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Doug Adams resigned his position as associate dean of students to serve as dean of students at Franklin & Marshall College.
His last day was June 15, according to Dean of Students Baishakhi Taylor, who said the college has no immediate plans to hire a replacement.
“We haven’t had a lot of time to talk about the search or about a search committee," Taylor said. "We want students involved, and we’re thinking about the best way to create or reconfigure this position if a reconfiguration is needed, so we are just starting that conversation.”
In the meantime, Taylor is confident that Adams’ departure will not hurt residential and student life operations.
“We have been working very closely, and it is my intention that this should not diminish our support and service to our students,” Taylor said.
Adams oversaw residential and student life, including the training of the residential life staff, which takes place before the fall semester begins. Because Adams and the professional members of the residential life staff have already been preparing for training, Taylor does not believe his departure will hinder the process or the review of the residential life system that is currently underway.
He became associate dean of students in 2011, having previously served as the director of the college's center for campus activities and leadership since his arrival in 1999. He also served as the adviser to the Student Government Association.
The Campus could not reach Adams for comment.
Davis Family Library will remain open for 24 hours each day of finals week, according to Michael Roy, the dean of the library. Roy reached this decision after considering student survey data and deliberating with administrators and members of the Student Government Association.
Roy does want to limit the library’s open hours during finals week next fall, by which time the library staff will have had time to plan for the switch.
“Upon reviewing the recent data from the student survey, I've decided to keep 24/7 for this spring,” Roy said. “I believe that we should try staying open until 2 a.m. this fall. This gives us time to (a) figure out how to staff the library until 2 a.m. and (b) to communicate this to students so that they can plan accordingly.”
Roy is concerned that keeping the library open for 24 hours will encourage students to skip out on sleep.
“I worry that staying open 24/7 sends the wrong message about sleep,” Roy said. “There is a great deal of evidence that staying up all night is very bad for your health. And as someone who at times did stay up very late in college, it is clear to me now that the quality of work produced at 4 a.m. is much lower than work produced when not sleep deprived. I hope we can also take this into consideration this fall.”
Using the results of the survey that the SGA sent to students on April 19, SGA president Jin Sohn recommended that the library stay open until 2 a.m. and re-open at 7 a.m. during finals week in an email to Roy and dean of students Baishakhi Taylor earlier this week. But after Roy decided to keep the library open for 24 hours, Sohn said she was pleased with Roy’s final decision.
“I’m glad to hear that the 24/7 hours will be kept, seeing that many students still wanted it!”, she said.
51.5 percent of student respondents answered “no” and 48.5 percent of respondents answered “yes” to the question, “should the library be open 24/7 for this upcoming spring finals week?” 60.2 percent of respondents said that they had used the library during its 24/7 hours during finals week in the fall.
While a large number of students reported using the library’s from 12-3 a.m., far fewer students reported using the library from 3-7 a.m. Sohn’s recommendation reflected the idea that keeping the library open all night might be unnecessary when students are largely using the facilities only an hour or two after the regular 1 a.m. closing time.
Sohn cited “financial constraints” as reasoning behind the library staff considering not to remain open 24 hours each day when she sent the survey to students in April. The library collected its own data earlier in the year and noticed similar findings. A small number of students reported using the library between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m.
According to Sohn, Axinn may also remain open for 24 hours each night during finals week.
“The SGA is also currently working to have Axinn open 24/7 with key card access for finals week,” Sohn wrote. “Axinn provides students access to Mac computers, classroom space, and printer access. We shouldn’t rely solely on Axinn to be a substitute for students but it may help to relieve pressure on the library.”
The doors of Axinn currently lock at 11 p.m., but students already in the building may remain there past this time.
Many respondents brought up additional concerns regarding the library’s operations during finals week, including whether Wilson Cafe would remain open 24/7 and whether there would be MCAB stressbusters or other health and wellness activities.
Yale law professor Robert Post argued that freedom of speech is largely irrelevant in the context of college campuses, and therefore that freedom of speech should not be posed as antithetical to inclusion, in a lecture on Wednesday, April 11 in the Robert A. Jones House conference room.
The lecture was followed by a Q & A session with Erik Bleich, a political science professor.
Post said that colleges must evaluate their educational purpose behind allowing students to invite outside speakers to campus. But he emphasized that enabling students to interact with ideas they disagree with is a central tenet of higher education.
First, Post addressed the fact that freedom of speech and inclusion are often viewed as mutually exclusive aims. The crux of Post’s argument was that freedom of speech does not have to directly oppose inclusion, because First Amendment rights of freedom of speech don’t translate to the classroom.
“It seems either way we go, we have to give up on inclusion or freedom of speech because we pose the issue as a zero sum game. There’s freedom of speech on one side and inclusion on the other and one of them has to give,” Post said. “We can get out of the opposition between inclusion and freedom of speech. We stop thinking of freedom of speech as an abstract right that just exists, but instead think of it as a functional principle that’s designed to to serve a certain purpose.”
Post explained that freedom of speech as defined by the First Amendment and as upheld by the Supreme Court applies to public discourse, or speech that exists in order to further the theory of democratic self-governance. In the sense that public discourse can shape public opinion that elected officials then respond to in order to govern, public discourse must be free and protected in order for that process to be democratic.
“We have First Amendment rights in the first place so that we can govern ourselves via democracy, because we can help form public opinion and we expect the state to be responsive to public opinion, so these rules apply to those forms of speech by which we form public opinion,” Post explained. “So these rules apply only in discreet circumstances.”
According to Post, the university’s purpose is entirely different from the purposes of free speech protections, and as a result, students and faculty at the university are not granted the same protections.
“The university exists as an institution to further education and advance knowledge. And it will regulate speech as is necessary to serve those purposes,” Post said.
Post cited the processes of testing and grading as only a few examples of ways that colleges regulate speech, in that they designate some student speech as superior and some as inferior in the context of academic and disciplinary standards.
“There’s nothing approaching the definition of freedom of speech for students in the classroom,” Post said.
When it comes to outside speakers coming to campuses, Post said that universities must consider what their purpose is in allowing student groups to bring speakers.
“What’s the function of allowing students to pick their outside speakers in the first place?” Post asked. “Is it because we want to create an environment on campus that’s like the general public? Where people have to hear views they don’t like? Or do we want instead to create something else? Any college has to ask itself first of all why its allowing students to do this. And when its answered that question, then it can evaluate the educational impact of any given speaker against that purpose and see whether the net benefit is there or the net detriment is there.”
But in Post’s view, higher education should enable students to deal with people and views they might disagree with.
“Adults in a world where they have to live with other adults, not of their choosing who they don’t like,” Post said. “You don’t get to pick your neighbors. And how do you deal with that tension? That’s part of the task of higher education.”
Bleich urged Post to consider whether his emphasis on educational purpose really solved the problem of reconciling inclusion and free speech.
“Have you gotten us out of the box by kicking this over to education? You started by essentially saying this isn’t a First Amendment issue, therefore its not an issue of rights, therefore we don’t have to make trade-offs between freedom of speech and inclusivity,” Bleich said. “So you’ve taken this debate and kicked it into the realm of education, but I see the same problems here.”
“What I mean to do is refine the way that we frame the problem,” Post said. “If we have two incompatible virtues, we don’t know what to do. On the other hand, if we say we allow students to invite speakers because it serves an educational purpose, its an invitation to analyze what that purpose is, how well its served and how well that speaker does and doesn’t serve that purpose. Once you put the conversation on commensurate grounds, it invites the community to come together to define what that educational commitment is. There’s no other way around this except to do that and to think hard about how we live together.”
Bleich was doubtful that a conclusive conversation regarding this educational purpose was feasible.
“Your assumption is that we can all meet here and that everyone at every institution can get together talk it out, through the right procedures, process and find some common vision of how we should meld these two values, but in reality I wonder if that’s possible,” Bleich said.
Post responded by emphasizing that ultimately, a pursuit of education as he understood it required engaging with potentially offensive ideas.
“If what you want to achieve is not being offended, we can’t do the job,” Post said. “So what do you want to receive in an education, that’s what needs to be clarified. And if in the end they just want an environment in which they’re never offended, that is to say never have to engage an idea not disrespect but engage with an idea they find distasteful, then maybe they’re not in the right place because that’s what an education does and if not that, then what is it, what is the education?”
The Patton administration faced widespread outrage from professors regarding salary practices for top officials at a faculty meeting on April 6. The faculty railed against bonuses and mismanagement, as well as payouts during the Liebowitz administration, which ended in 2015.
President Laurie L. Patton discussed executive pay during her routine report to the faculty and emphasized that she is committed to using fewer stay bonuses of smaller amounts. Stay bonuses were a main point of criticism in physics professor Noah Graham’s op-ed, “Executive Pay and Why It Matters,” published in the March 15 issue of The Campus.
“I’m still interested in maintaining a very modest use of these bonuses because they are used in higher ed to prevent a kind of constant searching and turning over,” Patton said. “But as you saw from the data, my interest and commitment to them is very modest. They are one tool among many, and I am committed to moving to most of those other tools before we do that.”
Though Patton was unable to stay after concluding her presentation, Provost gave a more in-depth presentation on the subject later in the meeting. Provost provided specifics regarding previously-issued retention bonuses.
“Since 2009, there were 11 different retention bonuses involving seven different administrators, ranging in annual amounts from $50,000 to $100,000. Those yielded pay outs anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000,” Provost said.
“Today there are three retention bonuses that range in the $40,000 to $50,000 range, with total expected payouts of $150,000 to $250,000” he added.
Cason, who presented alongside Provost, told the faculty that he was one of the three remaining employees with a retention bonus.
“This was offered to me in Laurie’s first year when I was interviewing for another presidency,” Cason said. “I’m just putting that out there, that’s just a fact. If I had understood how this was going to go on, I might have asked for a different kind of compensation at the time. I didn’t ask for [a stay bonus], so I’ll say that.”
Provost argued that stay bonuses are effective, given that they have resulted in faculty recipients remaining at the college for the duration of their bonus’ payout. Faculty had additional questions regarding the purpose of stay bonuses, however.
“Any of the previous 11 that were put in place in all cases achieved their anniversary date,” Provost said. “Yes, they worked from the standpoint of keeping that person here.”
Jason Mittell, a film professor, argued that some of the faculty who remained at Middlebury due to stay bonuses actually harmed the college.
“People were highly compensated at the exact same time that they were making financially irresponsible decisions at the college, which then they had left for Laurie and David to correct,” Mittell said. “What type of accountability has the board of trustees talked about for this? It’s the fault of people who made a lot of money from us while spending a lot of our money and mortgaging our future. . . . How do we make sure most importantly, that this never happens again?”
Erik Bleich, professor of political science, argued that stay bonuses actually encourage administrators to leave once they receive their full bonus.
“If I put myself in the position of someone who’s about to get a $500,000 pay out and then look the next year at the measly salary of $240,000, it’s an incentive to leave, an incentive to leverage that moment to exit,” Bleich said.
Earlier in his presentation, Provost stated that he had in fact been the recipient of a retention bonus at Champlain College, where he worked before coming to Middlebury.
“I had one previously at Champlain during the last presidential transition,” Provost said. “I had played a very active role in the transformation of Champlain, so they tied my hands for four years knowing they wanted me there. That had expired this past June, so when I started a conversation with Laurie, that wasn’t hanging over my head.”
In outlining potential reforms to the current executive pay system, Patton said that she and Provost were open to the idea of formulating stay bonuses in accordance with employees’ individual performance. She also said she was committed to maintaining the costs of and reducing the size of the Senior Leadership Group (SLG), citing that the costs of the SLG were already $30,000 less than they were last year.
Patton said that the college had decided not to award any employee making over $200,000 a raise last year, and shared information regarding her own salary, emphasizing that her take home pay is even less than that listed on the 990 tax form where the college reports executive pay.
