With the graduation of a larger-than-usual Feb class and an increase in students studying abroad, the on-campus student population is expected to decrease for the spring semester — but will still be more than 150 students larger than an average year.
Use the fields below to perform an advanced search of The Middlebury Campus's archives. This will return articles, images, and multimedia relevant to your query.
11 items found for your search. If no results were found please broaden your search.
According to an article published in the previous issue of The Campus, during J-Term registration, about 963 upperclassmen not involved in independent work attempted to register for 875 available seats in J-Term classes. While these numbers are striking, they don’t convey the full impact of what it was like to be one of those upperclassmen. It was chaotic, stressful and disappointing.
Two students tested positive for Covid-19 upon arrival to Middlebury and one student tested positive post-arrival, according to Julia Ferrante, associate vice president for public affairs, putting into action the college’s policies for confirmed cases on campus and outbreak prevention. Fourteen additional students tested positive as part of Middlebury’s pre-arrival testing program and had to delay their arrival to campus. These cases were announced to students via email last Friday. The figures provided in the email — included under the heading “Face Covering Reminder” as an example of the necessity of mask-wearing — were 16 pre-arrival cases (combining the two who tested positive upon arrival and the 14 who tested positive before coming to campus) and the one student post-arrival case. “We do not define these three cases as an ‘outbreak,’” Ferrante said in an email to The Campus. According to Ferrante, the college’s contact tracing efforts in response to the most recent case are ongoing. “As soon as we identify a positive student case, we instruct them to isolate away from others and they are moved to isolation housing or to a location off campus where they can safely recover,” Ferrante said. Ferrante said that the school then conducts contact tracing to identify any students who may have been infected with the virus. Fully vaccinated close contacts are required to wear masks and be re-test in three to five days, but do not have to quarantine. Unvaccinated contacts must quarantine until they receive a negative Day Seven test result and have no symptoms, unless given other directions by the Vermont Department of Health and CDC guidance. Other NESCAC institutions have also managed positive cases — and significant outbreaks— at their campuses since the return of students this fall. Most have responded to growing case counts by increasing the frequency of their already regular and widespread testing. Some schools also increased their campus’ level of alert, placing restrictions on dining and gathering limits, and instating other measures to increase physical distancing. At Connecticut College in New London, Conn., 169 students tested positive for Covid-19 in a single week, prompting a campus lockdown on Sept. 7, according to the school’s Covid-19 dashboard. On Sept. 13, after a week of the school’s highest alert level, some restrictions were relaxed, allowing students to return to in-person classes and athletic practices, while dining remained take-out only, and gathering limits stayed low. Connecticut College students are tested twice per week, and the college’s administration said it believes the outbreak was related to a large number of gatherings indoors in crowded spaces — both on campus in dorms and off campus in bars and apartments — causing a “chain reaction” of spread among the student body. There are currently 20 cases on campus. On Sept. 3, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME announced it would increase student testing from once a month to twice per week after a substantial increase in identified cases — at that time there were 30 students in isolation. Bowdoin also increased its alert level, restricting indoor dining capacity and gathering sizes. Bowdoin has not identified a positive student case since Sept. 14. After identifying eight positive cases on campus the week of Aug. 31, Bates College in Lewiston, ME announced that students would be tested twice per week, as a measure to prevent a large-scale outbreak, on top of other health and safety guidelines. “This ongoing testing is critical to understand the transmission of Covid-19 on campus, particularly among individuals who are asymptomatic, and will provide the data we need to determine whether additional public health measures are necessary to protect the health of the community,” Joshua McIntosh, vice president for campus life at Bates, told students. McIntosh also said the school is prepared to further increase testing — as well as restrict building access, off campus travel and gathering sizes — if case counts increase substantially. Tufts University also increased their regular student testing from weekly to twice weekly on Sept. 14 after a rise in cases. The Medford, Mass. school identified 85 cases on campus in the last seven days. Middlebury is the only NESCAC school not testing students across the student population at least once per week, with most schools testing all students once or twice per week. “We are ready to ramp up testing for all students if needed and would do so if prevalence indicates it is needed,” Ferrante said. Ferrante did not say what threshold would trigger widespread testing. The Fall 2021 Campus Guide states that “Decisions about testing — including how often and how many students or employees are tested throughout the semester — will be informed by the health conditions of Addison County and Vermont, campus health conditions, and applicable guidance or requirements.” Vermont registered its highest single-day increase in positive Covid-19 cases of the entire pandemic last week. “We know that the best course of action is for all students, faculty, and staff to follow the protocols in place and do everything we can to prevent an outbreak,” Ferrante said. “That is one of the reasons we decided to require pre-arrival testing”— a measure not undertaken by most NESCACS — “and masks indoors, and we will consider additional measures as conditions evolve.” A Sept. 16 email from Dean of Students Derek Doucet noted that the college’s pre-arrival testing had identified 16 positive Covid-19 cases. Though Ferrante did not outline Middlebury’s specific plan for managing an outbreak, she described the options available to Middlebury if case counts increase. “If we were to identify an increase in cases on campus, we have several options: limiting travel to Vermont, or to Addison County or implementing a campus quarantine for a period of time,” Ferrante said. “Given that 99 percent of our students will be vaccinated, we also offer the option for students to recover at an off-campus location if they are medically cleared to do so.” The Campus spoke with Jessie* ’24, who tested positive for Covid-19 and is currently in isolation housing. Jessie said they had begun to feel unwell early last week but did not believe they had Covid-19. Jessie was tested as a part of the international student arrival-testing process. According to Middlebury’s Fall 2021 Campus Guide, all students arriving from an international point of origin completed a week of arrival testing — students received a test upon arrival and were tested again twice in the following week. Jessie said that while they provided the student health center with their list of close contacts, they felt, with the increased transmissibility of the Delta Variant, it was difficult to know if they might have exposed anyone else. Jessie said they attended classes last week before receiving their positive test, but ate meals in their room. Ferrante said that students experiencing even mild symptoms should immediately seek testing at the Health Center. *Jessie is a pseudonym used to protect the anonymity of a student. Further resources and information on the Covid-19 protocols and policies can be found here.
