23 received an email from the Department of Health on April 13 stating that her J&J appointment at Middlebury American Legion — which had originally been scheduled for that afternoon — was canceled. “Your Appointment below has been cancelled. If this was done in error, please visit our website to reschedule,” the email said. Charlie Caldwell ’22 also had an appointment for the J&J vaccine on April 13 at American Legion that was canceled. He received two emails from the Department of Health at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. One mistakenly notified him that a testing appointment had been canceled due to “unforeseen circumstances,” while the other was identical to the email that Mazzone received. Mazzone later received a call from the department and eventually made an appointment in Middlebury for April 26, and Caldwell scheduled an appointment online for the Moderna vaccine on April 29 in Bennington. But some students were not able to get an April appointment — despite the Department of Health’s efforts. Aditya Jain ’22, whose appointment for the J&J vaccine at the Hannaford Pharmacy was also cancelled on April 13, was not able to reschedule his appointment through the department until May 14. “What are the odds, really?” Jain said. “I just kind of laughed it off.” As an international student, Jain may need to find accommodation in Vermont past the end of finals week or travel back to Vermont in order to receive his second dose. Vermont’s decision to pause J&J appointments through April 23 has led other students to seek appointments well outside of Addison County, as limited availability and weeks-long wait times may inhibit some from receiving both shots of a two-dose vaccine before the end of the semester. Some students have been able to find earlier appointments less than an hour’s drive across the Vermont-New York border. Though most travel is currently restricted to Addison County, students can seek approval from the college to cross state lines for vaccine appointments if the trip can be completed in a single day. Some students scheduled out-of-state appointments within a day of their original appointment and decided not to ask permission to travel. Other students have struggled to find any vaccination appointment after a cancellation. Ananya Manjunath ’23 — whose appointment for the J&J vaccine was canceled on April 13 — also found that nothing was available until the middle of May and most were located more than an hour away from campus. Without a car on campus, Manjunath was worried she could not make it there and has yet to reschedule her appointment. “I was really hoping that maybe [the health department] would do it for me, since I had already scheduled one and they canceled it due to reasons outside of my control,” Manjunath said. In an email to students sent on April 15, Dean of Students Derek Doucet announced that a plan was in the works to help transport students to vaccine appointments. “Thus far, appointments have been most readily available in Rutland, and our transportation plan will, at least initially, focus there,” Doucet wrote. In that same email, Doucet announced that students living or working on campus this summer will be required to be vaccinated. Students staying in Vermont over the summer become eligible on April 19, and the email encouraged students to sign up “immediately” once registration opens. The email stated that all out-of-state students will be eligible beginning on April 30.
Middlebury’s acceptance rate dipped almost 10 percentage points to 15.7% from last year’s irregular 24%, marking its lowest point in public record; the acceptance rate for the regular decision round was 13.3%. Nearly 1,900 students received offers of admission out of a record-breaking pool of 11,908 — a 30% jump in applications compared to the year before. Middlebury was not alone in seeing a larger-than-normal applicant pool this year. Peer institutions also saw a significant hike: Amherst saw a 32% increase and Colby broke its own record from last year with a 13% increase. Applications to Colgate more than doubled. Of those admitted, 47% are students of color — a nine percentage-point increase from the previous year. Hailing from 91 countries, 13% of accepted applicants are international students. More than a third of those accepted are first generation students. This is the first class admitted while the college pilots a three-year test-optional policy; nearly half of all applicants did not submit ACT or SAT scores with their application. The college anticipates that roughly 720 students will matriculate next year — 620 in the fall and 100 in February.