“I do not have a retention bonus and my salary is $575,000,” Patton said. “I tied in scholarships and in fact I just finished my taxes, and with all the other charitable deductions I actually make about three-fifths of that. I am happy to share anything more about my own finances if you’d like to talk.”
Patton also reiterated her commitment to paying administrators in accordance with a “market rate.”
“To ask anyone to do these really tough jobs, tougher than they’ve ever been, and not pay market rate for folks to do these jobs doesn’t seem fair to either the candidates or to Middlebury,” Patton said.
Provost explained that the college decides on executive compensation by reviewing market information and by analyzing peer institutions. Patton then recommends executive compensation to the compensation committee, which is made up of the board chair, vice chair, resource committee chair and one additional board member. The compensation committee then approves the President’s recommendations.
Provost’s presentation compared peer institutions’ executive pay to Middlebury’s. The college’s total executive pay of $4.1 million dollars was higher than the $3.6 million average of its peer institutions.
Rick Bunt, a chemistry professor, argued that this gap of 14 percent between the peer group average suggested that the compensation committee did not actually base executive pay off of a “market value.”
“These institutions, Williams, Amherst, all have endowments at least twice our size,” Bunt said. “So our compensation for our top executives is supposed to be market driven, but its 14 percent above average.”
Bunt argued that this is unfair to faculty and staff, given their comparative wages.
“I’m pretty sure our faculty compensation is not 14 percent above average, and I’m really, really sure that our staff compensation is not 14 percent above average,” Bunt said. “We’re committed to paying market rate for our executives for running the school, why shouldn’t we pay market rate to the staff and faculty who actually do the hard work of educating the students?”
Provost explained that the stay bonuses, which will apparently continue to decline in number and value, were responsible for this 14 percent difference.
While Provost revealed that the college does not review staff compensation in the context of a such a “market rate” every year, he said that he and Patton hope to establish faculty compensation at an above average rate compared to their peers. He also said that most college staff actually earn above average wages.
“Laurie is not trying to pay the executives here differently than the faculty or the staff. That is not a goal,” Provost said. “It is our intention to pay our faculty at above market median. On the staff compensation, we are for the most part above the median, there are a few exceptions. We’ve been working with human resources to conduct a compensation study that will address that.”
Provost said that he hoped sharing the 990 tax forms with faculty sooner would help increase transparency.
“I don’t want to speak especially for the past board,” Provost said. “The folks on the resource committee are in that way of thinking, of saying if we see a 990 two years after the fact, that’s not prevention, that’s not awareness of what’s going on, so why aren’t we communicating these in real time when that’s happening? And you heard Laurie say she’s open to that conversation. So if that was in place that would help prevent it before it’s old news.”
Provost also announced that former President Ronald Liebowitz received a sizeable payout, the quantity of which will be released in early May with the disclosure of the FY ’17 990.
In their questions for Provost, faculty members criticized the conduct of past and present administrators, as well as some of the potential methods they feared the college would take to save money in the future.
Susan Burch, a professor of American studies, said that Provost and Cason brought up adjusting healthcare plans in their meeting with faculty earlier in the week.
“I’m very concerned to hear that [health care] might be leveraged. Please don’t do that,” she said.
While Provost said that he believes the college spends too much on healthcare, he clarified that they have delayed the decision on changing healthcare another year at the earliest due to employee concerns.
“Our existing health benefits at $25,000 a family, it’s too much, we’re going to spend $422,000 this year on massage therapy,” Provost said. “You as faculty have to come to the table and say this isn’t about destroying people’s healthcare. I couldn’t agree with you more. My concern is we can’t even have the conversation because that is what is inferred. I don’t like that we’re paying $25,000 per family, it’s probably not worth it, but I hope we can find common ground on some things we should talk about.”
Though Provost had no control over the order of the meeting agenda, history professor Rebecca Bennette expressed frustration that Provost’s presentation was the final one in a nearly four-hour long meeting.
“I’m deeply disturbed that you basically waited us out until almost everyone left and Laurie’s not even here to be here for this conversation. This should have been first,” Bennette said.
John Schmitt, a professor of mathematics, defended Provost and encouraged faculty to view him as an ally.
“I’ve been working with David since September and we have an opportunity here that didn’t exist under the previous administration,” Schmitt said. “David is looking to empower us to make good decisions about our future. We’re not going to get Ron’s payment back. And I’m hopeful that we see David as an ally.”
However, faculty continued to voice criticisms. Tamar Mayer, a geography professor, suggested selling the Middlebury Institute at Monterey in order to save money, to which several faculty voiced support.
Provost replied that though this might not be off-limits, it is not a simple fix to the college’s financial problems, and there are reasons to keep the Institute.
“The spirit of my approach is that I want everything on the table,” Provost said. “But if we’re serious about a conversation about things we want to explore, for me we’re the only one of those peer institutions up there that has a physical campus in the backyard of Silicon Valley. We have not leveraged a resource that we decided to invest in and it sits out there.”
Erik Bleich, professor of political science, issued Provost a warning.
“The decisions that have been made in the past, and some of the current administrators were involved in those decisions, were a disaster,” Bleich said. “I want you all on warning. Don’t let this happen again.”
Bennette argued that the current administration should begin to take more responsibility for the financial state of the college.
“We’re three years into this presidency now. And I’m not saying this was the greatest inheritance to come in to as a president. But you can play a hand of cards good or you can play it poorly, and I think a lot of people think it was not played that well.”
Provost urged faculty to view the college’s financial problems as more complex than a simple issue of executive overcompensation, and to recognize some of the positive conditions at the college.
“If we think Middlebury’s financial difficulties are caused by executive compensation, we won’t solve our problems,” Provost said. “Is there some responsibility there? Absolutely. But we are a very privileged organization. We have a lot of employees. We pay people well. Our benefits are off the charts. And if we aren’t willing to put everything on the table, we aren’t going to solve these problems.”
Peter Dykeman-Bermingham ’18.5, the Student Government Association treasurer and finance committee chair, presented a bill to the SGA on Sunday that would establish a fund to cover the cost of food expenses on trips by student organizations for students on financial aid.
The bill’s formal introduction to the SGA followed the publication of Dykeman-Bermingham’s op-ed in last week’s issue of The Campus, in which he and several SGA signatories expressed a desire to repeal a club sports bill that passed on Feb. 18, given their concern that implementing both the financial aid and club sports bills is not financially feasible.
The club sports bill eliminated a rule that prevented the creation of club teams for already existing varsity sports. Now, teams like tennis or soccer can apply for “club” status and, upon approval of the SGA, can operate under a provisional status for two years, during which they will receive $200 in funding each year.
Dykeman-Bermingham estimated that the new bill would require an additional $20,000 in funding after the provisional period, assuming the creation of at least four new club teams that would then move beyond the provisional period at an estimated $5,000 cost per team per year. He estimated that his financial aid bill would cost about the same amount, providing a maximum cost estimate of $23,000.
Dykeman-Bermingham’s view is that the SGA can only implement one of the bills without straining the SGA’s reserve funds. He said that if the SGA were to successfully run both programs, they would be forced to recommend an increase to the student activities fee, which would constitute a tuition increase that would have to be approved by trustees.
“We recommend the student activities fee each year, which is a component of tuition,” Dykeman-Bermingham explained. “It would be a year or two down the road, because the club sports bill’s financial impact comes in two years. That is when they are no longer capped at $200. We are going to be hit.”
Feb senator Rae Aaron ’19.5, who co-sponsored the club sports bill and is the speaker of the SGA Senate, argued that the costs aren’t as clear cut, and disagreed with Dykeman-Bermingham’s view that the two programs cannot coexist.
“Rather than working constructively on both of these SGA accessibility goals together, Peter is approaching the situation with an either-or proposition, not recognizing the larger scenario or being willing to work on both together,” Aaron said.
“The (club sports) bill that we passed so far hasn’t cost us anything, possibly could cost us a lot,” she said. “Peter’s bill possibly could cost us a lot more than $20,000 and that’s kind of frightening. But I think it’s the SGA’s job to make decisions that benefit the student body, and if we need to revise them in the future we can do that.”
Dykeman-Bermingham acknowledged that his estimates are “crude,” given that he is multiplying the number of students on club rosters that travel by the percentage of students on financial aid. He said he is bound to this system of estimation by the bill’s commitment to confidentiality. Dykeman-Bermingham said he has no knowledge of which specific student members of clubs receive financial aid.
Community Council co-chair Tina Brook ’18, who said she supports the financial aid bill, also did not view the situation as an either-or, but believes the timing of the club sports bill’s passing will influence the debate over the financial aid bill.
“I think the timing of the financial aid bill and the club sports bill is pertinent to understanding why it seems to be an either-or situation,” Brook said. “Due to the fact that it has been introduced following a vote in favor of the club sports bill, which jeopardized the financial feasibility of the SGA moving forward, this new bill must be discussed under the shadow of the club sports bill.”
Aaron and Dykeman-Bermingham have both identified using the SGA reserve funds as another potential solution to the lack of sufficient funding. But both think that this option, along with the option of increasing the student activities fee, should be approached with caution.
Derek Doucet, dean for student activities, warned against both possibilities.
“I don’t see any way that the SGA can substantially expand its support for club sports, while funding the financial assistance bill, without accepting a large reduction in its reserves. That’s not something I’d recommend,” he said. “An increase in the comprehensive fee to pay for the associated costs is not a step to be taken lightly.”
The goal of the proposed food financial aid program is to make clubs and student organizations that participate in off-campus travel more accessible.
“A bunch of organizations have a component to some degree off-campus, and for full student involvement you need full student participation,” Dykeman-Bermingham explained while presenting the bill on Sunday. “The SGA currently only funds reimbursements for gas mileage and vehicle rental. . . . This would help to bridge that gap for students with lower means.”
Dykeman-Bermingham emphasized his desire for a repeal of the club sports bill in his presentation.
“My dream is that we repeal the club sports bill,” he said. “That’s a financial liability of around $20,000, which is four sports at our average club sport cost of $5,000. That’s not an unreasonable expectation. This in its full force is not sustainable alongside an unamended club sports bill without increasing our student activities fee which would increase the financial liability here.”
Aaron said she was surprised that no one had brought forth a repeal bill, given that Brook, SGA president Jin Sohn ’18 and senator Hannah Pustejovsky ’18 signed Dykeman-Bermingham’s op-ed.
“It was strange seeing the op-ed for me,” Aaron said. “I think they should absolutely put forth their opinions. However, the op-ed was calling for a repeal of this bill. And nobody brought forth a bill to repeal the bill.”
In response, Brook said that multiple SGA members were considering potential adjustments and compromises to the club sports issue, and that they believed a simple repeal was not the correct response.
“After discussions with other members of the senate, I recognize that repealing the bill is not the appropriate approach,” Brook said. “The op-ed called for a reverse on the decisions on club sports, that does not necessarily have to involve a repeal, but rather amending the bill.”
Brook and Dykeman-Bermingham both brought up the potential alternative of designating club sports as “social sports,” which they say would be less of a financial risk than the current plan.
“This suggestion is in its early stages of planning,” Brook said. “But I see it as a favorable compromise. This would involve reframing the ‘Club Sports Bill’ as a ‘Social Sports Bill.’ ‘Social Sports would be official student organizations with the capacity to reserve spaces, have an email list, and receive funding for on-campus events, but not (necessarily) off-campus events. These changes align with the original goals of the Club Tennis group when presenting the first bill,” she said, referring to the SGA’s Dec. 3, 2017, meeting.
Another point of contention surrounding the club sports bill was the amendment that Dykeman-Bermingham added to the bill before it was passed, which removed a $1,000 cap on club sports teams’ funding after the two-year provisional period. Aaron explained that she was uncomfortable with the bill’s final form due to the increased costs that teams could incur as a result of this amendment.
“I trust Peter a lot and his knowledge, so I voted for it and I feel really uncomfortable with what it ended up being,” Aaron said.