When Roni Lezama ’22 first stepped onto campus, he “looked around, wanting to hear Spanish in a place where most have spent their whole lives breathing and living English.” Though he was unsure whether Middlebury was the kind of place where he — an only child of Mexican immigrants and one of many students from New York City — would have the opportunity to make a difference, that changed quickly. Lezama did not come to Middlebury planning to run for president of the Student Government Association (SGA), but he has wanted to create change at Middlebury since his first year, animated by the drive to make white-oriented places more inviting and supportive for those traditionally excluded. He went on to win the Spencer Prize in his first year, using his speech to describe the fear of not being accepted at Middlebury because of his heritage and bilingualism. Later, the work of SGA presidents like Nia Robinson ’19 and Varsha Vijayakumar ’20 and seeing women of color in the role early on in his time here set the tone for his image of SGA leadership. “It gave me an initial impression of what SGA can do,” Lezama said. “It made me think, ‘there is a place here where I can make change.’” He first became involved with SGA through the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee during Robinson’s presidency, and was mentored by the committee’s chair Kahari Blue ’19. It was his close friend John Schurer ’21, who would later become SGA president himself, who nudged Lezama to take on another leadership role. “I still remember that day,” Lezama said. “John got all serious and clapped his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘I think you should run for Community Council Co-Chair.’” Lezama did run, won, and led the group of students, faculty, staff and administrators his sophomore year. Schurer then took on Lezama as one of his vice presidents after he was elected SGA president in spring 2020. While inspired by the work of previous presidents and conscious of the continued challenges posed by Covid-19, Lezama is focused on the future. “[Past presidents] showed me that it was more than OK to challenge and push the administration,” Lezama said. “They are our gateway, but in the end it is our job to advocate for students.” Lezama said this balance is emblematic of his leadership style: being effective in his term will be about combining disruption and cooperation, needing the administration to listen and knowing when to make them. He admits to having sworn at the administration — on the record — in SGA meetings before. At the same time, a key goal on his senior bucket list is to have a coffee with each member of the Senior Leadership Group individually. As president, he hopes to take the lessons learned from the pandemic and use them to set up systems of support for years to come. Though the pandemic revealed that the need for such support was far deeper and broader than was previously realized, to Lezama, these are not pandemic-specific issues. “So much of what I have done with SGA in the past has been reactive,” Lezama said. “It had to be. But I want to be proactive.” His first priority is to create a permanent substitute for the Student Emergency Fund established in 2020 to help with unexpected financial burdens of the Covid-19 pandemic. “It was unbelievable to see how immense, and palpable, the need was for emergency funds once they were available,” Lezama said. He also wants to improve the accessibility and availability of on-campus mental health resources, and bolster the services tailored towards BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students. Lezama is ready for his administration to be a disruptive one, working to reshape Middlebury in deep but tangible ways to support the students who often do not get a seat at the table. DEI will be at the “front lines” of his administration, the lens through which every SGA department does its work, he said. Sophia Lundberg ’21.5, this semester’s Community Council co-chair and a vice-president last year, describes Lezama as someone with both immense drive and humility, who values vulnerability in leadership and has a tireless work ethic. “His determination to pursue justice and equity is informed by his own life circumstances,” Lundberg said. He works constantly “in the hopes that it allows those who have been traditionally barred from comfortably enjoying their time here to access institutional resources and support with more ease.” President Laurie Patton expressed similar admiration. “Roni Lezama is the real deal,” Patton said in an email to The Campus. “He is relentless, as we all should be, about making Middlebury better. Because he also possesses an accurate sense of what it takes to build an institution, he begins by being open, and invites you to be on his team to get it done. This combination of traits is the source of his effectiveness as a leader.” Though Lezama jokes that he will have to apologize to his professors because “SGA is [his] life now,” he has other hopes for his senior year. He wants to go out for coffee in town more (his order is an americano, black), and finally go to the Woodchuck Cidery. He also wants to take someone on the perfect date off campus that he has been planning for years.
