Parton Center for Health and Wellness will make changes to its mental health offerings beginning this fall, after joining a national program earlier this year which helps schools improve their suicide prevention services as well as support for substance abuse and other mental health issues. The program will be led by the JED Foundation, a public health organization that seeks to improve access to mental health services. The program at Middlebury will take four years to fully implement and will cost $22,000. An anonymous donor is covering the cost in full. The donor offered the funding to three schools in Vermont. “We imme-diately raised our hand,” said Director of Health and Counseling Services Gus Jordan. Other schools that have implemented the JED program in-clude Connecticut College, Hamilton and the University of Vermont. Parton is currently in its first year of the program, which consists of “evaluation.” This phase is set to conclude by the end of May. The next two years will consist of “implementation,” and the final year will consist of another “evaluation.” The first evaluation phase included a mental health survey sent to students this Fall. There is more demand now than ever before for mental health services. The number of students seeking counseling has increased every year, according to Jordan. In response, in 25 years, the number of counselors has increased five-fold. There are now seven counselors on staff and three interns, as opposed to two counselors in 1995. Parton now holds over 3,600 counseling sessions per year, and over 26% of the student body has interacted directly with a counselor in the last year. The Campus is currently investigating student claims that campus mental health services exhibit flaws in their availability and quality. An investigation evaluating student experiences with those services will be published before the end of the semester. The changes coming to Parton next year may include staffing changes within the counseling department. “The number of students that we are able to see will definitely not go down, and it might go up,” Jordan said. Restructuring the counseling center’s hours may contribute to an increase in student access. Other possible changes include making counseling available to students abroad, the creation of support groups for mental health issues and the creation of a counseling app. However, the changes from the JED program will reach beyond counseling sessions. “I would suspect in the next two years to train multiple constituencies on campus around how to spot mental issues early, how to intervene where issues are mild to moderate and how to refer to counseling issues that are serious,” Jordan said. Although residential life staff already receives training in this area, upcoming changes could include training for coaches and incoming faculty members, who are not trained. Increased attention toward mental health is the most recent change to Parton, which at one point was a 24-hour infirmary. “I came here in 2000,” said director of health services Mark Peluso. “Before my time Parton was over in Carr Hall, and there were lots of beds,” Peluso said. “The whole second floor was an infirmary, there was a ‘house mother,’ they called it. She was loved, she took care of students when they were sick.” Parton stopped offering overnight care in 2005, and now there is only one bed in Parton. Other recent changes have included the addition of a sexual assault examiner, HIV pre-exposurere sources and the addition of a nurse phone number. Although the JED program may result in staffing changes, dean of students Baishakhi Taylor stated there would be no involuntary staff cuts at Parton. However, some employees in Parton are eligible for the staff incentive separation plan that was introduced as part of the college’s workforce planning initiative, which seeks to cut staff and faculty compensation costs. This incentive offers staff members a separation package based on their salary and how long they have been at the college. The JED program will, however, reach beyond Parton. “This is a campus-wide mental health initiative,” Jordan said. “I hope everybody in one way or another will be involved.”
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“He had a unique spirit. There’s no one like him,” said Matt Ravichandran ’20, a close friend of Thibault’s who lived with him in Allen Hall his first year and played soccer with him. Ravichandran was one of many friends, family and members of the college community who remembered Thibault as wildly passionate, spontaneous and contemplative. Thibault attended the French International School of Hong Kong and then spent a year at the Berkshire School in western Massachusetts. At Middlebury, Thibault studied Physics and Chinese, played junior varsity soccer, joined Tavern social house and worked at the Bicentennial Hall observatory. “During the year and a half that I knew Thibault, I was touched by his intellectual curiosity and his quiet enthusiasm,” said Jonathan Kemp, his observatory supervisor. “He often shared his other interests with me, from physics to food and farming, and those discussions were always engaging and enlightening.” [pullquote speaker="Murt Afghan '20" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]He was at peace in and around nature.[/pullquote] This past summer, the observatory diversified the languages spoken there to accommodate Language School students. “Thibault was an important part of that effort,” Kemp said, recalling that he taught people about the stars in Mandarin and French. When not gazing up at distant stars, Thibault was fascinated by the nature that surrounded him. “He was at peace in and around nature,” said his friend Murt Afghan ’20. “He loved Thoreau, which made sense.” Ravichandran and Afghan remember Thibault deciding to go hiking on a whim, and once, making them walk through the woods to McDonald’s only to come back empty-handed because it was closed. Alongside his job at the observatory, Thibault also interned at The Knoll. His supervisor there, Megan Brakeley ’06, remembers him fondly. “I was so grateful to have the summer at The Knoll to get to know Thibault — and a French World Cup Championship, no less,” she said. She remembers Thibault trying to sneak away from the farm to watch France play. Thibault and Brakeley’s conversations at The Knoll, working side by side for hours in the Vermont summer heat, ranged from the witty to the philosophical. “To start the season, Thibault was probably more comfortable digging into philosophical principles or European History than the soil, but as a deep questioner with a curious mind, he was quick to learn,” Brakeley said. “He wanted to be a farmer on the outskirts of France after this summer,” Ravichandran said. “He got so excited when he got fixated on an idea, and he’d say and do wild and spontaneous things when he was in that mood.” Thibault had a spark below his seemingly shy exterior. “He was so energetic. No one was as expressive in those moments as he was. He was wildly spontaneous when he would get into those fits, which only came every so often,” Ravichandran said. He recounted a time when they went to South Carolina, and Thibault became obsessed with learning the guitar. “He downloaded all these apps and everything,” Ravichandran said. “After that trip, I don’t think he ever touched a guitar again.” Ravichandran and Afghan played junior varsity soccer with Thibault. “He was really good,” they said, a sentiment also shared by students he played against on the intramural level. His high school soccer coach once said that the team had one strategy — “Pass the ball to Thibault.” Thibault was in his element on the soccer field. “He had really good potential to be a leader, and he made the team more organized. He came into himself,” Afghan said. “He was much less reserved and more boisterous and talkative,” Ravichandran said. “He was also more expressive in what he wore. He would always wear a Barcelona jersey, and these black pants, and the original Mercurial cleats.” “He had these tiny shin guards that were down around his ankles. They weren’t protecting anything,” Ravichandran recalled, as he and Afghan laughed together. “He was a very funny guy, and I so admired his boldness to do goofy things no matter who saw,” said Kieran Parikh ’19, another friend of Thibault’s. He recounted a time Thibault bounced off the walls of Proctor, yelling “Parkour! Straight from ze streets of Paris!” “Come to think of it, I think he actually did that on more than one occasion,” Parikh said. Ravichandran remembers doing homework in BiHall with Thibault one Saturday after having watched “I Origins,” a science fiction movie. They were talking about their theories of the universe. Thibault became invested in his theory. ‘We just have to figure out the math,’ he said. ‘We can drop out of college if this gets big enough.’ “It was ridiculous,” Ravichandran said, laughing. Afghan remembers a time when, after a few things had gone missing, he and Thibault convinced a resident of the Arabic House that someone else was living there, maybe in the attic. “Public Safety had to make sure that there was no one there,” Afghan said, laughing again. “He was a fun and loyal friend, always ready to go to whatever party or event no matter who else might be going or how much work he might have had,” Parikh said. Thibault joined Tavern after living there for a semester. “He was an integral part of that community,” said his friend Matt Ottomano ’20. [pullquote speaker="Kieran Parikh ’19" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]He was a fun and loyal friend, always ready to go to whatever party or event no matter who else might be going or how much work he might have had.[/pullquote] Thibault’s memorial service took place in Mead Chapel last Friday. After an introduction by Reverend Andrew Nagy-Benson, several people spoke — President Laurie L. Patton, Brakeley, a family friend, his godmother and two of his friends. Those in attendance had time to quietly reflect as pictures of Thibault were projected on a screen onstage and music played. “He thought about things more than other people do, just about normal things,” Ravichandran said. “I think I do too, not to the same extent, but I think that’s why we became such close friends. He was a friend like no other.” This idea was echoed throughout the memorial service and in private conservations about Thibault — Thibault thought about things, deeply. He was passionate. These were some of the reasons why his friends and family loved him so much. In her speech, Patton talked about ways in which we can deal with death, noting that some turn to God, others to nature. “It is particularly hard when death was the person’s own decision,” Patton said. “We might feel stigma and isolation: is it okay to talk about this? How can I live with this loss when it feels different than other losses? We have mixed emotions; in addition to experiencing the absence that is suddenly in our lives, we might be struggling with guilt. Could we have done or said something differently that last time we saw Thibault? We might be feeling an intense need to understand why, and find it so hard to accept that there are some things that we might never know,” Patton said. She talked about her own last encounters with Thibault. After Thibault and another intern sent her flowers from The Knoll last summer, she emailed Thibault to thank him and ask for The Knoll’s visiting hours. Thibault sent a thoughtful and informative response, but Patton was away during the open days. Months later, at a Middlebury event in Hong Kong, Patton and Thibault spoke again, this time about philosophy, but their conversation was cut short. “And so I too struggled after I heard the news,” Patton said. “What if I had visited The Knoll? What if we had finished the conversation?” It seems that many who knew Thibault have stories like Patton’s. [pullquote speaker="Matt Ravichandran ’20" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]My friendship was him was very unlike anyone else on this campus.[/pullquote] “We cannot make sense of this profound, painful puzzle of Thibault’s death,” Patton continued. “But we can, I think, make sense of and tell each other about his life. Our work is to weave stories from the abundant evidence of his deep and abiding loves — the gifts that Thibault continues to give us. Our task is to carry forward his love for knowledge. And for teaching.” In every speech at the memorial service and in every conversation about Thibault, it became clearer how many people loved Thibault, and just how much. “My friendship was him was very unlike anyone else on this campus,” Ravichandran said. “There are only a handful of people with whom I think I could sit and talk for hours, but Thibault was one of them,” Parikh said. “He was a brilliant person and a loyal friend who was, and remains, loved by many.”