Dykeman-Bermingham explained that he added this amendment in order to enable the club sports funding process to provide realistic funds, which he said are consistently over $1,000 for current club sports.
“There is not a single club sport that is under $1,000,” he said. “In capping them at funding for $1,000 perpetually, we would inherently make a gap on average of $4,000 that students would have to pay in to run that organization. We would be institutionalizing inaccessibility.”
Aaron disagreed with this logic, arguing that students already pay additional fees, and that the keeping the cap is more responsible.
“Peter doesn’t acknowledge the fact that club sports participants currently pay dues directly to their teams, allowing them to function on more than the money we allocate them,” Aaron said. “There is no reason to assume that we need to fund all club sports in full, or that that is how it currently works. Many clubs also have gift accounts and endowments.”
Dissatisfaction on behalf of SGA members in the aftermath of the club sports bill’s passing also prompted Senator John Gosselin ’20 to propose a bill on Sunday that would change the SGA’s bylaws. The bill would make it so the Senate speaker, who typically chairs discussion at SGA meetings, would be temporarily removed from the position when the SGA discusses a bill sponsored by the Speaker. As speaker, Aaron moderated the deliberation of the club sports bill, which she also sponsored.
“People came to me with concerns that the vote on the (club sports) bill was off and could have been better, and I think part of that process should be preventing the speaker from being the speaker when we’re discussing a bill they sponsor,” Gosselin said.
Brook expressed frustration to The Campus that the vote on the club sports bill occurred despite the absences of several senators in opposition to the bill.
“I was not able to be present, nor was Senator Andrews, who expressed discontent,” Brook said. “Furthermore, Senator Koontz was also absent and we were unable to hear her opinions either. The vote was very close, and our absence prevented it from being a more fair proceeding.”
Brook also felt that the college’s director of club sports Doug Connelly’s and Dykeman-Bermingham’s vocal opposition to the bill, and the nature of the debate in general, should have delayed a vote. Brook was aware of Connelly’s and Dykeman-Bermingham’s opposition to the bill, despite her own absence, by consulting the meeting’s minutes.
“Given that the vote was so contentious ([8–1–5]), and the discussions regarding this bill had been lively, it was the speaker’s responsibility to recognize the need for further deliberation, particularly with all Senators present and commentary from all stakeholders involved,” Brook said.
Aaron recognized the frustration that other senators may have felt during the discussion of the club sports bill given her position as speaker, her position on the club tennis team and her involvement in the bill. She said that she supports the idea behind Gosselin’s proposal because of the conflicting obligations she feels as speaker and senator.
“It always feels like the speaker has more power than you because they’re controlling the conversation and that’s always going to be frustrating,” Aaron said at the meeting. “I do like aspects of this bill. . . . It’s really hard to argue for my constituents when I’m also supposed to be moderating a conversation. So I can’t totally do my job as a senator when I’m supposed to be unbiased.”
“It definitely does look somehow like I was trying to do sketchy things, but I’m not a schemer,” Aaron told The Campus in an interview.
Though Gosselin’s original plan proposes that the president assume the role of speaker in these cases, the senators discussed various models used by other schools and legislative bodies, including not letting the speaker vote at all. The senators were in general agreement that the speaker should still be allowed to vote given their position as an elected official.
“I think you should have the free reign to vote and share your opinion,” Brook said. “I’m very in favor of this because you shouldn’t feel the need to moderate and also defend yourself, and that for anyone can be difficult to balance. So that’s not only for the proceedings but also for you as a speaker to have the right to speak and defend yourself and not have your comments misconstrued as you controlling the conversation.”
Gosselin made sure to clarify that the bill was not meant to criticize Aaron’s performance.
“This isn’t critical of the job you’ve been doing. I hope it’s implied that anyone in your position would have similar difficulties,” he said.
The bill was tabled for discussion next week.
A mural will be painted on the walls of McCullough student center between the mail center and the entrance to Crossroads Cafe in April, according to people familiar with the project. Artists Will Kasso Condry, Isaias Crow, Daniel “POSE2” Hopkins and Marthalicia Matarrita will hold a weeklong artists’ residency from April 8 to 15, which will include workshops and events in which Middlebury students can directly participate in the mural’s creation.
The project will have a specific focus on art as an introspective experience for communal and individual healing. The project will include a panel discussion on April 10 in Dana Auditorium in which the participating artists will talk about the ways that public art and murals foster conversation and healing. The week will conclude with a reception on April 13 in Crossroads Cafe.
The mural project was spearheaded by a planning committee comprised of students, faculty and administrators.
Artist Kasso Condry and associate director of the Anderson Freeman Resource Center Jennifer Herrera Condry, Sam Hurlburt and David Kloepfer from the student activities office, and director of intercultural programs Roberto Lint Sagarena lead the committee for faculty and staff. The students on the committee are Hannah Pustejovsky ’18, an intern in the student activities office, and recent additions Will Brossman ’21 and Jack Spiridellis ’21.
The planning committee members are especially excited about the collaborative nature of the project and its potential to benefit the college community as a whole, especially given the expertise of the participating artists in the arenas of art and community work.
“These artists are master muralists, educators and community organizers. Their work is rooted in using art for healing and community building,” Herrera Condry said.
“In the process, individuals from the Middlebury community will come together to develop a vision and work collectively to create the art,” Lint Sagarena said. “The mural itself will serve as a conspicuous reminder in the heart of campus that by working together the community can face challenges and heal.”
“I am personally excited to work with these outstanding artists, who are also great friends of mine,” Kasso Condry said. “I hope that having these artists here working with students to design and produce community murals will bring more creative energy to the entire campus at a time when it feels like Middlebury could use more TLC. Art is therapeutic but tends to be the missing link in conversations involving community organizing and connecting people.”
The project was presented to the CAPP advisory council by Kloepfer and the Condrys on Jan. 25. After approval from the advisory committee, the proposal was sent to the board of trustees’ CAPP subcommittee for final endorsement, as per protocol. The proposal received unanimous support and was approved by both committees.
The support was significant to those involved in the project’s planning. “It confirmed, and affirmed, that what we are doing is needed and valued,” Herrera Condry said.
“The proposal was very well worked out and contained a timeline and a process for involving the community,” said Pieter Broucke, director of arts and CAPP member.
“The creation of community murals in McCullough is consistent with feedback generated from students involved with the McCullough Working Group and the ‘Re-Imaging McCullough’ conversations between 2012 to 2014,” Herrera Condry said. “For many years, students expressed concerns over McCullough not ‘feeling’ warm and inviting or student-centered, and a desire for it to be a more lively place. Among many unfiltered wishes, having more art and murals was a recurring request.
Kasso Condry taught a winter term class this past January on graffiti and street art and produced a mural of Rosa Parks at Middlebury Union Middle School. The response to the murals Kasso Condry painted last year in the Anderson Freeman Resource Center (AFC) also increased the impetus to produce a mural in McCullough.
“Due to the positive social impact of the murals that Will Kasso Condry produced at the AFC in 2017, conversations were ignited about expanding this work to other student-centered spaces on campus,” Herrera Condry said. “I hope that the McCullough murals will help provide visual cues that represent vibrant and multidimensional interpretations of diverse student experiences at Middlebury.”
Students will be involved in the entire process, which was important to the planning committee as a significant part of the project’s focus on community building.
“As part of year-long campus-wide conversations on healing, well-being, and restorative practices, the mural project adds a new dimension that fosters creative expression and uses mural arts as a vehicle for healing and community building,” Herrera Condry said, emphasizing an event planned for the beginning of the week as an opportunity for this activity in particular.
“The weeklong artists’ residency will kick off with a half-day workshop in which students will focus on introspection, personal development, spiritual well-being, empowerment, team building, and communication,” Herrera Condry said. “Throughout the week, the artists will facilitate hands-on painting sessions with students who participated in the introspection and mural design workshop. The artists will paint alongside participants and refine the murals along the way to completion.”
Broucke and director of the college museum Richard Saunders see the mural as an important addition to the college’s current array of public art.
“I see this project as an opportunity to make Middlebury’s collection of public art more inclusive and thus, as a whole, more representative of our community,” Broucke said.
“I think what I like about the community mural proposed for McCullough is that its creation will be an inclusive process involving different members of the Middlebury community,” Saunders said. “For me campus art is really much less about whether one likes or dislikes a particular work, but rather much more about getting us — members of the Middlebury community — to pause and reflect.”
The project will receive support and funding from co-sponsors including Student Activities, the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, the Twilight Scholars Program, Director of the Arts and the Johnson Visual Arts Residency Program Fund, and Wonnacott Commons.
College spokesman Bill Burger requested that the editors of this paper delay publication of an interview with President Laurie L. Patton, which The Campus had originally planned to publish in the Feb. 15 issue, after confusion and disagreement between Burger and Ethan Brady ’18, the paper’s editor in chief, regarding the nature of Burger and Patton’s role in reviewing and influencing the article’s content.
Burger’s request for the delay came twenty-four hours before that week’s issue was sent to print, and after the editors had planned to dedicate more than a page of the paper to the interview and a related news report. Brady agreed to postpone the interview and, as a result, The Campus published a blank page with the text, “This page was originally reserved for an interview,” printed in the center of page A3.
“Laurie and I would like you to hold the interview until the issue that closes next week,” Burger wrote in an email to Brady and Will DiGravio ’19, The Campus’ managing editor. “I have real concerns about ensuring the integrity of the various versions of the Q&A that we’ll need to review. My schedule tomorrow leaves almost no time for me to do this work.”
Brady and editors Amelia Pollard ’20.5 and Elizabeth Zhou ’18 interviewed Patton during winter term on Wednesday, Jan. 31. The editors planned to publish the interview in the first issue back from break, until Brady and DiGravio received the email from Burger quoted above.
The Campus finalizes print editions on Tuesday evenings, and the newspaper is distributed every Thursday morning. Brady and DiGravio received Burger’s email at 10:50 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 12, disrupting the paper’s plan to publish the interview that week. Brady agreed to delay the article’s publication in an email to Burger that night.
Brady and DiGravio first requested an interview with Patton in a Jan. 19 email. Patton replied on Jan. 23 with a directive to discuss terms of the interview with Burger.
“My guess is that we all would want the interview to be fair, accurate, and thoughtful in both tone and content,” Patton wrote. “In that spirit I’ll turn it over to Bill to discuss terms.”
That evening, Burger, Brady and DiGravio settled on a time to discuss the terms and timing of the interview. They settled on terms and scheduled the interview for Jan. 31 at 1:30 p.m.
At the end of the interview, Burger reiterated the previously agreed upon terms, and the reporters again agreed to them.
“Just to review our ground rules for this,” Burger said. “So you’ll transcribe this, I’m presuming, you’ll send it to us for a clarification, any clean up, if we need to expand on something, but not to fundamentally change the meaning of what was said.”
“Does that sound reasonable?” Patton asked.
Brady and Zhou responded in agreement.
On the Wednesday following the interview, Brady sent Patton an email with remaining questions that the editors had run out of time to ask, per an agreement made before and during the interview.
“We will send a transcript of the interview along in the next few days as discussed,” Brady added in the email with the additional questions.
On Feb. 5, Brady emailed Burger with the transcript of the interview. Burger replied on the same day that he expected the editors to compress the interview due to its length.
“No one wants to inflict an unedited 9,000 word transcript on the reader; its of almost no value,” Burger wrote.
Though Burger made some suggestions as to the type of editing Brady should do to the interview, he made no explicit request for an edited version of the transcript.
Brady received no further correspondence from Burger until Monday, Feb. 12., the first day of the spring term, when Burger inquired about obtaining an edited transcript of the interview. But Brady had sent the full, unedited transcript on Feb. 5, and had not finished editing the interview.
Burger expected Brady to send him the edited transcript of the interview that he would read before publication, and to allow him to approve each of Patton’s quotes to be included in the article.
“We will need to approve every quote — and of course the quotes in the piece will need to match the quotes in the abridged Q&A — and the full Q&A online,” Burger replied.