The Middlebury College Libraries had its non-personnel budget cut by nearly a third for the 2021 fiscal year, resulting in reduced or delayed access to databases, journals and books, as well as an increasing reliance on interlibrary loan (ILL). This cutback is part of a larger plan to reduce spending in Academic Affairs departments by a third, with the goal of balancing Middlebury’s budget. As a result of extensive library budget cuts, students and faculty have lost access to — or face new challenges in accessing — needed research materials, and librarians have shouldered the burden of managing the fallout. The budget for fiscal year 2021 is $2,384,502, compared to the budget of $3,404,537 for fiscal year 2021 — a decrease of more than a million dollars. Dean of the Library Michael Roy says that this cut compounds increasing costs due to cost inflation, with the price of library materials typically rising 5-6% each year, or about $150,000. The book budget for the year was hit hard by these cuts, decreasing from $120,000 per year to almost zero. The library also canceled subscriptions to many databases and streaming services. Other services were transitioned to a token system. In contrast to the previous unlimited access model, the college now pays for a finite supply of tokens that are used to purchase access to sources individually. The library had to estimate the demand for the services on a token system when purchasing its token supply. It is possible that those tokens — and the funds available to purchase more of them — will run out. Students and faculty have come across even more hurdles to request materials and experienced delays in accessing them. Professor of Physics Eilat Glikman specializes in astrophysics and mentors seniors completing her department’s required senior work program. Glikman and her students rely on research to get current and relevant views of their topics. Many scholarly articles behind a paywall become accessible for free after a certain number of years, but database logins give access to more recently published sources that remain behind a paywall. Because Middlebury has cut many of its subscriptions, faculty and students in some fields do not have access to up-to-date published works. The library’s focus on the databases with the most traffic means that more niche subject fields, like astrophysics, and smaller academic departments were disproportionately impacted by these subscription cancellations. History Professor Louisa Burnham said that students and faculty in her department have struggled alongside one another to obtain articles for class and research. The department has had to cut down on the amount of research in advanced courses because of the increased challenges to accessing materials, and Burnham said she is concerned fewer students will pursue thesis projects because of those challenges. When articles are not available through Middlebury’s library, they can be requested through interlibrary loan (ILL), a system historically used more for book sharing. ILL is a process by which materials not available at Middlebury can be borrowed from another college’s library that does have access or ownership. Articles now unavailable through the college’s database subscriptions must be requested individually through ILL. As students and faculty increasingly have to turn to interlibrary loan, they described frustration with delays for materials that they once had immediate access to. Dean Roy said that the goal is for electronic ILL transfers to be completed within 24 hours, but that the majority of requests this year have been completed within three days. Associate Professor of Biology Mark Spritzer said that the token system has not interrupted his teaching and research. Still, he said, “the delays are noticeable.” Erica Bisaillon ’22, who takes classes in the political science, film, psychology and history departments, said that most students, especially during finals season, do not have long periods of time to do research for their projects and have to complete their work at all hours. Even the most timely ILL transfers are not compatible with the pace of the academic schedule. Glikman also expressed dissatisfaction with the reliance on ILL. “The problem with the interlibrary loan alternative is that it does not align with how research is actually done,” she said. “It is a bit of a hunt involving skimming many papers and their own references to find what I am looking for. This process is not compatible with interlibrary loan, which takes hours to days to gain access to a single paper.” Sometimes, when students and faculty find their access cut off entirely or the barriers to access too large, they turn to self-supported paths to access. Sophie Clark ’21 is completing a thesis for her political science major. For the majority of her research she uses her login with the University College London, where she studied abroad last spring. “I'm super paranoid that I'm going to get kicked out of their system,” she said. “I have to double-check and save everything that I download with their login just in case.” Bisallion has, on multiple occasions, self-subscribed to journals when she needed access for a homework assignment, spending about a hundred dollars this school year. But these options are not available to all students. The changes also pose an accessibility problem because many students are uninformed of the extent to which library format changed and feel ill-equipped to navigate the new system. Bisaillon and Clark both said they had “no idea” how it worked for articles. Those that are well versed, like Sophie Hochman ’22, still find interlibrary loan to be a less-than-ideal substitute. “The silver lining is that the interlibrary loan office is fantastic, and they can always get me what I need,” Hochman said. “But it feels kind of disheartening when I'll do a few hours of work looking for journal article after journal article and the library doesn’t have any of them — and I'm definitely under the impression that they used to.” Some faculty have also been insufficiently updated about changes in library access. Hochman, a sociology and gender, sexuality and feminist studies (GSFS) double major, said that on multiple occasions in her Feminist Engaged Research class, “readings that the professor had assigned year after year suddenly weren't there anymore.” Both professor and students were surprised by their inability to access the readings, and the tight turnaround of the typical homework assignment meant ILL was not an option. Clark had a similar experience in a political science class, as well. The greatest burden of managing the fallout of library budget cuts falls on the librarians. The escalation of demand for ILL has dramatically increased the workload of those who process the requests, according to Roy. Accommodations for online learning means more resources need to be digitized and made available remotely. The library’s subject guides, called Libguides, organize library resources according to certain subjects and even specific courses. Librarians have had to update Libguides to no longer include materials to which the library has terminated access. The college-wide hiring freeze left one vacant librarian position, exacerbating these challenges. The cuts have also strained the expectations placed on faculty. Glikman and Spritzer both said that the cuts are especially concerning for junior faculty, whose ability to earn tenure, get promoted and keep their jobs at Middlebury relies on their ability to publish in journals that they now may not be able to access. Spritzer said that, given the challenges of the last year, budget cuts were inevitable. But that, when compounded with a pay freeze, they would not be manageable for faculty long term. “Expecting more effort from professors for less pay is definitely not sustainable,” Spritzer said. Such deep cuts to the library, of all places, struck a chord for many. “You are supposedly this institution of higher education, you have this prestigious reputation of being an academically rigorous school, and you want to maintain that — but you're making it more difficult for your students to actually learn,” Bisaillon said. “When I saw that subscriptions to some of the most basic journals in History were being cut, I just couldn’t believe it,” said Burnham. “I feel very upset for our students that they have such second-rate access to the kinds of materials any college library should have.” Editor’s Note: Managing Editor Harriet LeFavour contributed reporting.