After 23 years in higher education, Andi Lloyd is leaving Middlebury to pursue a higher calling. Lloyd, the dean of the faculty and a Biology professor, will leave the college at the end of this academic year to attend divinity school. She is currently applying to schools and plans to become an ordained minister. “If you had told me that two years ago, I would have been surprised to hear it,” Lloyd said. After all, she only began regularly attending church a little over a year ago. Lloyd first came to Middlebury as a biology professor in the fall of 1996, straight out of graduate school at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She had attended Dartmouth College as an undergraduate. “I was really interested in teaching at a liberal arts college, and I loved Vermont. This was my dream job which I didn’t think I’d get, but I applied anyway,” she said. [pullquote speaker="Andi Lloyd" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]My desire to have a life that included faith is longstanding — it dates back to childhood.[/pullquote] She accepted her current administrative role in the 2012-13 academic year. “I really liked thinking at the institutional level. I liked thinking about the whole college enterprise,” Lloyd said. It also allowed her to advance the work that brought her to Middlebury. “Administrative work is exciting because it furthers that thing that I deeply love, which is classroom teaching,” she said. Lloyd has continued to teach biology and ecology classes as well as continued her research on the effects of climate change on northern forests. Now, Lloyd said, “I’m leaving all of that behind.” She made the decision to leave academia and apply to divinity school within the last year. “It was one of those life-cracked-open moments of a pathway presenting itself that I had never imagined was there, so it’s a recent turn,” Lloyd said. Although her parents grew up going to church, she only went as a young child and on Christmas. “My desire to have a life that included faith is longstanding — it dates back to childhood,” she said. “I’ve just been really good at ignoring it for large stretches of my life.” A little over a year ago, Lloyd finally acknowledged this desire and began regularly attending the congregational church in town. “It was over the period of three or four months that followed from that— just this deepening sense that I had found the place I was supposed to be,” she said. “I fairly quickly began to think about how much I wanted to be in that world all the time.” [pullquote speaker="Andi Lloyd" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]There’s a way in which that same interest in thinking about issues of environmental justice and how we are in the world can be approached from the perspective of ministry.[/pullquote] Divinity schools prepare students for entry into the clergy, and the student’s religious faith is an integral part of their experience — unlike seminaries, however, divinity schools are attached to universities. After earning her Masters of Divinity, Lloyd can be ordained. Although she will soon stop teaching and end her research, Lloyd sees a link between ecology and divinity. “It doesn’t feel to me like I am entirely leaving that world of biology and ecology behind, I think there are big pieces of it that carry forward,” Lloyd said. “There’s a way in which that same interest in thinking about issues of environmental justice and how we are in the world can be approached from the perspective of ministry.” She also sees a connection between ethics and one’s obligation to the planet and other species, as well as a similar appreciation for the Earth. “There’s a lot around reverence for the natural world,” Lloyd said. “Whether I frame that as the person with a PhD in evolutionary biology or whether I frame that as a Christian, there’s surprising overlap there, in terms of just opening oneself up to the amazement of this planet we live on.” Other scholars have examined the relationship between the natural world and Christian faith. The Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale Divinity School, for example, is dedicated to exploring this connection. After graduating from divinity school, Lloyd plans to become a pastor at a congregational church. “The emphasis of the denomination as a whole on social justice and environmental justice, things that are near and dear to my heart, is really, really important,” Lloyd said. “I would love to be back in Vermont, but that’s not mine to decide.” Lloyd has the uniform support of the congregation in Middlebury and of her family and friends. “I feel so lucky to have the people in my life that I do,” she said. “A surprising number of them have expressed a lack of surprise, and I don’t fully understand where that comes from.” After more than 20 years working in academia, Lloyd is making an undeniably enormous transition. “There are still big pieces of this that I don’t fully understand,” she said. “I have a sense of amazement looking back at the last year of my life, and that amazement is full of some mysteries, some things that I generally don’t understand.”