At 10:50 that evening, Burger emailed Brady and DiGravio and asked them to wait to publish the interview until the following week, citing “concerns about ensuring the integrity of the various versions of the Q&A that we’ll need to review.”
Brady agreed to delay publishing the articles. The next day, Burger emailed Brady, again asking for the edited Q&A and article.
“I hope you can get me the edited content (interview and written piece) by Sunday noon so I have time to look at it Sunday,” Burger wrote. “My Monday is pretty booked.”
On Feb. 14, Brady sent Burger an abridged transcript of the Q&A as requested, but did not attach the additional article. Brady said that he perceived Burger’s wish to approve the quotes included in the story as a violation of their original terms.
“The terms of the interview were that we would send you a transcript for clarifications/additions, not negotiate which quotes can or can’t be used in an article,” Brady wrote in the email.
Burger denied wanting to influence the quotes The Campus included in the article, and stressed his desire to instead protect their “integrity.”
“We have no interest in influencing which question/answers you want to touch upon in an article; our interest is in the integrity of the quotes themselves,” Burger said.
Patton sent a document with edits for clarification to The Campus on Monday, Feb. 20. Burger did not ask to approve quotes or view the articles prior to press time.
Middlebury will continue to prohibit marijuana use and possession on campus despite Vermont’s legalization of the drug on Jan. 22. Hannah Ross, the college’s general counsel, sent a school-wide email reiterating the policy three days after Gov. Phil Scott signed H. 511 into law.
Ross cited the risk of losing federal funding and a concern for student health as motivation to uphold the current policy in her email.
“Middlebury is at risk of losing federal dollars, including Title IV financial aid funds for students, if we allow cannabis on campus,” Ross wrote. “We also are cognizant of the research done at UVM and elsewhere which indicates that even recreational use of cannabis has significant negative impacts on knowledge retention and brain development of individuals under the age of 29.”
Vermont is the latest state to legalize marijuana, and the first to do so by legislature rather than by voter referendum. Recreational use is already legal in Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. Colleges in these states have also left policies that prohibit marijuana unchanged so as to abide by federal law.
On Jan. 22, the day Scott signed the legislation, students at the University of Vermont received an email from Wendy Koenig, the university’s director of federal and state relations, announcing that the university’s policy prohibiting marijuana would remain in effect. Bowdoin, Colby and Bates Colleges in Maine, as well as Williams, Amherst and Tufts in Massachusetts, have retained their marijuana prohibition policies in order to remain in compliance with federal law.
But a Feb. 8 article in The Williams Record reported that though the college’s policy prohibiting marijuana was still in effect, “the College will no longer contact the Williamstown Police Department (WPD) for all marijuana-related incidents, as was necessary when marijuana was illegal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” Williams’ campus safety staff will continue to respond to reports of marijuana use, and any case of use by a student will still be disciplined by the college’s dean.
Lisa Burchard, the director of public safety, did not respond to a request for comment when asked whether the college’s Public Safety staff is considering any changes to their handling of student violations of the marijuana prohibition policy.
Students think the legalization will have a minimal effect on student life given the college’s policy.
“I don’t think the legalization will have much of a noticed effect on social life at Middlebury,” said one student, who requested anonymity. “Since Middlebury is upholding its previous rules, obviously people won’t be smoking overtly or more excessively on campus, but those who smoke frequently are likely to still do so, and same with those who smoke casually. I think it’s still pretty easy to ‘get away with’ smoking on campus, given how spread out our campus is, and the ability to conceal smoking better with products such as vaporizers.”
“I think if it were to become allowed on campus there would definitely be a slight increase in its consumption, but people who are already smoking weed won’t really be affected I guess,” said another student, who also requested anonymity.
The student is optimistic that Vermont residents may be able to acquire safer marijuana from retailers in the future.
“It’s definitely safer to come from a store than a dealer, and more tax revenue for both Middlebury and Vermont is great,” the student said.
The college handbook says students and employees are expected to abide by federal law. As long as marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the handbook’s provision prohibiting the use and possession of illicit drugs on property owned or leased by Middlebury will continue to apply to marijuana.
The college must also abide by federal regulations that require colleges to implement a program to prevent the possession, use and distribution of illegal drugs in order to receive funding from the federal government. According to Kim Downs-Burns, a vice president for financial services, Middlebury received $22,946,484 of federal funding for financial aid in the 2017 fiscal year.
Although the risk of losing federal funding appears to be a universal concern amongst colleges, one Colorado county has found a way to use marijuana’s legal status to fund scholarships for college students. In 2015, a ballot initiative in Pueblo County established a scholarship program funded by at least 50 percent of the proceeds from the marijuana excise tax. The excise tax levies a tax on all marijuana grown in the county when marijuana is first sold from a grower to a retailer.
While the amount raised for the fund remains significantly less than the federal financial aid funding Middlebury received last year, the Colorado program’s funding has increased since last year, its first full year in operation. According to a Feb. 5 Denver Channel article, the fund has accumulated almost $700,000 dollars this year from the marijuana tax to distribute to students in Pueblo County for the 2018–2019 academic year.
Last year, the tax provided $475,000 in scholarships to students there.
After months of tense negotiations between residential life staff and college administrators, a bill calling for increased pay, training and support was introduced to the Student Government Association (SGA) on Sunday.
The bill, entitled “Student Residential Life Revitalization and Just Compensation Act,” proposed that residential life staff be compensated at the college’s Level B wage scale, or a minimum of $5,410 for their first year on the job. It requests that each commons administration add two live-in supervisory positions to their commons team to be filled by a recent graduate or senior, and that commons administration provide a first aid certification program for residential life staff.
The bill also states that if the college does not grant residential life staff Level B compensation for the 2018–2019 school year, the SGA would endorse a student residential life strike if one were to take place.
“There was some language in the bill that was a little disturbing too, which was the idea of this body supporting a strike of residential life staff,” said Doug Adams, director of residential life. “I hope that we’d look at this and say that’s not where our staff sits.”
Adams argued that the bill’s requests were more appropriate for discussion among the Residential Life committee, rather than through an SGA bill. However, when the bill’s sponsor, Feb senator Alec Fleischer ’20.5, was asked if he would rather take the conversation to the Residential Life committee or continue the discussion in the SGA meeting next week, he responded that he wanted it on the SGA agenda for next week.
Negotiations between residential life staff and administrators began in the fall, when student staff struggled to adapt to this year’s replacement of commons residential advisors (CRAs) with commons residence directors (CRDs), and felt they lacked sufficient training to deal with alcohol-related emergencies.
“Training as a consensus, ask anybody, bombed. Bombed so hard,” said Kyle Wright ’19.5, a Wonnacott community assistant (CA). “Doug Adams was on medical leave. FYCs and RAs were not trained how to handle the most common residential situations they encounter, which is instances of alcohol poisoning and drug misuse. Can you imagine the anxiety that creates for a 19-year-old running into someone who is passed out on the floor, who has a dropping pulse, covered in their own vomit and they have been told to just call Public Safety and do nothing?”
Wright expressed additional frustration that residential life staff believed that CRDs would function in a way similar to that of the former CRAs, only to find that the position functioned far differently in practice.
“Student residential life staff show up [in August 2017] having signed a contract, a legally binding document outlining their roles and responsibilities, understanding that CRDs will be one thing," Wright said. “Once the CRDs were hired, the job description changed rapidly. We come to find out that not only are [most] CRDs not living on campus, not only are they not recent graduates, but also that there was only going to be one on call for the entire campus.”
Wright said that last year, students could always turn to CRAs for in-dorm support, even when their CRA was not on call.
“There were five [CRAs] present 24 hours a day, six days a week in the dorms,” he said. “So you could go to your CRA even if the one on call was preoccupied. There was accessibility to [the CRA] position, there was direct supervisory support on the weekends. That support no longer exists.”
Residential life staff argue that this lack of support felt from the transition to CRDs has resulted in a large increase in responsibilities for First Year Counselors (FYCs), who now feel pressure to act as first responders and provide support and programming.
“It should be noted that that level of support from CRAs was largely unsustainable with their stress levels and obligations. However, now [the CRAs’] stress and responsibility has been laid on the FYCs,” Atwater community assistant Peter Dykeman-Bermingham ’18.5 said.
As a result of widespread feeling that FYCs have had to bear an increased burden with the transition to a system with CRDs, many staff members believe that a pay increase is now more necessary than ever. FYCs will make $2,400 this year, which breaks down to an hourly wage that is less than Vermont’s minimum of $10.50 if divided by the hours Wright says FYCs work per week. RAs currently make $1,800 per year, and CAs $2,ooo.
“Residential life has always been underpaid here,” Atwater FYC Samantha Pearl ’18 said. “A breakdown of the hourly pay in comparison to any other campus job is absurd. But the expectations have increased this year. We as student workers are now firstly and directly responsible for afterhours supervision during the week and on the weekends. It’s a different job, a bigger job, and many of us have multiple jobs on campus because of the poor pay.”
In October, residential life staff drafted a petition urging administrators to consider these challenges. As a result of the petition, administrators and students participated in conversations meant to address the complaints.
“A number of us launched into a dialogue in the fall where we got together with commons teams, administrators, other res life staff. We had a series of really big meetings where we said this is not ok, we feel unsafe, we feel as if the system is broken, and you need to address salary,” Wright explained.
After these initial larger meetings, a proposal with a draft of a new pay scale and job descriptions was sent to residential life staff sometime in late November. The draft proposed that FYCs, Resident Assistants (RAs) and CAs all be granted a rebate of $3,000 for 15 hours of work.
Pearl and other residential life staff emailed with feedback, criticizing this uniform pay for all positions in particular.
“I was initially insulted and found the idea of equal stipends trivializing to the FYC position. Doing so to me seemed to continue to devalue the tolls and responsibilities of the FYC position, particularly those aspects that can’t be calculated into weekly hours or a job description,” Pearl said.
Wright echoed Pearl’s sentiments, stressing his belief that commons administrators are out of touch with the realities of the responsibilities of staff.
“The deans and CRDs are so out of touch with the residential needs of this college that they actually thought that paying these positions the same thing, valuing them at the same level was even remotely appropriate, after six months of dialogue to the contrary,” he said.
On Jan. 8, Atwater Commons Dean Scott Barnicle sent out a finalized proposal. The final proposal sets RA and FYC pay equal at $3,150 and CA pay at $2,250. This proposal also included more similar job descriptions for RAs and FYCs.
“It is clear the new RA role and the FYC role are far more mirrored than they are currently. And so we felt strongly and I think appropriately, given the feedback we’d gotten, those roles should be paid more than the CA role,” Adams said.
Many residential life staff appreciated the proposal’s adjustments in accordance with their feedback, but believe they deserve to be paid Middlebury’s Level B compensation.
“I responded to an earlier proposal and some of my suggestions appeared in the final decision, though still shy of what I considered fair pay for the work,” Dykeman-Bermingham said. “This plan represents something like a $60K increase to wage spending and I understand the difficulty of so abruptly changing the res life accounting. However, this pay increase should be accompanied by a plan to annually increase the salary of student staff until they are paid a fair wage for the very stressful work they perform.”
“I am grateful for the pay increases, but also I agree with Kyle that we should be making minimum wage, especially now that there are expected hours listed,” Pearl said.
Fleischer stressed the reasonable nature of these requests, considering the skill required for the job.
“This is a skilled job. There is 2 weeks of training in the beginning of the year, plus its a competitive application process. At a minimum it should be a level B scale, that’s $10.82 a year for the first year. We’re asking to bring it in line with every other job at Middlebury,” Fleischer said.
After discussing the outstanding demands of residential life staff with Wright, Fleischer agreed to work with him to bring a bill outlining their requests to the SGA for deliberation and a vote.