Update — Thursday, April 1 The college released vaccination guidance for students in an all-school email sent today: Students with appointments or a first dose should keep their appointment, and all individuals meeting eligibility requirements should book an appointment as soon as possible Black, Indigenous and people of color, as well as those who live with them, are eligible to receive a vaccine. Students should contact Miguel Fernández or Naomi Neff for a special code, employees should contact their healthcare provider. Vermont residents, students living off campus and all students planning to stay in Vermont over the summer should register now, and sign up when they meet eligibility requirements. All students involved with summer programs, language schools, research, or summer employment at Middlebury can sign up using their Vermont address when they are eligible. Out-of-state students within a safe same-day driving distance must receive approval from the Dean of Students office to travel. Those beyond a safe driving distance should sign up for vaccinations where they plan to spend the summer. Update — Wednesday, March 31 The college has advised students not to cancel existing appointments, shared that they have a plan for facilitating vaccinations on campus should doses become available and noted that students can seek approval to travel to their home state for vaccinations if it is within driving distance. Gov. Phil Scott doubled down on his rule that out-of-state students (excluding those planning to stay in Vermont during the summer) are ineligible to receive Vermont Covid-19 vaccines in a statement sent to The Campus today. He said the state expects that out-of-state students who do not meet eligibility requirements to be eligible on April 30. —— Out-of-state students who are attending college in Vermont are ineligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, Gov. Phil Scott said during a press conference today. Students also cannot use their college addresses to claim Vermont residency, according to Scott’s response to a Vermont Cynic reporter’s question in the same conference. Scott said that students who are both Vermont residents and college students in the state may be vaccinated, but those who maintain their out-of-state residency cannot be at this time. “Depending on what we get for a supply when we get to the end, we may be able to fulfil that and offer it to those from out of state,” Gov. Scott said. “But at this point in time, we want to make sure that we take care of Vermonters first — as other states have done as well — and then we’ll move on to the next phase if possible. But that will be after we get to 16 and over Vermont students and the Vermont population.” This announcement comes as a surprise to many students, as college students are counted in the Vermont census and are able to vote in local elections. And many out-of-state students have already received at least one shot in Vermont, or have successfully registered for vaccine appointments. These guidelines also contradict the information Middlebury shared with students last week, which stated that students would be able to use their college address to register for vaccine appointments. Vermont Commissioner of Health Mark Levine cited the issue of students needing to be in Vermont for both doses — and the fact that April 19 is only the date that eligibility begins for ages 16 and up and not the date that vaccination will occur — as additional reasons for not extending vaccine eligibility. He added that he has been in conversation with colleges to vaccinate students on campus once it is possible. In their March 25 update, college administrators shared that they hoped to offer vaccinations to students and employees through the school but were still in conversation with the state government. According to the Vermont Health Department website, people who live in another state can receive the vaccine if they are currently eligible through their occupation or setting, or if they “moved to Vermont within the last 6 months with the intention of becoming a resident” and are in a qualifying age group.
The college announced its current intentions for next semester — including majority in-person classes — and expressed its hopes to return to pre-pandemic activities and operations in an email update from President Laurie Patton, Dean of Students Derek Doucet and Chief Health Officer Mark Peluso. “We do not have all of the details set, but we are encouraged by the news about vaccine availability in Vermont and the United States and wanted to share this information with you so that you may meaningfully begin your own planning,” they said in the email. Even so, Middlebury will not require all students to return to in-person learning next September. The administrators said the college is prepared to provide remote options for students who may be unable to study on campus in fall 2021. The emails also noted that the college expects all faculty, staff and students will be vaccinated by the start of next fall, barring those with a religious or medical exemption. Before the start of the spring semester, students signed the health pledge — a requirement for all regardless of modality or enrollment status — committing to getting a Covid-19 vaccine “once it becomes available and when directed by the College, unless [they] have a documented medical or religious exemption.” Middlebury hopes to offer vaccinations to students and employees this spring, and administrators are in communication with the state, according to the email. The college has so far not shared a vaccination plan. This follows Governor Phil Scott’s announcement on Friday that all Vermonters will be eligible for the vaccine by the end of April. Students will become eligible on April 19, according to the press release. The college reiterated this date and linked information about vaccine registration in the update. Some students have already received the vaccine due to jobs as essential workers or high risk conditions. Members of the Middlebury Ski Patrol — the first responders who monitor the slopes at the Snow Bowl — were vaccinated this winter. The college is not currently tracking which students are partially or fully vaccinated. The administrators reminded students to remain vigilant and closed the email with a note of appreciation for the efforts of the Middlebury community throughout the pandemic. “We are grateful that we have been able to bring our students back to campus. There is energy and excitement when our students are with us,” they wrote. “For that very reason we look forward to expanding activities and in-person experiences before too long.”