With costs reduced and the logistics of travel and other barriers removed by the ubiquity of pandemic-era video conferencing, Middlebury professors have been able to provide more opportunities for students — expanding collaboration across and within Middlebury institutions. Collaborations between Middlebury’s schools With the C.V. Starr Schools Abroad unable to offer in-person instruction or host students this year, several faculty members from the schools are teaching online courses through the college and Middlebury Institute in Monterey (MIIS) — including some in English. The online format helps enrich and diversify the educational opportunities available to all Middlebury students, not just the ones who study abroad, according to Claudio Gonzalez-Chiaromonte, director of the schools abroad in Argentina and Uruguay. He taught a course in Spanish about the history of U.S.-Latin American relations. Gonzales-Chiaromonte notes that internationally specific topics may not always be best taught by domestic professors. “Perhaps the best professor in Russian environmental politics is not in the U.S. [but] somewhere in Russia,” Gonzalez-Chiaromonte said. The prevalence of remote teaching this year has given faculty abroad greater access to the network of schools. Middlebury students were also able to take remote classes at MIIS during the spring semester, indicating a new level of interconnectedness among global Middlebury resource pools. “It will take a while until all of us can really understand the doors this opens,” Gonzalez-Chiaramonte said. Fewer fees bring higher-profile speakers Because all visiting speakers appeared before students remotely this year, funds formerly allocated to travel and lodging could be redirected to inviting higher-profile, higher-cost speakers, such as Angela Davis and Trevor Noah. Professors were also able to offer students a chance to learn from speakers who would not have been able to come to campus during a normal semester. Gary Winslett, professor of Political Science and faculty fellow at the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs, arranged for the center to virtually host several European scholars. For example, Matteo Faini, who works for the Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers, spoke to students about the politics of spying and its place in international relations in September. In April, Paul van Hooft, a senior strategic analyst at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, will give a lecture on U.S.-Europe relations post-Trump. “Normally, it would be too expensive and time-consuming for visiting scholars to come from Europe,” Winslett said. The sphere of academia expands online Virtual opportunities also allowed professors to maintain channels of communication with the world of academia. Middlebury participates in the Creating Connections Consortium (C3), a program designed to offer historically underrepresented groups in academia an opportunity to present their research. With a small grant from C3, the Political Science Department was able to bring two speakers during the fall to virtually present and receive feedback about their research. In years past, C3 fellows came to the college to teach and complete dissertations. This year, both Covid-19-related logistical challenges and budget shortfalls prevented that. Instead, C3 participants connected with Middlebury faculty virtually. “This was actually a win-win situation,” Professor of Political Science Matthew Dickinson said. “It's an opportunity for them to get feedback from political scientists, get paid and demonstrate their job skills. But it's also a chance for us as a college community to hear from individuals doing research who we might not otherwise be able to bring on campus because of the cost of lodging and airplanes and all that.” Dickinson also runs a weekly politics luncheon that discusses current events and occasionally features presentations from students and other professors. Previously, townspeople often attended the meetings alongside students and other faculty. Since going remote, Dickinson said alumni participation has become quite popular. “We get to expose people to more diverse viewpoints,” Dickinson said. “But I don’t get to bring in bagels anymore.” Looking ahead, virtual tools may not disappear Still, all three professors said virtual talks cannot replace in-person engagement. “I think the ease of doing things virtually can be a drawback,” Dickinson said. “You forget that your audience of students are sitting in their rooms hour after hour after hour. That's not why you come to a college — to sit in your dorm room.” He also added that another pitfall of virtual talkswas its impact on student’s ability to participate. Particularly, it made student protest of certain speakers difficult. At a debate last fall hosted by the Alexander Hamilton Forum called “1619 or 1776: Was America Founded on Slavery?” student protesters changed their Zoom backgrounds to posters objecting to the event’s titular question. Several students attempted to turn their video on to hold protest signs and were removed from the video conference. Events sponsored by the forum have since been hosted as webinars where participant cameras are not enabled. “I believe that nothing replaces the direct classroom experience, in particular for the little chats you have with students before and after the class,” Gonzalez-Chiaramonte said. In South America, he added, it is very common to have coffee or wine with a group of students after class. The role of virtual platforms in a post-lockdown Middlebury remains murky. “I could see maybe snapping halfway back to how it was,” Winslett said. “People paying for travel budgets might start saying, ‘Do you need to go to that conference? Do we really need to reimburse your hotel and flight when you could do it virtually?’” Gonzalez-Chiaramonte sees that upcoming transition as an opportunity. “We are really going through a threshold here,” he said. “It's an infinite horizon.” He believes that, with time, the community will hybridize in-person and virtual academic worlds, capturing the benefits of both. “The college needs to find some ideal combination of these resources,” he said. “They have been here, sitting in the world, waiting for somebody to exploit them.”