In the SGA meeting, Doug Adams and Cook commons dean Ian Sutherland stressed the importance of awarding residential life staff a rebate, as they do currently, rather than a weekly paycheck based off of an hourly wage for a set number of hours a week, in part because the hours can vary significantly each week. Furthermore, Sutherland claimed that a weekly paycheck would actually result in lower net earnings because a substantial amount would be withheld by taxes.
“The actual money that a student would see in the academic year would be much reduced,” Sutherland said.
But a calculation from SmartAsset.com suggests otherwise. At a Level B hourly rate of $10.82, a student working 15 hours per week for 28 weeks plus 80 hours of training at the beginning of the semester would make $3,350 according to Vermont income tax rates for a single person paid weekly. This number is higher than the college’s proposed $3,150.
Wright stressed that Taylor and Adams participated extensively in conversations with students, and that if he had to pinpoint where communication fell through, it would be between CRDs, commons deans and their student staff.
“Baishakhi was very proactive, but because her job is to delegate the actual work, she delegated that work to commons deans and CRDs primarily,” he said. “To my knowledge, CRDs and deans solicited feedback over email, but did not go to many lengths to create space for their staff to provide focused, critical feedback.”
When asked whether he thought commons deans and CRDs had had sufficient communication with their student staff before drafting the proposals, Adams said yes.
“They reached out through their teams, through regular one-on-ones, to ask, ‘here’s what we’re doing, do you have any feedback?’” Adams said.
“In advertising for next year, email and posters can be inadequate, so we’ve done an information session so far, we’re planning another information session closer to the [housing application] deadline next week, saying we’d really like to answer any questions people have,” Adams said, referring to the housing information session held on Jan. 16. In later email correspondence, Adams clarified that this meeting was “targeted at new applicants for next year.”
In an email from the Undergraduate Housing office, the event was described as an opportunity to “ask questions related to the Fall Term Pre-Open Draw processes,” where questions could be answered relating to "Res Life Positions, Language & Special Interest Houses, Superblocks, Off Campus Housing, and Social Houses."
Current residential life staff were either unaware of the meeting or did not think it was an opportunity to ask questions about the ongoing negotiations. When asked if Pearl attended the housing information session on Jan. 16, she replied, “I don’t think so? I didn’t go and didn’t think it had anything to do with that.”
When asked if he had met with anyone in person about the proposal sent over winter break, about the second proposal, Dykeman-Bermingham said he had only sent an email with criticism against the equal pay for all positions.
“I am assuming that Kyle Wright had one-on-one meetings. I never met one-on-one with a dean or CRD either,” he said.
When Wright was asked whether he had had any one-on-one communication with a commons dean or CRD, he replied that he had no correspondence with either commons deans or CRDs throughout the process.
The Campus reached out to all of the commons deans and CRDs for comment. Some did not respond, while others replied that Doug Adams could answer all questions.
In response to calls for increased pay, Adams stressed the significance of the accomplishment of attaining a pay increase for the 2018–2019 school year.
“The college is going through a restructuring time where we are actually reducing budgets, but in this case we were able to negotiate going into next year an increase in the rebates that we’ll offer to student staff,” Adams said.
Adams also plans to continue to seek pay increases.
“The rebate should be larger. I’d love to see that. I think finding the balance is really important. I’m going to continue to advocate for a higher rate going forward,” he said.
In response to calls for an additional position to provide in-dorm support to residential life staff, Adams said it was a possibility, but that it will require continued conversation that would include communication with students.
“The SRA can potentially exist if it solves the problem. We’re going to continue to explore that with our student staff,” he said.
Adams has already begun efforts to provide increased first aid and alcohol training to students.
“I’ve already reached out to Jen Kazmierczak, she’s our environmental health and safety educator who helps coordinate first aid trainings about setting something up so that students and res life staff who are interested in getting CPR or first aid certified can take care of that. Alcohol training is through health and wellness, so Barbara McCall, the health and wellness educator has agreed to do that program, so she’s going to come in and do a program with them next week,” Adams said.
Editor’s note: Managing editor Will DiGravio, who is currently an FYC and participated in residential life negotiations, was not involved in the writing or editing of this report.
President Laurie L. Patton announced in August that Katy Smith Abbott, vice president for student affairs and dean of the college, would step down from her position at the end of December to return full-time to her faculty position in the art history department.
Her resignation will bring an end to her long tenure in student life administration, which began in 2002 when she and her husband, Steve Abbott, were named co-heads of Ross Commons.
On Monday, Smith Abbott sat down with News editors Elizabeth Sawyer and Nick Garber and discussed her work in the administration, the challenges she has faced, and why student life work has remained her central focus.
Middlebury Campus (MC): You attended many years of school, studying and learning how to teach art history. What compelled you to give that up, at least in part, to do administrative work? Did it feel like a sacrifice?
Katy Smith Abbott (KSA): When I first stepped into student life work, it was 2002, and I was teaching art history part-time at the college. My husband had just come through the tenure process a few years before that, and we were asked to serve as the heads of Ross Commons. That was the first step, toeing the water of student life work. And we believed in the commons system. We were people who always had students over for dinner anyway. So when Tim Spears, who was in something like [my current] role at the time, asked us if we would consider it, first we said, “You’ve got to be crazy!” Our children were like two and four at the time, we were like, “No way are we doing that publicly.”
And then we thought about it and we said actually, it totally aligns with what we believe in, in terms of boundary crossing, in terms of blurring the boundaries between the classroom and intellectual life outside the classroom. That was the first step in. At that point it really felt like a complement to teaching, not as consuming as [my current] work.
We did that for six years, and then Tim [Spears] again asked if I would take on another administrative role, that was called associate dean of the college. And then from that I moved into being dean of students. I had a sabbatical before becoming dean of students, and while I was away in England on that sabbatical, Shirley Collado, who was the dean of the college at the time, called and said would you come back as dean of students.
So I guess it’s a long rambling way of saying it’s been incremental. And the real answer to what would have compelled me to do it, the first step, was the commons head role. It felt like such a wonderful complement to the way Steve and I were already thinking about teaching and the way we loved being with students. And when we stepped into that, we looked at each other and went, “This is going to be the end of our innocence as faculty members. We know we’re getting closer in to students’ experience outside of the classroom in all the glory and all the grit,” and we said okay, are we ready for this?
And it was true. When you’re really engaging students and are present for students in whatever experiences they’re having, you’re not just sitting with the beautiful minds in the classroom and engaging at that level. It felt important, and teaching is of course tremendously important. But it just felt like a different way to connect. It felt like a different way to commit to this thing that I really believed in, which was thinking of students as whole people. They bring their whole selves to the college experience and I wanted to be part of that.
MC: Despite the connections you’ve cultivated with students, is there anything about the role of an administrator that automatically puts you at a distance from the perspective of students?
KSA: I think a couple things are true. I’ll first tell you a story. When my son, who’s now a junior in college, was on the college tour circuit, I went with him on the Minnesota trip, and we were on the Macalester [College] tour in a blinding snow storm. And they did this brilliant thing there, where they made the family members, mostly parents, go on one tour and the students went on a different tour, so you couldn’t humiliate your kid by asking almost gunner questions like I wanted to ask.
So I went off with my tour guide, and of course I was the first one in line, and I said, “I would love to start with the question, ‘What do you love most about Macalester?’ ” and she did not hesitate, and she said, “I love the close working relationship students have with the administration.” And I thought I was going to fall over — I was so fascinated by that. And it was completely authentic. That’s not an answer you’re going to just come up with as a student, right?
Maybe that’s not what I need Middlebury students to say is their favorite thing about Middlebury, but I thought, “How do we get closer to that? What would that look like?” I’ve sort of been haunted by it for the past three years. I haven’t followed up with colleagues there about what makes that magic, but it must have something to do with a determined approach, a conscious approach, to thinking collaboratively about the good of the institution.
Not just, “What do we need right now in this moment?” Sometimes there is a tension between the urgency students feel, rightly, because they’re only here for four years, and the administration’s long view that says we’re the shepherds for the long-term good of the institution. I think it can feel as though that’s a stark dichotomy, instead of really being pieces of a whole. They both matter, they are the same thing, but we’ve chosen to break them apart like puzzle pieces. I think when we get to these places of division or saying “Old Chapel” or “all students,” we’ve decided that we’re not really all after the same thing, which is that Middlebury feels like a place where every student can flourish and where we are mindful of the things that aren’t working right now.
I do think there’s a way in which it’s “helpful.” Things persist because they serve us well in some regard. So for students to feel kept out of decision-making or to say “Old Chapel” or “the administration,” that serves something. It makes something somebody else’s fault. Which is not to say we don’t have responsibility. And in the same way, saying, “Well, these are administrative decisions, not student decisions,” because we have the long-term interests of the institutions at heart, serves something as well.
I think there’s rich potential in reframing that narrative and rewriting it in a way that starts with “What if?” What if we did this differently? What if we started from a different point or with different assumptions in mind, in my utopian world?
MC: Speaking of long-term versus short-term perspectives: to us, Charles Murray is the biggest controversy we’ve been aware of over the past three years. But you’ve been in administrative roles for such a long time, what have some other challenges been that you’ve experienced and had to work through?
KSA: You’re not alone in thinking that. I think a lot of us think that. That’s a dramatic moment, a marker in the college’s longer history and shorter history. People who were around during the Vietnam War will say that we had much bigger controversies or much bigger moments on campus or similarly impactful moments — maybe it’s not that one is more dramatic than the others.
While I do not in any way mean that March 2 was second-most intense on my watch, I will say that for me, as hard as this is and as divided our campus feels at times — and sometimes all the time — the most difficult thing I’ve had to do is to be with a community in the wake of a student suicide. It’s just unimaginably difficult. Well, not unimaginably — many of us were here for that.
That will stand out for me forever as something that certainly shaped my own approach to my work, my approach to working with the remarkable colleagues that I have had the opportunity to work with across student life, and to what it means to be with a campus in a place of crisis that’s really disorienting in a different way than what we’re dealing with now, which is also disorienting, but I think in a different perspective.
I think for me, these two moments are really different from each other. There are lots of individual student crises, and also moments of immense celebration with students that will stay with me as well. But in terms of other things in my own work that stand out as super difficult, those two are the places of weight and deep concern.
MC: In those really hard moments, how did your responsibilities as an administrator differ from what they would have been if you had been a faculty member?
KSA: Almost in every imaginable way. One of the realities of being an administrator is that, except in moments of crisis, you tend to be farther from students. And that’s the single biggest difference and the thing I’ve missed the most — the very close connection you have with students on a daily basis when you’re teaching.
I’ve taught one class a year the whole time since I’ve been an administrator, and a little bit more than that when I was a commons head, but in my commons, you have lots of students in your house all the time or you’re at events. But the more I’ve moved into administrative work, the more distance there’s been between me and regular interaction with students. That’s probably been the thing I’ve missed the most.
When I announced my decision to go back to teaching, people asked me, “Are you leaving your administrative job because of Charles Murray?” I get it, the timing would make you want to ask that question. But the truth is that, if the moment we’re in has had any impact on my decision to go back to teaching — and there’s more than one impact — the reality is that last spring, when I was in really hard conversations with students, as hard as those conversations were, I thought, “This is what matters. This is what matters to me: being in these conversations with students.”
It was a little bit of a lightbulb moment for me, of saying, “It’s time. It’s time to be back in a place where I can be more regularly connected to students.” Hopefully not talking with quite the same intensity all the time, but I would say that’s the biggest difference. You spend a lot of time in meetings, a lot of time on email, a lot of time doing strategic planning and problem-solving, and it’s important and it’s challenging and I’ve grown tremendously as a professional as a result of all that, but I went to graduate school so that I could teach. I enjoy scholarship, but my dream was to be regularly working with students. So that’s the single biggest difference.
MC: Do you wish you’d known certain things coming into this job that would’ve helped you perform better?