Many female college students have experienced harassment on town roads during their time in Middlebury. Although there are systems in place to deal with these incidents once reported, silence often surrounds this issue. Students tend not to report these incidents. In June, Public Safety reported to the college community that a teenage girl who was not a college student running near Porter Hospital was harassed when a car with two 20-something men pulled up alongside her and asked for directions. The passenger grabbed her arm before she was able to get away. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]Being catcalled at Middlebury feels different than being catcalled in a city because the population is so much smaller — if I’m alone, there aren’t as many people to potentially witness something and step in.[/pullquote] A Middlebury student, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Campus a similar story. While running near South Street, a pickup truck with male passengers approached her, and a man in the back seat rolled down the window and flashed her. “They didn’t stop, but I was very rattled from the entire experience, and was afraid they would come back. I was fully aware that I was far enough out that there would be no one to help me if I found myself in a dangerous situation,” she said. The student also told The Campus that she has been followed on multiple occasions while running in Middlebury, once by a man on a bike. “I do not run there anymore because I am afraid for my safety, which is a huge bummer because it is a beautiful route,” she said. Four female students shared similar stories with The Campus. They shared experiences of walking down College Street, relaying moments they were catcalled and harassed. Although this is commonplace in many cities and towns, it is perhaps unexpected in idyllic Middlebury, Vermont. “Being catcalled at Middlebury feels different than being catcalled in a city because the population is so much smaller — if I’m alone, there aren’t as many people to potentially witness something and step in,” said another student, who wished to remain anonymous. “Living closer to town this year, I feel like I’ve been catcalled on my street and then they see me go into my house, which is scary and unsettling,” she said. It is because of Middlebury’s small size, though, that the college and town can take steps to eliminate these incidents. But students must first feel comfortable reporting these incidents. None of the students interviewed by The Campus have ever filed a report. How to Report Even when incidents like this occur off campus and involve perpetrators who are unaffiliated with the college, students can still report them to Public Safety or the Title IX Office. Public Safety does not have the ability to pursue or stop vehicles, and anything that occurs either off campus or with a vehicle leaving campus will be reported to the Middlebury Police Department. Students can also go directly to the police department. The police will ask the victim for a description of the vehicle, the vehicle’s location and its direction of travel. [pullquote speaker="Title IX Coordinator Sue Ritter ’83" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]“If our students are being impacted by people in town or people who are driving through our campus community we would absolutely want to know because we want to address the behavior and make it stop.[/pullquote] If the perpetrator is a member of the college community, the victim has the same options for reporting: they can talk to the police, Public Safety or the Title IX Office. Additionally, the student can choose to proceed with disciplinary action through the Title IX Office, regardless of whether the incident occured on campus. The Title IX Office deals primarily with instances of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking, but is still a resource for victims of harassment. “If our students are being impacted by people in town or people who are driving through our campus community, whether it’s yelling things at them or making harmful statements or things like that, we would absolutely want to know because we want to address the behavior and make it stop,” said Title IX Coordinator Sue Ritter ’83. If the perpetrator was unaffiliated with the college, the office would work with police on the issue. “We don’t have the same investigative power,” Ritter said. “Coordination with the police is really, really important because the evidence-gathering is critical, and to do it right is critical, and we want to make sure we aren’t stepping on each other’s toes.” On Monday, President Laurie L. Patton announced that Ritter will leave her position on Thursday, Nov. 15. She will replace Dave Donahue ’91 as special assistant to the president, associate secretary to the board and director of community relations (See “Sue Ritter Transitions to New Role”). The Title IX Office can also work with WomenSafe, Porter Hospital, the State’s Attorney’s Office and other state-wide organizations. The college itself can also report these incidents to the community. It can issue a “timely warning,” part of a federal law that requires colleges and universities to notify their communities of crime threats that are ongoing or may be repeated. The college has issued two timely warnings in the last three years. Unlike peer institutions, including Trinity, Skidmore and Bates, Middlebury does not have an online reporting system for any type of crime, nor does it have a way to report crimes anonymously to the college. The college can also disseminate information through the Community Bias Response Team, which alerts the college community to instances of bias, but this ambiguous term excludes instances of assault or harassment. Ritter acknowledged that more should be done. “I think probably more needs to be done in terms of town-community discussions around incidents like this when they happen,” Ritter said. “Maybe working more with the Addison Independent and other forums in the town of Middlebury to raise awareness of these types of influences would be a helpful step, too.”
The Community Bias Response Team (CBRT) will continue its work in the 2018-19 academic year. CBRT informs the college community about instances of bias through all-school emails. While planning and initial CBRT activity began in 2016, the committee officially formed in early 2017 in order to address incidents which the college does not publicize. “There was this silence. Some of these incidents people knew about, and this silence almost gave the perception that it was okay,” said Chief Diversity Officer Miguel Fernández, who heads CBRT. However, CBRT only details instances of bias and not instances of harassment or assault. Those incidents are left inside the Title IX office, where they may not be reported to the community at all. Examples of incidents of bias reported by CBRT include the removal of white nationalist propaganda found in the library. One of the team’s earliest reports detailed an incident at the Sean Kingston concert in May 2017, where an Asian student expressed discomfort in seeing a non-Asian student wearing a Chinese farmer’s hat. Before the team had fully formed, they issued statements as early as Nov. 2016, after acts of intolerance occured on campus after the U.S. Presidential election. CBRT consists of seven members: the college’s associate chaplain, associate dean for judicial affairs, Americans with Disabilites Act (A.D.A) Coordinator, chief diversity officer, human relations officer, a commons dean and a faculty member appointed by the faculty council. A student position may be created later. CBRT is also working toward creating an online reporting system, but is still resolving issues surrounding anonymity. Students can report bias incidents to CBRT directly, to the Dean of the College or to Public Safety.
Although Middlebury College has yet to set targets for its goal to increase the number of students receiving financial aid, the incoming first-year class will have more students on financial aid than this year’s first-year class. This unexpected increase is due to Middlebury’s need blind admissions policy, and tuition has partially risen to cover the increased financial aid budget. “That’s not strategic, that’s just because of our policy. We don’t get to decide who sends in their deposit,” said David Provost, the college treasurer. “The interesting part about financial aid is, because we’re need blind, a lot of it’s out of our control.” Middlebury currently lags behind its peers in the percentage of students on financial aid. With 44 percent of students on financial aid, Middlebury ranks seventh out of the eleven colleges in the NESCAC, according to an analysis of common data sets at each school. The college also garnered negative attention last January for a New York Times article which showed that more students at Middlebury come from the top one percent of the income bracket (23 percent of students) than the bottom 60 percent (14 percent of students). Across all U.S. colleges and universities, Middlebury ranked ninth. Another New York Times article cited in last week’s issue of The Campus revealed that Middlebury recruits from rich, white high schools (on average, high school locations had a median family income of $101,000 and were 57 percent white). According to this article, the college ranked near the middle of peer institutions. Although President Laurie L. Patton has announced her aim to increase both the percentage of students on financial aid and the amount of financial aid awarded, the college has not yet established target numbers. This is largely due to the college’s current financial position, which puts pressure on tuition, rather than the endowment, to cover ever-increasing costs including financial aid, according to Provost. “I’m trying to fix two problems right now,” said Provost, who began as treasurer last January. “One is that we have an operating deficit, which we’re taking down. The second problem was, when I arrived, we had been taking 6.6 percent out of our endowment a year. Of our peer institutions, the average is 4.7.” Provost aims to eliminate the deficit by 2021 and to decrease endowment withdrawal to five percent. “In the last few years — why tuition has gone up — it’s been an effort to help with this deficit and the withdraw,” Provost said. “I believe longer term, that will put us in a better financial position, that will take pressure off tuition.” Currently, 75 percent of the $53 million financial aid budget is covered by tuition, and 25 percent is covered by the endowment. Provost aims to increase the percentage covered by the endowment. “If that was 35, 40 percent because we had a bigger endowment, more students are going to have accessibility, or it’s going to take pressure off of tuition increases,” Provost said. To allow the endowment to grow, the college must focus on withdrawing less money from it now. The college will most likely announce a plan to increase the number of students on financial aid within the next year or two. “We’ve been having a series of conversations at leadership as well as with the board...of what targets should be,” Provost said. Once the college creates specific goals (like a target percentage of students on financial aid) it can start a campaign to raise money. Last week, Dartmouth launched a $3 billion campaign that includes allocations for financial aid, and peer institutions initiate similar campaigns frequently. These multi-million dollar campaigns call on alumni to donate. “We are in the early planning stages,” Provost said. The campaign will align with a strategy decided upon by Envisioning Middlebury, Provost said. Introduced in April 2016, Envisioning Middlebury is President Patton’s framework which aims to involve students, faculty and staff in conversation about the College’s future. It was responsible for the new mission statement. In February, with the endorsement of the Board of Trustees, Envisioning Middlebury published three “transformative goals” for the college. The eventual campaign will call on donors for support for more than just financial aid, but financial aid will play an important role. “The pieces that get generated for the next campaign will be built on that foundation,” Provost said. Perhaps this campaign will allow Middlebury to address the alarming lack of economic diversity within the student body. Provost responded to a question about selling the idea of financial aid and accessibility to donors. “I’m in higher education for the reason of what education represents. Neither one of my parents went to college, they put five sons through college, all five of us are wildly successful in our professional lives because of education,” Provost said. “We as a society and a country know the power of education, so the ability to give financial aid to those who otherwise wouldn’t have the means to get a Middlebury education is extremely powerful, not as an individual, as a society,” Provost said. “Laurie’s passionate about that.”