Karen Miller, former vice president of Human Resources and chief risk officer, left Middlebury for a position at Morehouse College this week. Laura Carotenuto, Cathy Vincent and Ellen Usilton, who all hold senior positions in Human Resources, will co-lead the department on an interim basis, according to an email announcement last Friday. Risk Operations will also separate from Human Resources to become the Office of Enterprise Risk Management. Mike Thomas, former vice president for finance, is now leading the new department, stepping into the role of Vice President of Administration and Chief Risk Officer. Thomas will also act as an officer on the Board of Trustees’ Risk Committee and remain an authorized signer for contracts and financial matters at the college. Now that Miller has departed, the administration is faced with continuing her numerous initiatives. The college will form a search committee, with Vice President for Finance and Administration David Provost as chair, to select Miller’s replacement. Working with Koya Partners and Storbeck Search, two executive search firms, the committee will convene this month and aims to find a new vice president for Human Resources by July 1. During her five years at Middlebury, Miller led several major projects in Human Resources. Notably, she oversaw workforce planning, the introduction of the Oracle HCM administrative software, the Mercer Compensation Study, the organization of the Leadership Alliance and the formation of the Green Mountain Higher Education Consortium with Champlain and St. Michael’s Colleges. President Laurie Patton announced via email in December that Miller would leave the school at the end of January. Patton complimented Miller’s impact on the college and her coworkers, saying that Miller brought “renewed camaraderie to her teams, sharper focus on shared strategic goals and a customer-service orientation to our daily business activities and interactions.” Patton said that she would “begin immediately to develop plans for continuity,” a considerable undertaking given the number of ongoing initiatives and recently completed projects with unsettled results in Miller’s department. Miller discussed those newly implemented projects in an email to The Campus, many of which share a theme of streamlining, restructuring or introducing new technology into the college’s administrative employment system in pursuit of efficiency. One of the most visible projects was workforce planning, which was undertaken in 2018 and 2019. The school consolidated employment structures with the aim of remedying budget shortfalls and making departments more efficient. To meet the objective of reducing employee expenses by 10%, the college eliminated roughly 150 positions (100 of which were already vacant), created about 30 new positions and identified about 50 positions to be eliminated in the years following the project. Workforce planning had a mixed reception. The employee buyout and position consolidation process was, for some, confusing and frustrating alongside other workforce changes like the rollout of the Oracle software. The project also sparked an unsuccessful unionization attempt among staff last fall. The Oracle software rollout was another major undertaking of Miller and her department. Adopted as part of the Green Mountain Higher Education Consortium, the Oracle Human Capital Management software is a cloud system that digitalizes and consolidates data of everyday financial transactions at the college. The rollout of Oracle sparked controversy because staff and students who had to make the switch — including everything from student club expenditures to the college’s accounts payable — felt insufficiently trained and therefore frustrated with the software. Miller also started the Leadership Alliance, a group of about 120 managers from across the institution that meets weekly with HR leadership. Its goals, according to Miller, include enhancing communication, strengthening leadership and managerial competencies and fostering collaborative engagement and support within the group. Coming down the road for the HR department is a potential adjustment of the staff evaluation system, called Annual Performance Summary (APS). The school has put the APS process on hold while HR considers implementing changes. In his email, Provost listed the administration’s many priorities in supporting the Human Resources department during its transition, which were echoed by Patton in an email to The Campus. “Throughout the spring, we are focused on wage continuity through Covid, completing the compensation study that was interrupted by the pandemic, addressing compression issues and continuing to work with Leadership Alliance and Staff Council on managing change,” Patton said. Miller will serve as Chief Administrative Officer and Secretary of College at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
At their senior celebration, on-campus members of the class of 2020.5 donned beanies and parkas instead of caps and gowns. Sitting socially distanced on the sloped stands of Alumni Stadium, the Super Seniors’ celebration bore little resemblance to the traditional ski (or sled) down the Snow Bowl. But, like many Covid-19-adapted events, their moment together was a cherished stand-in. After the Oct. 8 announcement that J-Term would be conducted remotely this year, a committee of students and administrators planned a November substitute ceremony for the Class of 2020.5 that was to take place on the last Saturday on campus. But on Friday, Nov. 13, with caps and gowns still in the mail and another week of classes on campus remaining, Gov. Phil Scott announced that social gatherings would be restricted to members of the same household. A few hours later, the college announced similar restrictions on campus. But the Class of 2020.5 was determined to come together one last time. The restrictions would not take effect until 10 p.m. on Saturday, more than 24 hours after the announcement was made to students via email. Class officers Julia Sinton ’20.5 and Ben Slater ’20.5 immediately hopped on Zoom and got to work. They coordinated with school administrators, the event management department and school health officials to expedite a version of the event. On the afternoon of Nov. 14, members of the Class of 2020.5 gathered at Alumni Stadium to celebrate the end of their Middlebury careers. For Sinton, the announcement of the new restrictions was gutting. Not only was she going to miss out on the February ceremony at the Snow Bowl that she had been looking forward to for over four years, but the many hours she and the committee had spent planning an alternative November ceremony were also thwarted. “We had been planning every small detail to make sure it would abide by guidelines and be a safe event,” Sinton said. “I think every single college student deserves to be honored and celebrated, and to have that loss was really devastating.” The original graduation, scheduled for the morning of Nov. 21, the final day on campus for students, would have included as many elements of a normal February graduation as possible. The Snowbowl had offered to blow snow and provide equipment rentals so that graduates could ski down the trail. Students were going to wear caps and gowns, receive a replica of Gamaliel Painter’s cane and eat a special meal before and after the ceremony at Proctor Dining hall. “I was really impressed from the start with the care and involvement the administration was willing to take in order to make some kind of celebration possible, given the circumstances,” Sinton said. When students were informed on Thursday, Nov. 12 that a campus quarantine would begin the following day, Sinton was assured that the event would still be permitted. But on Friday, the state restricted events to only one household due to a statewide increase in Covid-19 cases, resulting in a last-minute cancellation of the event. Sinton called her co-chair. He