KSA: I don’t know the answer to that question, to be honest. There are a lot of people in my job who come from student affairs backgrounds, have PhDs in higher education administration and who are career student life professionals. I love meeting with those people. I have colleagues at other institutions whose wisdom I tap when I need it, which is often. So I think if I had that background there are probably some things I would’ve done or managed differently.
This is not at all to say that I haven’t made mistakes, because I’ve made plenty. I think that one of the joys and privileges of doing the work with my unusual background in art history has been that I really depended upon the remarkable colleagues that I’ve had in student life, and they’ve been incredibly patient and gracious with me. I think it’s meant that I’ve done a lot of on-the-job learning from 2002 — it’s ongoing. Probably in places where it’s felt uncomfortable, I’ve had to acknowledge my shortcomings and have some humility around where my gaps in knowledge are. I feel like the places where I could’ve really screwed up, I’ve been saved by the wisdom, support and collaboration of people here and elsewhere, like my colleagues at other institutions.
If I look back on the things I wish had gone differently, to be honest, it would’ve been about moving more slowly. It would’ve been about taking more time to listen before acting. It can sometimes feel like everything has to be decided in the moment, and like I said, there can be really urgent situations that present themselves, and when that happens, like any situation, your adrenaline surges, your problem-solving superhero cape gets on, and you think, “I got this!” Sometimes you have to act with that kind of alacrity, sometimes it is a life or death moment. But most of the time it’s not.
I think if I could have cultivated a deep well of calm and patience around decision-making, some of the things that stay with me where I wish I had made a different decision or I wish I had slowed down. Maybe it’s not even that I would have made a different decision. But I think there is a way in which most of the work that’s done in my realm is aided — not by moving slowly, because goodness knows students think we move too slowly! I don’t mean around big issues that the college needs to be tending to.
I just mean in individual moments, mostly one-on-one with students or in small group situations. The ability to say, “You know what? Emotions are running high, we’re not at our best, let’s come together tomorrow over tea and talk again.” Off the top of my head, that’s what I would say is the skill or practice that’s critical, and doesn’t get enough attention.
MC: What will you miss most about this role?
KSA: I will miss most the people I work with really closely. That’s a hard one to say without getting teary. I think highly about so many colleagues across student life, but I have a senior leadership team that is just an extraordinary group of people, and I lucked into them. I hired a couple of them, but most of them were already in their positions and were my peers, the people I was sitting around a table with, reporting to somebody else. They were incredible, when I stepped into this role, about saying, “You’re the leader of the division, we’re gonna make this happen together.” It’s nine people I sit with every Wednesday morning, and who oversee the other major areas of student life across campus. They’re referred to as the student affairs leadership team, or SALT, so I refer to them as the saltines.
I’m not going anywhere, I’ll have lunch with people and go on walks with people, but there’s something extraordinary about being in a really tough work environment where you work with people you know you can depend upon in a fundamentally unshakeable way. I was lucky enough to have that, and I know that’s what I’ll miss the most.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Last March, student-led protests of Charles Murray garnered nationwide media coverage, much of which fell into an ongoing debate over the state of free speech on college campuses. Of particular note was “Free Inquiry on Campus,” a statement of principles first published in The Wall Street Journal in March and signed by over 100 Middlebury faculty, which emphasized a commitment to free speech and condemned the protests as “coercive.”
In the weeks that followed, however, another faculty group emerged, which framed the debate in decidedly different terms. A caucus of several dozen faculty members, calling themselves the Middlebury Faculty for an Inclusive Community, first announced its formation in a May op-ed in The Campus, which outlined the group’s principles.
The statement includes a call for “active resistance” against discrimination, and a defense of civil disobedience as “a necessary means to reorganize and redefine the values and relationships that make up a community.” While stressing the importance of both freedom of speech and inclusivity, the caucus asserts that “such freedom comes with the obligation that it be exercised responsibly, especially when offering the platform of our campus to outside speakers who may undermine our culture of inclusivity — symbolically or otherwise.”
The group has since submitted two additional op-eds. The first, in September voiced support for Addis Fouche-Channer ’17, following a report by The Campus into her racial profiling claim against a Public Safety officer. The second condemned the racially-charged imagery found on a chalkboard in Munroe Hall earlier this month, and called upon senior administrators to apologize to Fouche-Channer and withdraw the September finding by the Title IX office that a preponderance of evidence indicated she had attended the Murray protests.
Today, the caucus exists primarily in the form of an email list, which comprises roughly 50 faculty members. Jason Mittell, a professor of film and media culture who serves as a spokesman for the group said that many members shared a belief that the dominant narrative unfairly portrayed the protests as an unqualified violation of free speech.
“People started gathering into an affinity group of faculty who were concerned about students, and were dismayed by the PR push to frame everything as a free speech issue,” Mittell said. “That began a series of emails which then turned into an email list which then turned into more of an organization.”
The Free Inquiry statement published in the Journal was a particular cause of dissatisfaction. Some faculty nicknamed the document “The Loyalty Oath,” because of what they viewed as an unfair assumption that a decision not to sign constituted an ideological statement against the principles of free expression.
“The way many in the college community understood that statement was either you sign it, or you’re actively not signing it,” Mittell said. “A number of us, myself included, were really put off by that, not necessarily because there was anything wrong with the principles in the abstract, but in the practicality it felt like that was not the right response,” Mittell said.
“The events of March 2 were multifaceted,” said Maggie Clinton, a history professor also on the caucus. “As many have noted, they were as much about race and power on and off campus as they were about free speech, but the free speech aspect has received by far the most national attention.”
In that vein, the first active step taken by the caucus was to successfully oppose a motion introduced at a faculty meeting in April to add a “Freedom of Expression Policy” to the College handbook — a step viewed by members of the caucus as premature.
“I think most of us thought this was way too soon — it was forcing things and it was really a divisive wedge,” Mittell said. “I think that’s when this group formed into something more than just a series of dispersed emails, and [instead] said collectively, ‘Can we come up with a strategy to push back against this?”
Of the 50 faculty members on the caucus’s email list, only 23 are listed on the group’s website, which can be accessed at go.middlebury.edu/inclusivecommunity. Mittell believes that some members are hesitant to state their involvement because other faculty have discouraged them from getting involved.
“There have been instances where we know of untenured faculty members who have gotten pressure from colleagues being told not to be too outspoken about political issues on campus,” he said.
While Mittell is not aware of explicit threats concerning tenure, he thinks the nature of the system forces faculty to be careful in this regard.
“Part of the whole tenure system is it’s a gauntlet that you have to run, and depending on your department and who’s on the college-wide tenure committee, there can be a sense of risk aversion,” he said.
The caucus plans to pursue a multifaceted approach by working with faculty, students and the town of Middlebury to achieve its aims.
“This isn’t just about what happens on our campus. This is about what’s happening to faculty, staff and students in town,” said Shawna Shapiro, a professor in the linguistics program who is a member of the caucus.
“We’ve been having some discussion about how to work with groups like SURJ [Showing Up for Racial Justice], which is a community-based group focused on racial justice, to think about ways for us to more directly talk with the town about issues of concern… instead of expecting the college to be our spokesperson,” she added.
The caucus is also considering offering a variety of events on campus next semester.
“There’s talk of doing a teach-in in the spring, there’s talk of sponsoring a series of lectures or more of a symposium event,” Mittell said.
“And maybe doing some more vocal protests that might involve students, or something more public to galvanize the energy and focus the discussion.” Shapiro added.
The caucus took what Mittell describes as its first “proactive” steps on Nov. 3, by presenting recommendations to the administration in a motion entitled “Moving Forward On Diversity Practices.” The motion passed with 113 faculty voting in favor, eight against, and one abstaining.
“Behind the scenes, members of our group had met with members of the administration and student groups, had done things to try to provide support and engage issues, but that was our first attempt to say these are four concrete things that we believe can be done which we think will help move us forward,” Mittell said.
“While statements of support and denunciation remain important, we have to go beyond words,” said Usama Soltan, a professor of Arabic, and another caucus member. “In the absence of clear and tangible progress on such issues, statements eventually start to ring hollow.”
As a result of the motion’s passing, the recommendations went to the administration for review and potential implementation. Given the stated support of several administrators, multiple caucus members expressed an expectation that the administration will pursue all of the components.
College faculty met for over three hours in a plenary meeting on Nov. 3 in which they passed a motion declaring their commitment to promoting diversity and discussed the investigative procedures resulting from allegations of racial profiling by Public Safety.
Diversity Practices Motion
The motion, formally entitled, “Moving Forward on Diversity Practices” passed with 113 yes votes, 8 no votes and 1 abstention. Faculty voted anonymously by paper ballot.
Professors Gloria González, Darién Davis and Michael Sheridan of the spanish, history and anthropology departments, respectively, presented the motion on behalf of Middlebury Faculty for an Inclusive Community, a caucus that formed in the wake of the Charles Murray protests last spring. The motion cited the college’s inability to address issues of racism without estranging members of the community as justification for the suggestions.
The motion suggests four measures aimed at making the college more inclusive: conducting an external review on diversity policies and practices; creating a standing faculty diversity committee that would work with the administration, board of trustees and other faculty bodies; establishing a protocol for recording, reporting and responding to harassment and racism; and hiring an external facilitator to lead discussions aimed at fostering diversity within the community.
“As we continue to debate issues, create committees, and hold executive sessions, many of us are feeling more alienated and perplexed by the inappropriate actions and words of some of our colleagues, and the racist atmosphere that has affected our health and well-being,” reads the motion.
“We believe that we need a clear institutional policy for how to respond to such acts and how to change the social environment in a productive and respectful manner ... the college, on its own, is not prepared to guide us through difficult conversations without alienating many colleagues.”
The passing of a motion does not result in an immediate policy creation or change. The motion will go to the faculty council and the chief diversity officer, Miguel Fernández, for consideration and potential implementation.
“What we’re doing here is making an expression of our collective will. We leave it to the administration to decide what steps to do and what timing,” Sheridan explained.
“I think this is an urgent thing to do, especially given what we read in The Campus newspaper about issues of racial profiling,” said Patricia Saldarriaga, a Spanish professor. “In spite of everything that we’re doing that sounds very, very efficient, I think we need to make some changes. And those changes in my opinion, when there are students and faculty suffering, I think we need to do something now.”
Davis views the motion as a way to demonstrate the college’s commitment to progress and improvement.
“This could help us create new narratives of continually getting some place where we want to [be.] This sort of gives us a sense, not just for PR, but for PR, that we are, as a Middlebury community, not what is said on C-SPAN or in The New York Times. That we as a faculty agree that this is something important and that we’re moving as educators to try to become wiser,” he said.
Fernández voiced his office’s support for the motion, informing the room that he had discussed both an external review and standing faculty committee prior to the meeting. He said he supports hiring an external facilitator, and has already sought out recommendations from chief diversity officers at other schools.
College president Laurie L. Patton echoed similar sentiments of support.
“I think the time for us to do it is now,” Patton said. “We have put a lot of things in place...over the last couple of years but they’re clearly not effective enough and we need to think about how to make them all better...so I see all four of these, particularly the committee, as a way of our being able, as an administration, to check in.”
The college’s General Counsel Hannah Ross and Title IX Coordinator Sue Ritter provided information and answered questions relating to the college’s investigative and disciplinary processes. Ross referred to Addis Fouche-Channer’s ’17 allegations of racial profiling with veiled language, emphasizing that she was prohibited from discussing most of the details of the case, due to federal and state law.
Ross emphasized that the investigation into Fouche-Channer’s involvement in the events of Mar. 2 resulted in a finding of “no determination,” rather than a finding of guilt or innocence.
Fouche-Channer did not undergo a judiciary hearing last spring following the conclusion of the investigation.
“A judicial affairs officer makes a decision at a particular moment in time about whether or not to proceed to a hearing before the community judicial board. No hearing before the judicial board occurred,” Ross said.
Ross stressed that when Fouche-Channer brought a complaint of discrimination to the college over the summer, the resulting investigation focused solely on the employee accused of discrimination and not on Fouche-Channer’s conduct.