The college announced the winner of the new traditions contest this week. The winning entry, submitted by sophomores Emily Barnard, Ben Snow, Kate Zecca and Sophia Peluso, will be a “Panther Day” parade from downtown Middlebury to the Kirk Alumni Center. The pep band and the panther mascot will lead the parade, which will culminate in food, music and sports games. The inaugural Panther Day will be Saturday, Oct. 20, during Homecoming weekend. “The contest selection committee ultimately agreed on Panther Day because it celebrates our history and diversity, while allowing student groups to express their creativity through the floats, banners or dress in the parade,” said President Laurie L. Patton. “We also hope Panther Day will revitalize and enrich homecoming as a campus-wide fall event,” Patton said. Nocturne, the nighttime arts festival held last Saturday, was entered in the traditions competition but did not win. The event allowed students to display and perform many types of art not necessarily in relation to students’ academics. The event was both well attended and well-received. Patton said that many of the non-winning proposals could be incorporated into Panther Day. Hannah Morrissey ’18 and art history professor Glenn Andres served as the co-chairs of the committee of students and faculty that selected the winning tradition. The Panther Day parade recalls similar events in the college’s history. The academic processions for convocation and commencement descend from 19th-century processions from campus to the Congregational Church in town, where college ceremonies were held before the construction of Mead Chapel in 1915. In the early 1900s, Middlebury students joined children in town for a Maypole dance on May Day. That era, known for the Beaux Arts movement, became the basis for a winter masquerade ball hosted by architecture students in 2006. Guests at the Beaux Arts ball donned masks and tuxedos to celebrate the end of exams. The grand event ultimately did not become a tradition.
Davis Family Library staff discovered white nationalist propaganda in the library shelves over spring break. Papers were interspersed throughout sections relating to queer studies, the Holocaust, the civil rights movement, Judaism and Islam and resembled historically accurate Confederate bills, but were altered to include two Bible verses and multiple images of the Star of David. The Community Bias Response Team informed the campus of the event in an email from chief diversity officer Miguel Fernández. The incident was one in a series of related incidents in Vermont, New York and New Hampshire. Identical pieces of propaganda were found in the Saratoga Springs Public Library last August, a week after white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia violently protested the removal of a confederate statue by emulating Nazi marches. The Charlottesville event culminated in a white supremacist driving his car into a crowd and killing one opposing protester and injuring several others. In the months since, similar materials have been found in the libraries of the University of Vermont and Southern Vermont College, in the Rutland Free Library and on cars in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. “I assume it was an outsider,” said David Evans, president of Southern Vermont College. Fernández echoed this sentiment, although he is not involved in the ongoing investigation. Elizabeth Burchard, the college’s director of public safety, said no suspects have been identified. “We’re working with other area colleges who’ve had similar incidents involving stickers. The incidents in Burlington are being investigated by law enforcement,” Burchard said. Public Safety notified Middlebury law enforcement of the incident as well. The bias response team sent its last bias report to the student body in October. It outlined two incidents in which faculty and students were verbally assaulted with racist language. The preceding incident occurred in May, when a homophobic slur was keyed into a faculty member’s truck. “This [incident in the library] feels different,” Fernández said. “It was a targeted, planned event that mirrors events on other campus libraries. Previous events we have dealt with on our campus seemed much more spontaneous.” The library is currently open to the public during designated hours. The staff have been instructed to call public safety or the police if they see suspicious activity and phones are located within workspaces for this reason. Michael Roy, dean of the library, did not have any comment on increasing the security of the library.
The implementation of a swipe system in all three of the college’s dining halls has resulted in more than $300, 000 in savings since last September, according to David Provost, the college’s treasurer. That figure, comprised of savings through February of this year, includes $100,000 in revenue made through selling individual meals to visitors and off-campus students, as well as specialized plans to faculty and staff. It also reflects a reduction in food costs, which are a byproduct of now having accurate data to show the number of students who actually eat at the dining halls during a given day. As reported in The Campus last fall, one of the major reasons for implementing the swipe system was to ensure people did not enter the dining halls and eat for free. Visiting sports teams and students who lived off-campus and opted not to pay for a meal plan were large abusers of the former system, but the college has been able to capitalize on those losses since implementing the swipe system. Now, those not on meals plans pay when they want to eat in the dining hall. “For example, UVM track just tried to get into the dining hall a couple months ago, so now we capture those people who come into the dining halls, so it’s actually increased our revenue quite a bit. It’s not that we turn those people away, but we hold them accountable and make them pay,” said Dan Detora, who heads food operations for the college. Though in other areas the college is cutting costs in order to decrease deficits, the savings and revenue that have come with the implementation of the swipe system have been reinvested back into the college’s dining system, resulting in a net savings of around $3,000. “In the old plan of not having swipe cards, we were feeding a lot of people who weren’t paying, and students were paying for that,” said Provost, who emphasized that money will now go back to the students, instead of the other way around. “Because we’re trying to take the savings from dining and invest them back into dining, it won’t have a big impact on deficit reduction.” This revenue has been reinvested into dining services in a number of ways. More grass-fed beef, dairy free and vegan options have been introduced. Upon request from the Student Government Association, Nutella is now available in dining halls, which costs $20,000 per year. Each student has also received $25 in declining balance per semester, which they can then use at on-campus vendors such as the Grille and Crossroads Café. When the swipe system was first announced, it was met with widespread skepticism from the student body. However, since then, it has become widely accepted. Provost acknowledged students’ initial resentment toward the swipe system and said the college needed to do a better job in announcing new changes in the future. “We have to find a way to communicate better so that the hysteria goes away,” he said. In the near future, there is no plan to offer meal plans other than unlimited. But, dining services is working to expand retail food services on campus and will examine offering multiple meal plans in the future, should students approve. Detora said that Starbucks coffee will be sold in Wilson Cafe by next fall, and he is currently working on plans to expand food offerings in the athletic center beyond game-time concessions. Provost said improving the McCullough Student Center is also a focus area for him in the future. “I would like to see us make McCullough more of a student center, I don’t believe it reflects what most student centers on college campuses look like,” he said. Detora said the college is already having architects coming to look at The Grille and find ways to improve the space. There is also the potential of creating a new student store. In light of the bookstore’s recent decision to no longer sells books, the store could find its way to McCullough and merge with MiddExpress. “Isn’t there a student store experience in the student center that can meet all those needs?” Provost asked. With additional retail spaces, Detora and Provost expect that students will want different meal plan options. “As we build those retail spaces, students might want to consider less meals in the dining hall and more declining balance on their card,” Detora said. “That will definitely be a student decision. We have a food committee and students will decide that, [along with] the SGA.” “As these retail units grow, we’ll see what happens, but as of right now, there’s no plan of changing the meal plan for next year,” he added. Dining services will cut costs further after spring break, when reusable to-go containers replace disposable ones. In a school-wide email, Detora explained that dining services purchases more than 180,000 to-go containers per year, costing more than $27,000. The SGA worked with dining services to develop this plan. Beginning April 9, the dining halls will no longer have disposable to-go boxes. Instead, students now have the option to participate in a new reusable to-go program until the end of the spring semester. Students can provide feedback at go.middlebury.edu/to-go. “After this time, dining will assess the program to improve it,” Detora wrote. “We are so excited to implement this project and hope you will be a part of it!”