had not yet heard the news but immediately suggested that they “just do it tomorrow.” Sinton was skeptical, but Slater was steadfast. He believed they could — and had to — try to make it happen. The two began calling their contacts in the administration and the event management department. School officials were doubtful that the logistical challenges of the proposal could be overcome, but Sinton said they were also sympathetic. “People really wanted it to happen for us,” she said. Mid-morning the next day, Sinton received a link to a Zoom invite. The celebration would take place. “It was really special to know that so many people at the college had worked hard all night, trying to collaborate and make sure something could happen before the restriction set in,” she said. Sinton sent Facebook messages and emails to her classmates to tell people about the afternoon event, encouraging them to spread the word. Annie Blalock ’20.5 had been selected in October to be the class speaker. When Sinton called and asked if she still wanted to deliver her speech, Blalock at first said “definitely not.” Class speakers are chosen based upon a speech that they write and submit ahead of time. Blalock felt she could not give her original speech because it addressed a different occasion, under different circumstances. “I had written the speech for chaos, but this was even more chaotic — this was a different level,” she said. But, after thinking it over, Blalock made a phone call to Tom Sacco ’20.5. Sacco had also submitted a speech. Blalock remembered Sacco’s humorous writing style, and thought that his voice might help bring joy to the occasion. “He wrote the speech that would have brightened people’s day,” she said. Sacco enthusiastically agreed to work with Blalock, and the two met less than two hours before the celebration to combine their speeches and add new elements. Though the speech was “full of typos” according to Blalock, she still felt proud of the final product. “Our Feb essences combined and we created something beautiful,” she said. The two printed the speech at MiddXpress with just minutes to spare before the celebration began. The class of 2020.5 filed into Alumni Stadium, each receiving a tote bag filled with gifts including a blanket from the alumni association and a “Class of 2020.5” beanie. From the turf below, President Patton greeted the students and introduced Blalock, who delivered a speech that weaved Sacco’s witticisms with the main message of her own original remarks. Blalock noted the tumultuous four years her class had shared — from Charles Murray to the introduction of swipe-in dining — and joked that despite these events, “we still lacked the foresight and were ignorant enough to come back this semester amidst a pandemic and thought it would go well.” But, she continued, the community and unity of spirit among her class made it inevitable that they would join together on campus for their final term. She described the confidence, quirkiness, drive and communal love that defined their “Feb-ness” and their experience together. The end of their Middlebury careers would be wistful, and the world they entered tense and uncertain, but Blalock encouraged her peers to “bring Feb-ness to whatever [they] do.” “Feb-ness will help us deal with this chaotic garbage fire,” she concluded, “and this chaotic garbage fire will be better for it.” President Patton followed with her address, and the celebration concluded with a blessing from Dean for Spiritual and Religious life Mark Orton. The celebration, having lasted about 30 minutes, ended with Sean Kingston’s “Fire Burning” blasting through the stadium’s sound system. The Super Seniors began to dance. The music was soon shut off and the students were reminded of the importance of distanced congratulations. The atmosphere was not filled with sadness. Sinton, Blalock and Sacco each described the happiness and gratitude of the Feb class for being able to come together in person one last time. “It was really amazing to feel how grateful the class was to have any kind of anything,” Sinton said, adding that many were comforted “just to have a space to be together.” Sacco emphasized the atmosphere of celebration and cohesiveness he felt during and after the event. Blalock described a reluctance in the air. “No one really wanted to accept that this was it, this was the reality,” she said. “While I don't see that as closure,” she said, “I don't think I'll have closure on the semester or Middlebury. I think that was as close to closure as I can get at this time.” The three agreed that they did not consider the event their true graduation, hence why it was called a “celebration” instead. This was both because it did not look like what they had imagined and hoped for, but also because a week on campus, finals, theses and other milestones were still to come. “It was an overwhelming feeling of like, ‘wow, this is it,’” Sacco said of the end of the event. “Which quickly went away because it was like, ‘I have homework to do.’” “This is not by any means the last event the college will hold for the class of 2020.5,” Sinton said. “But it's a space for the class to gather together one last time and enjoy each other's presence and remind each other of how far we've come and all of our accomplishments.”
Some students, for the second time in four years, are voting in what has been dubbed the “election of a lifetime.” The Campus sat down with students who were able to vote for the first time in the 2016 presidential election and compared their experiences four years ago to today’s. Brent Edwards ’20.5 said he planned his whole feb-mester four years ago around voting in person in his hometown of Littleton, Colorado. He said he felt proud and excited going to the town library, standing in the different lines and walking from checkpoint to checkpoint. It was just as he imagined it would be growing up, only with some added jitters. “You get a little nervous that you’re not going to fill something out right or you’re doing something wrong, even though you’re not,” he said. For Kaleb Patterson ’21.5, whose home state of Washington always votes entirely by mail, his voting process has not changed much in the last four years. Patterson, a self-described “political junkie” at the time, developed a passion for the local elections in his hometown of Stanwood. “I remember researching every single race, even down to the public utilities commissioner,” he said. “I was really excited all the way up to the day of the election to see who was going to win at the local level because I knew a fair amount of the candidates.” Voting by mail helped him to be prepared and vote when he felt ready, which he said is an advantage of the universal mail-in system. Julia Sinton ’20.5 also mailed in her ballot, but she sent it from Barcelona, Spain. Living with a host family during her feb-mester, her first time voting was not at all how she envisioned it would be. Her physical distance from the ballot boxes made exercising her right to vote feel heightened. “It was being able to vote, not even the magnitude of the election, that was on my mind more than anything,” she said. “I was just thinking about the fact that I, Julia, was able to vote and could potentially make a difference in this country.” Sinton also said she felt isolated without having American peers around her to discuss the election. “I felt pretty removed,” she said. “The whole process of voting absentee from an international country, and then after going to a cafe, sitting and watching the results on my computer, was very isolating.” Edwards, Sinton and Patterson all recalled feeling surprised about the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, but each watched its effects unfold differently. For Sinton, the unexpected outcome made her a person of interest abroad. Whereas no one was really discussing the topic before the election, she said that people gave her “a lot of grief for being