“The student made a complaint that she had been discriminated against in violation of our anti-harassment policy. This is a claim of misconduct by an employee, which doesn’t start a conduct investigation about a student’s behavior, it starts an investigation about whether one of our employees violated our anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy,” Ross said.
Ross added that the investigation found the student’s claim of discrimination to be unsubstantiated, which indicated that the employee did not violate the anti-discrimination policy. She cited newly acquired evidence, specifically eyewitness identifications, as the corroborating evidence for the officer’s testimony.
“Other evidence that came to light through the painstaking investigation that Sue’s office conducted corroborated that the testimony of the public safety officer was accurate and truthful. The other evidence included eyewitness identifications...There was no evidence that he had acted based on race,” Ross said.
“That’s not a violation of our anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy, to accurately and truthfully identify someone. A belief that someone acted based on race or any other protected personal characteristic, as sincere as it may be, is not enough under this process, we need to find evidence of that,” Ross continued.
Sujata Moorti, a Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies professor, raised concerns over the use of eyewitness identifications that Ross mentioned.
“Is that the only basis on which you decided that there was no discrimination, there was no violation of the college policy? Because there’s tons of scholarly evidence saying that eyewitness accounts and eyewitness testimony is really unreliable,” Moorti said.
“I don’t feel that I can go into detail and summarize all of the evidence...Our investigators and adjudicators...are sensitive to the fact that memory is flawed and that there are eyewitness accounts that are not credible. There are eyewitness accounts that are credible, for a variety of reasons,” Ross said.
“I would just say that we need to be particularly careful when we have evidence from students where students of color are mistakenly identified on an ongoing basis,” Moorti replied.
Ross agreed. Ritter also addressed Moorti’s question, explaining the ways that investigators assess credibility.
“We evaluate factors like the clarity of their observations, their ability to recall events accurately, the consistency of the witness’ claims, the witnesses’ demeanor during the interview, the witness’s potential interest or bias in the outcome, whether the witness’ statement was consistent or inconsistent with other evidence, and the existence of corroborative evidence. we are always looking for... the reasonableness or unreasonableness of a witness’ claims,” Ritter said.
Patricia Saldarriaga asked whether a case is treated differently if an accused party has been accused of acts of discrimination in the past.
“In talking about patterns, I wonder whether you have considered in this particular case, hypothetically speaking, let’s put it that way, when somebody who is accused...of racial profiling, has other cases where he’s also been accused of racial profiling...how would that affect the reliability of that testimony from an officer?” Saldarriaga asked.
Ross replied that she wasn’t sure the question was entirely within the realm of the hypothetical, and said she could not be more precise, but that they do look for information in order to construct and consider a pattern of behavior. Ritter emphasized that this pattern has to be “substantiated.”
“There has to be evidence that other than just a report,” Ritter said.
Student Government Association (SGA) Chief of Staff Ishrak Alam ’18 asked whether Ross or Ritter could provide information pertaining to the allegations that a professor was racially profiled by a public safety officer.
“It’s been resolved,” Ross said.
Peter Johnson, a computer science professor, proceeded to question the policy of confidentiality with regard to the case of alleged racial profiling of the professor. Johnson expressed frustration with the way his colleagues have been affected by the lack of information.
“I understand that there are confidentiality issues...I think there’s a conflict though, because in some cases where the resolution is not disclosed, then other members of the community are adversely affected,” he said. “Even if it’s resolved from the administrative standpoint, other members of the community may be scared. If they don’t know that someone who may have done something is, say, still employed by the college, then these friends of ours, these colleagues, may be walking around uncertain if this is a person they may have to face in a law enforcement-ish circumstance.”
“I would guess that the reason for confidentiality after the resolution is to protect the person who may or may not have been disciplined. But on the other hand that’s affecting our friends. So basically what this boils down to is my friends are scared and I don’t like it,” Johnson added.
In response, Ross emphasized the importance of confidentiality in the investigative process.
“Middlebury didn’t dream this up on its own. Every other institution, every other employer I know of has confidentiality provisions in these exact same policies that look exactly like this, and they are there to get people to bring complaints forward, because it is very, very common that when people want to report they have concerns about confidentiality...They’re concerned about retaliation against them, they’re concerned about retaliation against the people who may be called to testify as witnesses,” Ross said.
Michael Olinick, a math professor, who wrote the aforementioned letter to the editor detailing the alleged racial profiling, further questioned the practice of investigating patterns of behavior, wondering how reports of benign interactions with Public Safety officers would be obtained, since they would presumably not be reported.
“I understand racial profiling to mean that a person treats someone of color differently than they would treat a white person. So let’s take a hypothetical case, that I am leaving my office late at night which I often do, walking towards my car and a campus security officer comes up to me and demands me to stop, raise my hands, explain what I’m doing here. And I’m a person of color and believe that that was racial profiling. And I talk to some of my colleagues who say they do this all the time, they leave their buildings at night quite late and they often see campus security people who just wave at them. In an investigation of racial profiling, would you attempt, do you normally attempt to investigate how that person who’s been charged with profiling, has behaved in similar situations with a white person?” Olinick asked.
Ross responded that yes, they look at patterns of behavior. She then went on to reflect on the use and meaning of the term “racial profiling.”
“Racial profiling is a label that is loaded and that is about a particular set of police practices in law enforcement,” Ross said. “The choice of saying this is a racial profiling case I understand is to get at the feeling that that decision should not be made based on race. And I agree with that. We shouldn’t be making decisions based on race about speaking to someone who’s leaving a building and presuming that the color of their skin means they don’t belong there. No question.”
Ross then explained that certain instances that appear to be discriminatory might not meet the legal standard required to result in a guilty finding.
“In order to comply with the law, it has to rise to the level of harassment or discrimination. And we have a challenge in our culture at this moment where we talk about things as harassing or discriminatory and we use that in a broader sense than the law does. The law has a standard of severe and pervasive and an ongoing basis, and we have to apply the legal standard,” Ross answered.
Olinick inquired again about whether investigations look into patterns of behavior.
“I’ve heard a lot about persistence of behavior where you can say well, there are a number of cases where this particular person acted in an inappropriate way toward persons of color. But this could be a single incident where there are many instances where this person has exhibited a pattern of behaving in a non-hostile, friendly way toward white people. And you’re telling me that part of the investigator’s responsibility is to seek out instances of parallel actions that involve--”
“Yeah, so in the law we talk about this as ‘are similarly situated people treated the same?’ And ‘are dissimilarly situated people treated differently?’...Our investigators ask for and get information to allow them to evaluate that,” Ross replied.
“Okay and how would they go about doing that. Is that up to the person bringing the complaint to suggest specific individuals to talk to or?” Olinick asked.
“If the individual bringing the complaint has information they can give that information to the investigator,” Ross answered.
“Yeah, but if they don’t?” Olinick asked.
“The investigator can get information from any Middlebury office that will help them resolve the investigation. So they can ask for information from relevant offices about that person’s interactions with other people. They get that information they evaluate whether it shows us patterns,” Ross explained.
“There isn’t going to be much of a record of innocent transactions between people...If a public safety officer behaves toward me in a friendly way or just ignores me, I’m not going to report that. So there isn’t going to be a record of how that person is treating people who’ve been in the majority up to this point,” Olinick said.
Ross responded by listing alternative ways that investigators can obtain information that allows them to construct an understanding of an employee’s past performance.
“There could be information from people who’ve worked with an employee for a number of years who’s witnessed a number of interactions that that employee has had on our campus. There could be information about an employee’s past performance from the way that they’ve been performance managed...we look for that information every way we can,” Ross said.
By 6:05 p.m., the three remaining participants scheduled on the meeting’s agenda had left the room. Michael Roy, dean of the library, and associate professor of Chinese Hang Du had been scheduled to provide information reports. President Laurie L. Patton had been scheduled to make closing remarks, but had left the building. As a result of their absences and consequent unavailability to speak, the meeting was adjourned.
The Student Government Association (SGA) passed a bill on Oct. 29 calling for changes to the college’s disciplinary hearing procedures, including a request that the handbook explicitly declare open hearings accessible to all college community members. The bill comes in response to dissatisfaction with the open hearings held after the March 2 protests of Charles Murray, in which a lottery system was used to grant admission to a select number of attendees.
After two months of debate and revision, Senator Alec Fleischer ’20.5 announced the bill’s passage in an Oct. 30 email to constituents. Senator Connor McCormick ’18 opposed the bill, and Senator Jack Goldfield ’20 abstained.
Fleischer, the bill’s author, hopes the resolution will result in changes to the handbook that would increase the transparency of the college’s disciplinary process.
“Middlebury has historically allowed open hearings when confidentiality is waived by the complainant and respondent,” Fleischer said. This practice is listed in the college handbook section B.2.d. under “Hearing Procedures.”
Fleischer criticized the open hearings that took place in the aftermath of the March 2 demonstrations, taking issue with the lottery system utilized to select a small number of audience members and the limiting size of the room.
“The last two open hearings were far from open,” Fleischer said. “Instead of the old system where community members were allowed to attend without advanced commitment and a large capacity room was in use, a small meeting room was used where only a handful of community members were allowed to attend after being picked from a lottery. This bill attempts to go back to the old, transparent, and truly open trial.”
In the Oct. 29 SGA meeting, McCormick argued that members of the judicial board might struggle to carry out their duty of enforcing school policies if they feel public pressure from an audience. Fleischer’s response was that since the handbook already includes the potential for open hearings, pressure on judicial board members was an unfortunate but necessary cost of clarity within the judicial process.
The bill outlines an alternative policy for open hearings, including sending a school-wide email describing the charges, people involved, and logistical details of the hearing several days before its scheduled date. The bill requests that all members of the college community be allowed to attend, with admission managed on a first-come, first-serve basis, and recommends that hearings expected to draw large numbers be held in high capacity spaces such as Dana Auditorium or Wilson Hall. Finally, the bill requests that students involved be allowed to decide whether the press or other non-community members can attend their hearing.
Final recommendations regarding changes to the college’s open hearing policy will be the responsibility of the college’s handbook committee. The committee, established earlier this year by college dean Katy Smith Abbott and dean of students Baishakhi Taylor, consists of both students and staff.
Amidst ongoing conversations regarding grading at Middlebury, the Student Government Association’s (SGA) Student Educational Affairs Committee (SEAC) hosted Lee Cuba, a sociology professor at Wellesley College, for a talk on shadow grading on Oct. 11. Cuba spearheaded a shadow grading pilot program at Wellesley, wherein letter grades are hidden from the first semester transcript of first-year students.
Jeanne Albert, director of STEM support in the college’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research (CTLR), introduced Cuba, and described her involvement in prior conversations about grading.
“In January 2016, the CTLR sponsored a discussion called ‘Are Grades Necessary?’ Several faculty continued that discussion, and in the subsequent term we started to look at the format at other institutions,” she said.
“If they weren’t resorting to a no-grade system, what were some other experiments? We were then led to Wellesley’s shadow grading experiment.”
Cuba identified a pattern at Wellesley in which students tend to prioritize grades over engagement with their courses.
“Students can get very concerned with how they’re doing in a class, and that can get in the way of their motivation for learning. One of the things that we found in the study we did is that there’s an inverse correlation between students having in mind academic achievement goals, of which grades are the best example for that, and students having academic engagement goals, like writing a dynamite thesis,” Cuba said.
“We started talking about doing something like Swarthmore has been doing since 1968, and that MIT has been doing for many many years, which is treat the first year differently in terms of grading students.”
In the fall of 2014, after about a year and a half of continued research and conversation, Wellesley College instituted their program.
“For students in the first semester of their first year, all four classes that they take are graded pass or no pass. It appears on your transcript as a ‘p’ or an ‘np.’ A separate grade report is generated for the student that is seen only by the student, her dean, and the student’s faculty advisor,” Cuba explained.