The Middlebury admissions office released a statement on Monday addressing applicants’ involvement in political protest. The college joined over 170 other schools, including nearly all of the NESCAC and the Ivy League, in releasing a statement on the subject. This trend is in response to nationwide high school walkouts protesting gun violence and advocating for gun control laws after the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. 17 students and staff members were killed, making it the deadliest high school shooting in United States history. In addition to smaller protests and walkouts occurring across the country, there will be national high school walkouts on March 14th and April 20th. Students who participate in these walkouts could be punished by their high schools for missing class time, and those instances of discipline could end up on students’ transcripts. The majority of colleges’ statements made it clear that their admissions offices would not penalize students for involvement in protest. Middlebury’s statement, however, did not. “We understand that student applicants may be concerned that their personal political activities, particularly those that may lead to disciplinary action by their school, might be viewed negatively by colleges and universities they are seeking to attend. The Middlebury College Admissions Committee will consider such reports in light of its belief that students are active members of our society and have political rights and obligations,” said the statement on the admissions office homepage. Middlebury’s statement also differed from other schools’ in that it did not specifically name protests over gun rights. “This is true without regard to the content of the issue,” ended the statement. The admissions office did not draft the statement on its own. “As is typically the case with matters of institutional policy, this statement was drafted in consultation with several offices,” said dean of admissions Greg Buckles. The statement did not discuss current Middlebury students’ involvement in protest, although it did mention “free speech” and “peaceful protest,” phrases that have become commonplace on campus since the events surrounding Charles Murray last March. The statement begins, “Middlebury College respects the free-speech rights of students and student applicants. This includes the right to engage in peaceful protest and civil disobedience regarding issues of personal or national interest.” There is no definition of “peaceful protest” in the college handbook, but there is reference to free speech in relation to protest. “For specific events and during specific times of the year, Middlebury College invites the public to join us at events and extends free speech and expression privileges during these events,” it reads. The handbook requires students to register protests with Public Safety and allows the college to dictate the location. In anticipation of more high school walkouts over gun violence, college admissions offices continue to release statements on how they will treat discipline for protests on applications.
The Colby College Museum of Art received a $100 million gift of around 1,150 works by over 150 artists, including Vincent Van Gogh, Georgia O’Keefe and Rembrandt. The gift also provides for the establishment of the Lunder Institute for American Art, which will serve largely as a research center. The art museum at Colby already stood out among those of the NESCACs, but it is now set to become a world-class museum. “As is true at most college museums, large gifts are more normally in the $1 million to $2 million range, and these occur only sporadically,” said director of the Middlebury art museum Richard Saunders. “This gift to Colby is quite amazing. Rarely do small college museums receive gifts of this magnitude.” However, this massive gift is not an isolated occurrence for the Colby art museum. In 2007, the Lunders gave 500 works to the museum also valued at 100 million dollars, and in 2013, the museum opened the 15 million dollar Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion to showcase the newly acquired works. The museum as it stands today already has five wings. “Amongst the NESCAC schools there is an enormous range in museums,” Saunders said. A contributing factor to this discrepancy is age, since older museums have had more time to actively grow their collections. The Bowdoin art museum, for example, was established officially in 1894. Colby’s museum was established in 1959. Middlebury’s first art gallery was housed in Johnson in 1968, but the current museum was only established in 1992. “Given that Middlebury’s museum is relatively young, our museum does not have the depth of collections that some of our peers have, but we have made remarkable headway in building outstanding teaching collections of photography (both historical and contemporary), Asian Art, Antiquities (Near Eastern, Egyptian, Greek and Roman),” said Pieter Broucke, director of the arts. Another vitally important factor is donations. “Gifts to Middlebury’s museum are important, but they tend to be anecdotal rather than the result of a proactive process at the institutional level,” Broucke said. The cultivation of donors and gifts is a vital part of the functioning of self-sustaining museums, and large institutions have an entire department dedicated to this task. As is typical of larger museums, Colby has a “director of museum development.” Middlebury does not. “The gift to Colby, the result of a proactive cultivation of and targeted outreach to alumni and donors, will only speed up the transformative nature of its museum. The quality of the gift is extraordinary in both size and quality: Van Gogh, Rembrandt …. That, in turn, will make it even more attractive for prospective donors to give,” Broucke said. The Middlebury art museum, housed in a corner of the ground floor of the Mahaney Center for the Arts, is largely hidden from public view. “It has long outgrown the spaces,” Broucke said. “We also really need more space for developing our collections and operation into new directions, say African and South-American art, in line with our changing student body and our identity as a global institution.” In regard to cultivating donorship, “The thinking is a bit like ‘if you build it they will come,’” Broucke said. However, Colby’s museum is not only notably for its collection and size. The recent gift’s provision for the Lunder Institute for American Art also has the potential to drastically increase the value of the institution. It will create residency programs for graduate students, artists, scholars and curators to research American art, making it the only institution of its type among the NESCACs. However, this dramatic increase to Colby’s collection and research potential can also have a positive impact on Middlebury. NESCAMA (New England Small College Art Museum Association) — started by Middlebury, Colby, Bowdoin, Smith and Skidmore — now includes around twenty college museums which loan artworks to one another. NESCAMA has also created a consortium to make joint purchases. A few years ago, Middlebury, Colby, Bowdoin, Skidmore and Mount Holyoke jointly purchased a video work which will be shown at Middlebury’s museum next fall. Middlebury has also made loans to Colby. “I am sure [Colby] will welcome loan requests from any number of college Museums in the future. So, this recent gift to Colby is good news for all of us,” Saunders said.
The Committee on Speech and Inclusion, which was convened following Charles Murray’s visit to the college last March and is now officially dissolved, issued a final report on Jan. 10 that did not make any specific policy change suggestions. It instead made general recommendations for hosting and listening to controversial speakers. Last April, after innumerable calls across campus for more conversation and “rhetorical resilience” as coined by President Laurie L. Patton, the administration appointed twelve people to a new Committee on Speech and Inclusion. President Patton and Susan Baldridge, the college’s provost, appointed four faculty members, four staff members and four students to the committee. The committee members were tasked with tackling the immensely broad topic of “freedom of expression, inclusivity and the education and civic challenges of the 21st century.” The committee met weekly and held a community breakfast and dinner in November. This group is one of many that emerged after the events surrounding the Charles Murray talk. Over 100 faculty members signed an op-ed submitted to The Wall Street Journal in March criticizing the Murray protests and emphasizing the importance of free speech. Another group, the Faculty for Inclusive Middlebury, formed after the Wall Street Journal op-ed was published. This group consisted of around 50 faculty members and has submitted three op-eds to The Campus. The Committee on Speech and Inclusion was unique, however, in that it was convened by the administration and Baldridge attended all meetings. Baldridge also wrote the preface to the final report. “Some of the natural initial suspicion in our committee was if we were going to be handed some goals and a to-do list. I think over time we recognized that we were going to be given permission to just do whatever we said we thought we needed to do,” said professor Ata Anzali, a member of the committee. “We didn’t have a mandate. A lot of people were just baffled by what happened and wanted an initiative to start a conversation on campus.” Matt Jennings, another committee member and the editor of Middlebury Magazine, a communications office publication, echoed this sentiment. “[The provost] made it clear from the outset that she was not serving as a conduit to the administration and that she would not be reporting on our work with anyone in Old Chapel,” Jennings said. “The provost was intentional about choosing people that held a variety of views on Charles Murray himself and then the events surrounding it,” said political science professor Sarah Stroup, who was also a member of the committee. Kemi Fuentes-George, another political science professor, told The Campus that the provost solicited him to take part in the committee on speech and inclusion. “I agreed to take part because I wanted to be an advocate for those students, faculty and staff who were feeling alienated by what appeared to be faculty and administrative disinterest in their concerns about Charles Murray’s work,” Fuentes-George said. He told The Campus that although his own views fall on one end of the spectrum of opinions on the Charles Murray events, all viewpoints were fairly represented in the committee. Some members, however, joined without strong convictions. “I joined the committee because I was lost in the discussion between two extremes on campus, pro-inclusion and pro-free speech,” Razan Jabari ’18 said. “Getting into this committee, I didn’t know what to expect, and honestly I didn’t have high expectations,” Anzali said. “Initially my getting into the committee was, I wanted to make sure, with how I feel about this whole event, I could play a role that defended some positions. But then gradually I realized that is not what this committee should be about.” The report repeatedly emphasizes the importance of continuing dialogue. “There was a lot of back and forth in terms of initial distrust or stereotyping positions, and then as you talk more you realize you can’t pigeonhole people into this position or that position. I think that was really helpful and really valuable for me to have that experience,” Anzali said. The recommendations issued in the final report bare the same breadth as their assigned topic. A section titled “Inviting and Engaging with Outside Speakers” ultimately does not condone silencing problematic speakers, reading, “We ask that community members consider how attempts to limit or regulate speech could establish precedents that move us closer towards a culture in which heckler’s veto is accepted or where de facto censorship committees serve as gatekeepers.” It continues, “For a more constructive discussion and debate to take place, we recommend that students, staff and faculty organize alternative events where opposing opinions can be heard.” The report also makes recommendations for hosts and sponsors. “We do agree that hosts and potential sponsors must think seriously about how issues of power and privilege complicate arguments about free speech,” the final report says. It urges sponsors to give the campus “ample time to prepare,” consider spaces which accommodate the expression of opposing viewpoints and to consider the power of external funding and agendas. Besides weekly conversations, the Committee on Speech and Inclusion hosted a breakfast and dinner in November, to which all Middlebury community members were invited. The committee presented the near 200 attendees with six questions to discuss, such as “Is disruptive protest a form of free speech?” and “How should we balance the concerns of those who wish to speak and those in the audience that feel marginalized?” The final report recommended hosting similar events in the future. The committee also collaborated with PEN America to host a series of campus events in January, a day after the final report was published. “This committee and its work was the first step of many that need to take place at Middlebury to effect positive change,” said Shannon Bohler, an art events coordinator and committee member. “You could read the report as not specific enough, but I think that the problem we might face with the report is that it is too ambitious — we are asking for a change in campus culture,” Stroup said. “We are asking all of the different members of the Middlebury community to reorient the way they engage with one another, and I don’t think that happens through a half-dozen policy tweaks or new rules for speakers, or new SGA resolutions, or new staff memos.”