American” after the results came out. “They were saying things like ‘you just screwed over your country,’ and ‘your country is doomed because of who you just elected,’” Sinton said. People asked her who she voted for, which made her feel defensive. Not having other Americans around to share these emotions or process the outcome underpinned feelings of loneliness. Patterson said he assumed Clinton would win and that “there was no way, in [his] mind, that Trump was going to win.” Patterson said that although he was a “through-and-through Republican” at the time, he knew from the second that Trump started his campaign that he would never vote for the current president. He described his hometown as fairly conservative and said he thought he was not alone in assuming that Trump would not gain enough support to win. Throughout Election Day and into the night, he said, it was “surprise after surprise.” “There was a part of me, as he was winning certain states, that, just because he was the underdog, found it sort of exciting,” Patterson said. When the results were announced, he remembered thinking, “Well, okay, it's not exactly what I want, but it's not really going to be the end of the world.” Now, he said, he feels differently. “I definitely think now that it really came from a place of privilege to not have to care, which I definitely didn't recognize at the time,” he said. For Edwards, the outcome was a disappointment, though he had never been certain that Clinton would win, despite the outlook of the polls. “There's always those last-minute doubts that kind of start creeping up, right after I cast my ballot,” he said. Despite these doubts, he described the outcome as surreal. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to trust the polls like that again after 2016,” Edwards said. Though all three have experience voting by mail, the extra emphasis placed on absentee voting this year due to Covid-19, assertions about how to do it properly and confidence in its legitimacy affects them differently. Because Washington has universal mail-in voting, Patterson is practiced in its process. The 2020 election has revealed to him that many others will have no such ease. “I grew up in a place where voting is very easy for everybody, because they just mail [the ballot] to your house. I took that for granted,” he said. “I didn’t realize how, for most places honestly, it’s difficult to vote.” Patterson once had an issue with his ballot signature, but it was quickly resolved. He said that seeing others struggles with the complications of mail-in voting has changed his preconceptions about voting access. “Voting needs to be very easy for everybody,” he said. In 2016, Sinton paid $20 in postage to get her ballot to the U.S. on time. Her eagerness to exercise her right increased her concern about the international post system. “It was weird for me to place all my faith in a Spanish Post Officer,” she said. “But I would have paid anything to get [the ballot] back [to the States].” Sinton said that, since she is postmarking her ballot closer to her home in Ithaca, New York than she did in 2016, she has more confidence this time that her vote will arrive on time and be counted. Though Sinton feels confident about her own ballot, she recognizes the heightened general anxiety around voting during this election. “It feels very chaotic,” she said. “I think there's a lot more stress and fear around it than ever before, combined with this urgency to get more people to vote.” This stress has fueled a get-out-the-vote effort this election that Sinton said has empowered her. “I feel a lot of pressure, in a good way, to encourage my peers to vote,” she said. “It's really easy to go down dark rabbit holes with how the election could go. I think that all we can do is trust each other, and get out there and make it happen.” For Sinton, the myriad concerns about the safe and proper execution of this election have also emphasized the importance of trust. She acknowledged the stress placed on the post office during this time, and said she understands why people are nervous. “It seems like the whole theme of the election is that we have to trust each other,” she said. “We're putting trust in the post office, we're putting trust in our neighbors and the people across the country so we can help make this country the way we want it to be, as humanity.” All three felt new and different motivations to vote in 2020, as the excitement they had expressed four years ago transformed into a sense of urgency and duty. Each views the stakes of this election as more existential for the country’s democracy than before. Instead of voting for candidates because of their policies, as he usually does, Patterson said he is “voting directionally” with an eye to the trajectory of the country and its democracy. In 2016, Patterson said, he believed in “the strength of our institutions and their strength in being able to push back against authoritarian tendencies.” The former College Republicans Co-president said the last four years have made him reconsider that faith. “I don't think I’ve lost trust in the institution of voting itself… but I definitely had my trust in politicians broken,” Patterson said. Though he feels a strong sense of disillusionment with “politics in general,” he said, “you still have to engage.” Edwards said he now has a sense of “how important it is to increase access to voting, increase education around voting and just show how important it is for everybody.” “Because of the state our country is in right now,” Sinton said, “I think people feel a fire to vote now more than ever before.”
With fall student events canceled or restricted by Covid-19 safety guidelines, many students are wondering where their $436 student activities fee is going this year. The fee was set by the Board of Trustees before students were sent home in the spring and, like tuition, has not since been reduced. Many traditionally expensive student events, like concerts and dances, are not possible this semester, and many clubs will not be able to execute their usual programming. But budget proposals, according to SGA Finance co-Directors Mason Olmsted ’21 and Alice Hudson ’21, reflect the dedication and energy of student organization leaders. “It blows my mind how creative these clubs have gotten,” Hudson said. “It goes to show the passion of the students with these organizations.” All non-remote students paid the activities fee, bringing the total pool of money to $1.2 million. The SGA Finance Committee allocates the money through review and approval of club budgets, a process that usually takes place at the end of spring semester. Because students were sent home before that budgeting process could begin last spring, the meetings between the Finance Committee and student clubs were moved to this fall. Students who are studying remotely can still participate in student activities, and many clubs are adding virtual components to better include remote members. Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB) is the largest recipient of these funds. Their budget this year is on par with previous years but is allocated to an array of new programming such as virtual escape rooms and trivia night. MCAB is also hoping to use its funds to expand its collaborations with and support of other student organizations. MCAB President Trishabelle Manzano ’21 said she is especially excited for opportunities to partner with groups like the International Students Organization (ISO) and Middlebury College Musical Theatre Organization. All speakers that MCAB is considering scheduling will be virtual. With no travel costs and, in some cases, reduced speaker fees for virtual talks, a wider array of voices is now possible within the MCAB budget. Manzano said that the process of rethinking their programming and spending has allowed MCAB leaders to also reevaluate their methods. “We’re hoping to retain as much spirit as possible, but also to create a shift toward being more inclusive and intentional about the program that we put on to best support the student body, rather than to just remain with what we’ve traditionally historically done in the past,” Manzano said. Other student clubs are also rethinking their programs and proposing new ways to engage members. On Tap, Middlebury’s tap dance group, increased their budget to fund the purchase of individual, portable wooden dance mats so that they can practice and perform outdoors. The women’s ultimate frisbee team asked for money to purchase cones that could be spread around the pitch at six-foot intervals to help team members maintain physical distance. Players can only travel from cone to cone in gameplay. In the spring, when their season typically picks up, the team may even play matches with these adapted rules. As they are currently unable to host rallies, Feminist Action at Middlebury is requested funding for Masterclasses in Adobe Illustrator and other programs that are useful tools for activism. Alongside these innovative proposals, some clubs have received funding for what are typical major events, like tournaments and trips, that may not actually be possible later in the year. “The way we've been operating so far is assuming that events will get to happen this spring,” Hudson said. “That's the big question mark: what is the spring going to look like?” Since the student activities fee is the same as last year’s, the Finance Committee is able to make funds available for those tentative events. Hudson said that if those events do not take place, the SGA Finance Committee will be “getting a hefty reserve of returned allocations.” The Finance Committee currently has $110,000 in reserve money following the club budget approval process. Clubs are able to submit budget proposals or new money requests until mid-spring, and having reserves helps ensure that funds are available for those circumstances. The remaining reserve funds and any returned money from clubs who underspent their budgets are allotted to various projects at year’s end, like the proposed MiddKidd Mega Project last spring. Just under $70,000 of the pooled fee money covers expenses unrelated to club spending. This year student break bus services have been expanded to address challenging travel circumstances due to the pandemic, with a total cost of roughly $25,000 for the year. Additionally, $7,800 went toward the cost of school-wide activities portal Presence, and $4,150 was set aside to fund February outdoor orientation. $10,000 went towards Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) subsidies. Other destinations for funding include the $3,500 J-term workshop fund, a $5,000 SGA retreat, campaign reimbursements totaling $1,000, $500 in SGA survey prizes, and various awards amounting to $6,000. Most of the fee money, however, is dedicated to funding the budgets of student organizations. Olmsted and Hudson do not want clubs to let the possibility that events could be canceled or the difficulty in planning given Covid-19 safety guidelines keep them from applying for funding. “We don't want any clubs to feel like it would be too hard to do anything this semester because of Covid,” Hudson said. “We have the same amount of money, and so we really want clubs to come in and take advantage of this and get creative with their budgets this year.”
In its first summer as part of Middlebury’s summer Language Schools, the School of Abenaki engaged 23 students in a two-week pilot program on Abenaki language and culture. Jesse Bowman Bruchac, a citizen of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe, led Middlebury’s first Native American language program. The school allowed all of its students to attend this year free of charge, something Bruchac noted as a demonstration of the college’s support of efforts to preserve indigenous culture and language in the area. Like all of Middlebury’s Language Schools this summer, the program was conducted remotely. “Being online helped to bring people together,” said Bruchac, who has spent his career traveling across New England and the country to teach. Bruchac has nearly 30 years of experience teaching the Abenaki language and working to preserve its culture. Abenaki is considered an endangered language. It is still spoken throughout northern New England and in parts of Quebec, but few people are considered fluent. School of Abenaki students ranged in age from 18 to 75, and Bruchac found it encouraging that some of the strongest speakers in the program were young people in their 20s. Twenty of the program’s 23 students are citizens of the Vermont-based Abenaki communities of Nulhegan, Elnu, Missisquoi and the Canadian reserve of Odanak in Quebec. All students were members of the Abenaki language community, meaning that they had previous experience learning the language. The School of Abenaki enrolled both those with a relatively new interest in mastering the language and those who had been in its proximity for decades but wanted to ramp up their skills. The program met for six hours a day, with two-hour sessions in the morning, afternoon and evening. Mornings featured formal lessons taught in a mix of English and Abenaki by Dr. Conor Quinn, a linguistics professor at the University of Southern Maine. Later in the day, Bruchac would lead participants in afternoon games, songs, crafts and other activities in Abenaki. Students spent their evening sessions doing homework together and giving small presentations in the language. A special feature of this summer’s program was Kerry Wood’s two-day basket-weaving workshop.Students received materials in the mail and then used them to learn the craft live on Zoom with their peers. Aaron Wood, Kerry’s son, taught students about the black ash tree and how to make splints — the wooden ribbons that make up a basket — from harvested wood. Both mother and son are artists of the Vermont Abenaki Artist Association and gave their lessons in Abenaki. Other artists and performers made appearances throughout the program. The program culminated in an hour-long presentation given entirely in Abenaki, with each student presenting for over two minutes. Bruchac had never led a language program prior to serving as the director of the School of Abenaki at Middlebury. The Middlebury Language Pledge, a prominent element of the Language Schools, requires that students speak only in the language of their program. Bruchac said incorporating this feature into a pilot program for students who did not have much experience with prolonged immersion in the language was intimidating at first. Additionally, the remote modality meant that full immersion was not possible in the way it typically is for the on-campus language programs. But Bruchac said watching students’ online learning epiphanies was a powerful experience. At the same time, Bruchac said he looks forward to the benefits that in-person classes will offer his students in the future. While he believes the sense of community was strengthened by online meetings, he thinks the experience would feel “more real” in person. He is excited for future students of the program to be able to benefit from use of the language outside of the classroom, during meals and throughout other everyday activities. Learning Zoom and Canvas technology was a beneficial skill to sharpen, according to Bruchac, as it can help bring together members of the Abenaki community to learn in new ways in the future. “We are going to keep that door open,” he said of online opportunities. There is already interest for an in-person program next year, Bruchac said. While there are arrangements to reserve spots for Abenaki citizens first, Bruchac said there is room for anyone passionate to learn about the Abenaki language and culture, which he noted are inseparable. “The Abenaki language needs speakers to help keep it alive,” Bruchac said, encouraging old and new learners to become part of the community.