The student who posted a “List of Men to Avoid” on Facebook last month, Elizabeth Dunn ’18, is now facing disciplinary action after the list prompted a judicial investigation into potential violations of college policy. According to Dunn, administrators said it was “highly likely” that Dunn would face official college discipline, which entails a letter in a student’s permanent file and is seen as one step before suspension. The list included the names of 33 current and former male students who were labeled with sexual misconduct charges ranging from “emotionally manipulative” to “serial rapist.” Dunn said the list was compiled from “a group of 30 to 40 survivors,” and that none of them had given Dunn consent to reveal their names to the school. Dunn said the charges stem in part from not sharing the names of those survivors with the judicial office. The college’s Respect for the Authority of Middlebury Officials policy says that students are expected to “cooperate fully” in the disciplinary process and “any student, whether a party or a witness, who refuses to cooperate” in the disciplinary process may be “subject to discipline.” The college’s spokesman, Bill Burger, responded on behalf of several administrators who were asked to comment on the college’s action since Dunn posted the list on Facebook. “Students are required to cooperate with conduct investigations once they have been identified, by themselves or others, as having relevant information,” he said. Although Burger would not comment on whether the judicial office requested a list of names from Dunn, when asked why the office would want to know the names of the students who provided names for the list, he said: “Middlebury is committed to supporting survivors of sexual assault and other sexual misconduct and to reducing sexual violence in our community.” The Respect for Persons charge was addressed in an email sent to the community on Dec. 15. The email addressed students placed on the list, encouraging them to reach out to judicial deans if they felt they were falsely accused. The email mentioned that the college had received many questions in regard to violations of the Respect for Persons policy. The policy states that “Middlebury expects all students, as members of the College community, to respect the dignity, freedom, and rights of others.” This policy prohibits defamation and “violation of another’s privacy.” When asked questions about the nature of the college’s investigation, Burger said, “It would be inappropriate to discuss a specific conduct investigation. It is important that all aspects of our investigations are conducted thoroughly, fairly and confidentially.” When asked what jurisdiction the college has over allegations made online, Burger said, “Middlebury’s written policies are very clear that our community standards apply broadly and not only to actions that physically occur on our campuses.” While the college has begun to take action in this case, Dunn said, “There isn’t a precedent for a situation like this, so there are a lot of directions Middlebury could go in with the judicial process. Maybe that looks like me being suspended or expelled; maybe that looks like community conversations facilitated by the college; maybe that looks like restorative justice.” Speaking to the college’s current judicial system, Dunn said, “The question I have is whether the current approach Middlebury uses fulfills the needs of students in the safest, healthiest and most respectful way possible. I think the list itself is an indicator that a large number of people are disillusioned with the processes Middlebury currently has in place to deal with allegations of sexual misconduct.” Burger said: “We know that challenges exist on our campus and at all colleges and universities and we will continue to work with students, faculty, staff and outside organizations to do more and to continually improve our efforts to make Middlebury safer for all members of our community.” Dunn said the list should not be viewed as an isolated incident but in the context of current events. “We exist in a political and social moment in which survivors are pushing back against a culture of silence, violence, and invalidation. The list could and should be contextualized as part of broader movements against sexual violence, such as the shitty men in media list, the Me Too hashtag, and other forms of activism.”
More than forty students, faculty and staff members participated in the first restorative practices training during the first three days of December break. Of the 46 attendees, six were students. The college intends to launch the pilot restorative practices framework in the fall of 2018. “Right now we are really working on creating a timeline to share it with the community,” said dean of students Baishakhi Taylor. In addition to creating a timeline, the college needs to recruit more community members and train more people. However, another training is not yet scheduled. “It takes time, and it’s not a process that should be rushed, because it’s about changing the culture,” said dean of faculty Andrea Lloyd. “We’re pretty early in.” “In the light of the Charles Murray event, we also realize that there is definitely a need and a desire from our students and other community members that we explore this,” said Taylor. Although related to restorative justice, restorative practices exist alongside regular disciplinary processes, not in place of them. They are also voluntary. “Restorative practices is a tool for building community and restoring harm if there’s been a harm done in a community,” said Lloyd. Ami Fürgang ’20, one of the students in attendance, expressed discontent with the nature of restorative practices. “I want to completely replace punitive measures with restorative practices, whether pre-active or reactive, and a big takeaway was that this is not replacing the judicial system,” said Fürgang. “Of course it’s a hard goal to reach, but I believe there is always an alternative to punitive measures.” “I’m less hopeful than I was originally that this will radically change how we deal with conflict on campus, I think it can change things on a much less serious end of things,” he added. Emma Lodge ’19.5 spoke to the usefulness of restorative practices. “A lot of the concepts within restorative practices are versatile, and I can see ways I think they apply to my own interpersonal relationships as well as more formal settings,” said Lodge. “I think there are also some more direct ways it could be used, but I don’t think I feel clear enough about specifics to necessarily say how.” The training was led by two leaders from the International Institute for Restorative Practices, which issues various levels of certification in restorative practices, including a graduate degree. The attendees of the December training are now certified to lead restorative circles, the “central tool in restorative practices,” according to Lloyd. The attendees of the training came from a variety of positions across campus. “There were some people who were tapped to participate because their work will likely intersect with restorative practices, but we also wanted to get people who were generally just interested in restorative practices so we could build some capacity around being able to facilitate these circles,” said Lloyd. Restorative practices on campus will likely begin in residential life, and all commons deans and four Commons Residential Directors (CRDs) attended the training. “The genesis was in residential life, that it would be a primary tool for community building in student life, and so I think we’re looking first in terms of rollout,” said Lloyd. However, Lloyd expressed optimism about the potential for restorative practices at the college beyond residential life. “We had people in the room that were off in different parts of the college, were members of different constituencies, who don’t normally sit down together in that kind of direct, vulnerable way. To have three days of it, I felt like it was transformative to just be part of the training, I can only imagine what would happen if we rolled this out on the campus as a whole.” Both Taylor and Lloyd stressed the importance of time in creating a restorative practices framework. “We also just need to be a little bit patient with each other, but it has tremendous potential and I’m really excited about doing the work and getting it done.”
The controversial conservative activist James O’Keefe spoke on Thursday evening at the Courtyard Marriott hotel in Middlebury to a modest audience of college students and local residents. Roughly 50 people, including about a dozen Middlebury students, were in attendance in the small event room in which O’Keefe delivered his lecture, though close to half of the attendees appeared to be members of the media. A two-man private security force was present at the event, and two Middlebury police officers conducted a sweep of the room with a police dog shortly before the event began. Middlebury police chief Thomas Hanley said police made periodic check-ins as well. Hanley said that while the event’s organizers requested for two officers to be stationed there, the department only performed periodic safety checks. “We declined the offer as we do not want our officers to be hired bodyguards,” Hanley said. “We suggested they contract with private event security for that purpose. They still requested presence.” The Marriott hotel management requested police presence as well. Though his lecture was titled “Middlebury’s Problem With Free Speech,” O’Keefe only briefly mentioned the college during his appearance, which lasted for over an hour. Instead, his speech centered largely around his own career, and included defenses of the deceptive practices that have brought him criticism. “[In] undercover work, you deceive in order not to be deceived,” O’Keefe said. “We’re using deception here in order to get these people to open up to us.” While O’Keefe was speaking generally, his argument seemed also to rebut the scrutiny that he and his organization, Project Veritas, have recently faced for their tactics. Last week, the Washington Post reported that a Project Veritas employee had approached the newspaper falsely claiming to have been impregnated as a teenager by Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for Alabama’s vacant Senate seat. The operation was an apparent attempt to discredit the Post’s coverage of other allegations against Moore, who has been accused by several women of having pursued them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. O’Keefe’s failed effort was met with widespread disapproval, including from the conservative National Review and Washington Examiner. Some mystery still surrounds the events that brought O’Keefe to Middlebury. A group calling itself The Preservation Society sent two emails to all faculty, staff and students last Tuesday and Wednesday, promoting O’Keefe’s appearance and lamenting the state of free speech on campus. The group’s membership and origins are still unclear. Bill Burger, the college’s spokesman, said in an all-student email last Tuesday that no such group has approached the college to request recognition as a student organization. However, in the Wednesday email, the group attempted to refute speculation that it is not composed of Middlebury students. “Our group members, a handful of Middlebury students, came together and formed The Preservation Society out of a legitimate fear of punishment and/or sanctions from the University, or even violent retaliation from other students and faculty on campus,” the email read. Samuel Zimmer ’20, who introduced O’Keefe at the event, hinted further at the group’s composition, although he is not himself a member. “A friend of mine, Bronson, a public member of The Preservation Society, approached me and asked if I could introduce Mr. O’Keefe tonight,” Zimmer said. “I’m deeply disturbed to hear from him that the other members of his group are too afraid to let their membership be known publicly to the school community.” Zimmer was referring to Bronson Leyva ’18. In an email to The Campus, Leyva stated that he left The Preservation Society within the past week, but that multiple members remain in the group anonymously. Responding to a reporter’s question at the event, O’Keefe said he had received “a few thousand dollars” from the Leadership Institute, a conservative organization based in Virginia, to speak in Middlebury. Despite recent criticism, O’Keefe spoke defiantly. “We are taking on the entire mainstream media, we have taken on the mainstream media for eight years,” he said. “We’re holding the most powerful people in the world accountable despite almost every possible economic and political force working against us.” Will Frazier ’19, who watched O’Keefe’s speech along with Emma Helper ’19, said they had chosen to attend out of curiosity, not admiration. “We attended because he’s essentially an embarrassment to journalism and was recently exposed once again, and we wanted to see how he could possibly defend his work,” Frazier said. Frazier said that O’Keefe, while articulate, was ultimately unable to defend his tactics convincingly. “We both think he spoke really well and was surprisingly eloquent in his defense of his arguments,” Frazier said. “But there were clearly many flaws in his defense and it immediately broke down upon examination.”
The tree on the main quad behind Old Chapel was lit up for the first time this season on Monday night. Power was first brought out to the tree in 1984, and the lights have been strung each year since. “Jack Dapsis, our electrician, began decorating that particular tree, and he continues to do so to this day,” said Luther Tenny, assistant director of facility services. The tree, a 45-foot Norway spruce, takes just over a day to decorate. “We have what we call our ‘man lift,’ a lift on wheels, that we drive out there and string the lights,” said Tenny. The lights go up around Thanksgiving and are taken down in January or February. “I always look forward to the lights going on the tree and it helps with the stress of finals, even if it’s just a little bit,” said Julia Hower ’19. The candles in the windows of Old Chapel go up earlier. “That tradition started around 1998 after the renovation of Old Chapel. And those are LED bulbs in those, so those don’t use much for energy and last quite a long time,” said Tenny. The lights on the tree, however, are not LED. “At some point we’ll convert them over,” Tenny said. Middlebury played an important role in the history of Christmas trees. In 1923, the college presented President Calvin Coolidge with a tree from his home state of Vermont to be the first national Christmas tree. The national tree stands on the Ellipse, next to the White House. Although since replaced by other trees, the president has lit the national Christmas tree every winter since 1923 at a large ceremony called the national Christmas tree lighting. At 48 feet tall, the first national Christmas tree resembled the tree on the quad.
Susan Baldridge will step down as provost, the chief academic officer for all Middlebury institutions, at the end of the calendar year. Baldrige will return to her position as professor of psychology after going on full leave from 2018 to 2019. Baldrige said that her decision to step down was personal. “Having brought the Envisioning Middlebury work to the Board for their endorsement in October was an important landmark, and the time felt right for me personally to step away, take my long-delayed leave, and think about what comes next,” said Baldridge. Baldridge brought to fruition the Envisioning Middlebury strategic framework, which was ratified by the board of trustees in late October. In an all-school email, President Laurie L. Patton announced that Jeff Cason, dean of the schools and an international studies professor, will become provost on Jan. 1. He will hold the position for 18 months, but Baldridge will assist Cason this spring while serving as provost-on-leave. Then-president Ron Liebowitz and incoming president Laurie Patton jointly appointed Baldridge as provost in 2015. Baldridge held several other administrative positions during the previous 14 years, and before that had served as a faculty member for 10 years in the psychology department. “As provost, I’ve been lucky to be engaged in very concrete ways with some of the most strategic issues in higher education — diversity and inclusion, digital learning, affordability and access,” Baldridge said. Baldridge emphasized her efforts to create a more inclusive community. “I’m honored to have been able to contribute to our efforts to develop a more diverse and inclusive community, both as the lead for the Creating Connections Consortium (C3) for the last several years, and more recently through my work on the BOLD initiative,” Baldridge said. As provost-on-leave, she will continue work on the C3 faculty diversity and BOLD women’s leadership initiatives. As provost, Baldridge also worked on fiscal management. In her email, Patton praised Baldridge for her work on decreasing the operating deficit. Baldridge echoed this sentiment. “I’m pleased and encouraged by the progress we’ve been able to make toward financial sustainability,” she said. Baldridge expressed confidence in the administration to achieve its goals. “Administrators are frequently asked, often incredulously, why anyone would want to take on one of these roles. The challenges can be significant, the hours are long, and it is virtually impossible to make everyone happy,” Baldridge said. “But it’s also an opportunity to be able to serve the community, protect and enhance our educational mission, and shape the institution’s future. And I know that Jeff and my other administrative colleagues will be working diligently to achieve those same goals.”
Political science professor Allison Stanger, who was injured following the March 2 protests of Charles Murray, spoke out last week in an interview and a congressional hearing, blaming Middlebury faculty for the acrimony of the protests and requesting an apology from students involved. The hearing, held on Thursday, Oct. 26 before the Senate Committee on Health, Labor and Pensions, was titled “Exploring Free Speech on College Campuses.” Stanger delivered written testimony and answered questions from the senate panel. She was also interviewed on C-SPAN before her participation in the hearing. To begin her testimony, Stanger explained why she thought the protests occurred at Middlebury. “First of all, any liberal arts college campus is something of a bubble, but Middlebury College is in the state of Vermont, making it a bubble within a bubble,” she said. Stanger went on to fault faculty members for failing to adequately educate themselves and their students on Murray’s work, relying on secondary sources instead of Murray’s own writing. “Just because everybody is saying something about some person or group obviously does not make it true. Exhibit A is 1938 Nazi Germany. Our responsibility as educators is to encourage students to read and think for themselves, not to outsource their thinking to others,” she said. In both the interview and her testimony, Stanger did not distinguish between the indoor protest and the events outside which left her injured, instead drawing a link between the two. “Shutting down speech is always an invitation to violence,” she said. “The people who supported some of the extremist actions, at least at the time, thought that what happened outside was a result of outside forces, but it’s all very much interconnected.” The masked individuals who attacked Stanger and Murray have not yet been identified. In response to an interview question about the assailants’ identities, Stanger responded, “I have some ideas.” “I wouldn’t want to see anybody punished or suspended, but I think it would be a very constructive thing for students who were involved in the shutting down of this speech that led to my injury apologize,” she said. Stanger elaborated on the status of her injury in the C-SPAN interview. “I still have a couple of muscles in my neck that misbehave, but I feel like I’m almost back to complete recovery,” she said. In both her testimony and interview, Stanger repeatedly blamed faculty members for the events of March 2, citing a need for students to be better “advised.” “What disturbs me about what happened at Middlebury is that I think students were actively encouraged by some members of the faculty to do things that were not in their interest, and that upsets me. Eighteen to twenty-one year olds are still developing, and need to be advised in the right ways,” she said. In her testimony, Stanger acknowledged the challenges experienced by students of color at Middlebury, while still denouncing the actions of protestors. “None of this is to excuse the shutting down of speech and the violence to which it led, but it is to point out that the emotions the protestors brought to the event were real and justified. There is still much equality work to be done in our country,” she said. Stanger ended her testimony with three conjectures. “First, while the entire university cannot and should not be a safe space, there must be some safe enclaves on campus to foster inclusivity,” she said. “Second, if we are to avoid the implicit endorsement of real violence, such as what happened at Middlebury, institutions of higher learning cannot be in the business of policing symbolic violence. Calling speech symbolic violence, unfortunately, seems to justify physical violence as a reciprocal response,” she said. Stanger’s final conjecture called for a peace treaty among departments on campus, citing the sociology and anthropology department’s demand that the political science department rescind its co-sponsorship of Murray’s talk. Stanger ended her testimony by encouraging bipartisanship. “More broadly, our constitutional democracy will depend on whether Americans can relearn how to engage civilly with one another,” she said. “There is important work for Democrats and Republicans to do together. Let’s get to it.” Stanger is currently on sabbatical and will return to campus in the fall of 2019.
Jim Stuart, associate vice president for information technology, passed away unexpectedly at his home last weekend. Stuart first came to Middlebury in 1993, after he received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Colby College. Stuart left the college in 1999 but returned in 2010, and had held his most recent position since 2014. In addition to his contributions to the college, Stuart was an active member of the local community. He served on the board and as president of Homeward Bound, Addison County’s humane society, for twelve years. He also served on the board of trustees for the Howard Center in South Burlington. The center provides crisis counseling and supportive services for children and adults with developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, and those struggling with substance abuse. “I will remember my dear friend and colleague Jim Stuart as one of the kindest and gentlest people that I’ve ever known. I am grateful to have shared so many ideas and laughs with him over the years,” said Chris Norris, director of information security and infrastructure, in an email sent by the college announcing Stuart’s passing. In the same announcement, David Provost, the college treasurer, wrote, “Jim will be remembered by Middlebury colleagues for his kindness, keen intelligence, and wonderful sense of humor. His care for the ITS team of the College will always be remembered and appreciated by those of us who had the privilege to work alongside Jim over the years.” The college has yet to announce the date and time of the coming memorial service.
In the wake of President Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the college has continued to publicly and internally support DACA-mented and undocumented students. College president Laurie L. Patton and chief diversity officer Miguel Fernández did not mince words in their defense of DACA-mented students in a Sept. 1 email to students. “We are writing to state clearly that no matter what the [Trump] Administration decides to do, we will stand by our students, protect their rights, and continue to provide them an outstanding education,” they said. “We are proud of the accomplishments of our DACA students and will continue to support them in every way we can.” President Obama created DACA through an executive order in 2012. The order grants legal status and protection from deportation to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors. The email from Patton and Fernández came just days before President Trump announced his decision to end the program. The protections provided by DACA will officially end on March 5, 2018. President Trump gave Congress a six month ultimatum to introduce legislation to reinstate the protections DACA provides. If Congress does not pass legislation, DACA-mented individuals may lose their legal status and face deportation. In addition to publicly denouncing the actions of the Trump administration, the college will expand the legal resources available to DACA-mented students. “Once we learned that the DACA program would be phased out, the college arranged for an attorney who is experienced with providing advice to DACA-eligible students to offer telephone and videoconference consultation appointments before the October 5, 2017 renewal deadline arrives,” said Kathy Foley, director of international scholar and student services. Given the unpredictable future of many immigration policies in the Trump-era, the college plans to expand the resources available to students. “The reason that this is a little different is that there has been a change within the government, so we feel as though some additional resources are potentially necessary to help students navigate,” said Fernández, the point person for DACA-mented and undocumented students on campus. “We hope to bring someone to campus to talk, later on, in person.” The administration has continued to vocally pledge its commitment to DACA-mented students. A letter signed by Patton and other Vermont college presidents on Sept. 21 recognized the contributions of DACA-mented students to American society and Vermont college communities. “We support swift action by Congress to bring forward legislation to establish DACA permanently in law,” said the letter. “We also support Vermont in joining fourteen other states in a lawsuit challenging the plan to terminate the DACA program….We stand united with DACA-mented students.” The administration’s vocal support of DACA-mented students began last year with a series of all-student emails following the election of President Trump. In January, the college announced that DACA applicants to the class of 2022 would be considered with the same need-blind admissions policy afforded to American citizens. “The administration has been very verbal in expressing their concern for DACA-mented students, and we are pleased with the promises they have made,” said a member of Alianza, a student group active in providing a community for DACA-mented students. The student requested anonymity given the current political climate surrounding immigration issues. The college is not required to share students’ immigration status with the federal government. However, the college has a established a system through which student volunteers are made available to speak with those hesitant to discuss their immigration status with administrators. “One of the big challenges is wanting to work and help, and at the same time, not out the individuals, so how to best reach out and at the same time maintain privacy and protection. We want to maintain the safety and privacy of our students,” said Fernández. In an email sent to all students on Tuesday, Miguel Fernández urged students to “be a visible ally.” “I think it’s an important piece to make every attempt to make every student feel welcome and part of the community, so that takes work,” said Fernández. Trump’s order has put the fate of over 800,000 DACA beneficiaries in the hands of Congress, but Fernández expressed optimism about the power of everyday citizens. “I think the most important thing that we can do, as individuals and as a community, is to try to press our representatives to turn it into law. I’m confident that with enough pressure, with enough push, we can make this happen.” The Campus will continue reporting on this topic as the situation develops.