In describing the results of Wellesley’s pilot program to date, Cuba emphasized the high percentage of students who identified shadow grading as helpful in easing their transition to college.
“The policy started in the fall of 2014, so we have three years of data. When you’re a social scientist and you do surveys, you don’t ever see results like this. Over 3 years, roughly 70% or better each year respond to the survey. Of those responding, 94% say it helped the transition to college,” Cuba said.
Cuba is pleased with the ways that the program has benefited student participants in the experiment.
“There was evidence from student responses that they felt like they were doing more stuff outside of academics which is really encouraging,” he said. “They reported spending less time thinking about grades, and students stayed in classes instead of dropping them. Some faculty thought that students were actually more engaged because they were focused on the learning, and some thought students were less stressed out.”
Furthermore, Cuba believes the practice encourages students to experiment with subjects outside of their comfort zones or with activities outside of academics.
“It allows students to explore the curriculum more broadly without thinking about the kinds of grades they might get in classes. It was intended to be focused on balancing multiple commitments that students had, rather than something that was purely academic,” Cuba said.
Cuba also sees the policy as effective in creating more equitable and comfortable environments for students. First-generation college students, students who self-report being from low income families, and students from underrepresented minority groups reported even higher rates of positive effects from shadow grading.
“It’s very clear that not everybody starts college in the same place,” Albert said. “We were thinking that some students would benefit from having a time-out on grades for a little while to focus more on managing the transition from high school to college. If you came from a tony high school or a not so good one, or if you came from far away or you came from nearby or whatever, there was something in it for you in terms of managing the transition to college.”
Cuba did, however, read a selection of student responses, including one in which the student resented the program.
“My grades were much higher first semester compared to second, and it’s extremely discouraging knowing those grades won’t be part of my GPA. It makes me regret the amount of time I put into those classes when none of it will change my grades,” the student said.
Jeanne Albert emphasized that though she has participated in grading conversations for some time, no concrete action has yet occurred to implement such a program at Middlebury.
“The visit by Professor Cuba was entirely so that we could learn more about shadow grading from someone who has first-hand knowledge about it,” Albert said. “While an informal group of faculty have been meeting over the past few semesters to discuss various ideas within the overall realm of grades and grading, as far as I know there have been no ‘official’ efforts by faculty to actually implement a program at Middlebury.”
Despite the lack of action on behalf of faculty, Sedge Lucas ’19 and Dan Klemonski ’19 count shadow grading as one of their top priorities as co-directors of the SEAC.
Klemonski said that Jeffrey Ou ’19 first brought the issue to their attention last year while serving as an SGA senator.
“If it’s something that’s going to provide a smoother transition, that’s the reason we’re pushing for it,” Lucas said.
Lucas predicts that if the SGA passes a bill requesting the introduction of shadow grading, the proposal would likely have to pass a faculty vote before being implemented.
“The way I imagine it would actually go through would be passing a student bill. Then after it’s passed and formalized, you bring it to the faculty who take the bill and make the edits they want. Then you present that at a faculty meeting and that’s where they vote on it and it goes through or doesn’t,” Lucas said.
Klemonski maintains cautious optimism for the future of shadow grading at the college, and stress the importance of student involvement in efforts to implement it.
“Convincing the faculty is not a little thing,” Klemonski said. “I assume there will be plenty of discussions about shadow grading moving forward, but a timeline for immediate action is unclear. Higher ed moves so slowly, but the best lever of pressure in this case would be students getting fired up about it.”
Middlebury faculty have mixed opinions on the merits of shadow grading. While some can already pledge their support for the system, others have reservations.
“I think it’s a very good idea. I would vote for it,” said Michael Newbury, director of the college’s American studies program.
Joyce Mao, associate professor of history, disagrees.
“I don’t think that’s a good introduction to college. But I’m glad we have things like pass/fail because they allows students to take classes they wouldn’t otherwise consider,” Mao said.
Associate professor of history Rebecca Bennette attended Johns Hopkins Unversity for her undergraduate study, and says the institution used shadow grading at the time. Bennette maintains that from her personal experience, the practice has both benefits and drawbacks.
“In some cases it can be a great boon to people, but it can also be a bind,” Bennette said. “Where it doesn’t work so well is in subjects like math, econ and languages where you need that knowledge to move on. It’s easy to use the fact that this is not a real grade as a crutch, and it’s easy to pass, but when you move on, you’ve gotten yourself in a situation where you’re going to pay for that.”
The Student Government Association (SGA) and Director of Food Services Dan Detora have continued to collaborate on changes to the dining halls in response to student feedback to the SGA’s dining survey. Though the survey left them sifting through widespread criticism of the new swipe system, SGA senators and Detora have immediately addressed other concerns through the introduction of several new offerings in the dining halls.
The SGA sent students a survey via email on Sept. 20, seeking opinions about the changes to the dining system implemented at the start of this semester. SGA senators Maryam Mahboob ’18 and Hannah Pustejovsky ’18 shared the survey results with the Campus. Respondents heavily criticized the swipe system, per these few examples.
“Make it faster! It's the 21st century, iIPhones are recognizing faces now, but we can't get this system to work faster?,” one respondent wrote.
In addition to the speed of the swiping sensors, students criticized the system’s effects on the logistics of leaving and re-entering the dining halls.
“It makes leaving and re-entering (even to return dishes) inconvenient. I am concerned that guests no longer have access to a main social space on campus,” another wrote.
Other students demonstrated concern for the system’s potential influence on campus culture and identity.
“Having open dining halls was an intrinsic part of the school's identity. It is something that was advertised to us as prospective students as an essential part of the Middlebury community,” one student wrote.
Mahboob and Pustejovsky sent the survey to students before a meeting between members of the SGA and Detora on Sept. 22. Mahboob and Pustejovsky next sent a school-wide email on Oct. 1, describing the main takeaways of the the survey results, their meeting with Detora and their plans to address students’ concerns.
“The dining survey that we sent out two weeks ago might have been the highest answered survey that we have ever sent, with over 1,100 answers,” the senators wrote. “Based on your responses, the main Dining suggestions are: 1) abolish the swipe system, 2) faster swipe system and shorter lines, 3) bring back to-go cups and 4) less allergens/dietary restrictions in food.”
The email explicitly stated that the swipe system will remain indefinitely.
“After our meeting with Head of Dining Dan Detora and VP of Finance David Provost, it became clear that the swipe system is here to stay,” Pustejovsky and Mahboob wrote.
The senators are looking into adjustments to help combat long lines. Members of the SGA met with Detora to strategize ways to improve line flow, but Pustejovsky cited the layout of the dining halls as an obstacle.
“I met with Dan Detora to do a walk through of both dining halls, and although we made minor superficial changes to the placement of things like the silverware, the buildings are simply poorly designed for this new system. I have a meeting with David Provost this upcoming Tuesday to hopefully discuss what the budget looks like in terms of future remodeling and other space usage on campus,” she said.
The fact that students have similar class and eating schedules also limits what the SGA and dining services can do.
“We are also looking at perhaps meeting with the Registrar’s office to discuss changes in the class schedule. As of the past few weeks, we feed 1,400 people on Tuesday/Thursday at 12:15, which is pretty unsustainable in terms of the size of our dining halls and the lines,” she said.
Despite widespread criticism of the swipe system among students, Mahboob and Pustejovsky maintain the importance of the system’s role in cutting costs and combatting food waste. The senators said that data regarding cost and waste will be available and shared with The Campus around the middle of the semester.
The removal of to-go cups was a temporary concern of survey participants, as the cups have already been reintroduced. However, a different type of to-go cup may be offered in the future.
“To-go cups were taken away because they do not compost well and pose a significant disposable waste issue for the college. Dining wants students to use their own cups to help prevent waste, but they may also consider a new type of cup,” the senators wrote.
Concrete efforts have already been made to meet demands for more options for students with allergies and dietary restrictions.
“Dining is thinking about a way to section off a part of the kitchen to accommodate a nut-free panini machine. It will have to be sectioned off, in order to prevent students from using it with nut products, so only students who really need to use it have access. I think we need to prioritize accommodating students with allergies and dietary restrictions, religious or otherwise,” Mahboob said.
The senators are excited about the arrival of several new items, and see these additions as part of a long term effort to provide better and more accommodating dining options.
“We are collaborating with the dining hall to introduce new delicacies on campus, such as Nutella,” the senators wrote.
“It's a process, and step by step we are making progress,” Mahboob said.
“Besides Nutella, you may have noticed that Dining has introduced vegan ice cream! Ross has gained a spice rack, and I believe both Ross and Proctor have added a greater variety of nuts and seeds, such as pumpkin seeds,” Mahboob said. The senators also announced that the three dining halls will be stocked with the same set of spices and condiments.
Mahboob and Pustejovsky addressed other immediate concerns mentioned in the survey, noting that skim milk should be available in every dining hall. If it is not in the milk dispenser, it should be stocked in the small fridges. After a hiatus, the waffle machines have been reintroduced, and the dining halls are currently in the process of offering three distinct menus as well.
“There will be no overnight fixes, but we are committed to working with the administration until we are able to obtain the best results we can for the Middlebury community,” the senators said.
In the early hours of Oct. 1, a carbon monoxide alarm went off in the Atwater A building, forcing students to vacate their beds and wait outside the building for two hours.
Lisa Burchard, director of Public Safety and associate dean of the college, described what happened that morning in an email to The Campus.
“At 1:11 a.m. Public Safety received a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm from the alarm monitoring system,” she said. “The telecommunicator dispatched officers and the Middlebury Fire Department (MFD) to the location of the alarm at Atwater Hall A. By 1:30 a.m., Facilities Services was notified of the CO alarm and informed that MFD was responding.”
Despite the alarm, there was no danger. A faulty carbon monoxide detector had triggered the alarm.
“MFD arrived and cleared the building as is our policy,” Burchard said. “They determined there was no CO leak in the building. At 2:30 a.m., Facilities Services determined that a CO detector in the building had failed, replaced it, and reset the control panel.”
Charlotte Frankel ’18.5 lives in the Atwater suite that housed the defective alarm.
“We left the building around 12:50 a.m., I think,” Frankel said. “Public Safety was there immediately, and they said the fire department had to come before the alarm could be shut off. I spoke with one of the Public Safety officers, who informed me that it was the carbon monoxide alarm and although it was probably a false alarm, the fire department needed to come and do a full sweep to be safe.”
Another resident of Atwater A, Margaret Pollack ’18, shared a similar experience.
“Morale was desperately low,” Pollack said. “Plus, the keypads aren’t working in the A building, so I’ve heard of peers and neighbors of mine who were then locked out because they had forgotten to grab their physical key when they tried to return after the alarm went off.”
“I went over to the other side and slept on a couch in my friends’ suite but I don’t know what people did if they didn’t have other friends in Atwater B,” Pollack said.
After the alarm had been going off for some time, a Public Safety officer found Ryan Rudolph ’18 in his room in Atwater A.
“I woke up to a firefighter and Public Safety tapping me to wake up. They told me I needed to go outside. I was very confused since nobody was outside, and it felt like I was late to the party,” Rudolph said.
According to the college handbook, a student who fails to leave a building during a fire alarm will be fined $200.
“I was informed that I had slept through the alarm for 40 minutes. [The officer] claimed that nobody sleeps through that alarm, and said I was going to be getting a fine. He made it seem as if I was trying to evade the alarm, but my explanation was that I wasn’t trying to die of carbon monoxide and I was just in a heavy sleep. I proceeded to go to the other Atwater building and sleep on the floor,” Rudolph said.
Meanwhile, Frankel passed the time with friends as the alarm continued to ring. Eventually residents were allowed to reenter the building, and an electrician arrived to inspect the alarm.
“The alarm remained on for this entire time — I went to a friend’s room and then to the Atwater A lounge, where many of us were congregated. We went back into the building around 2:40 a.m. Michael the electrician came up to our suite pretty soon after we returned and let me know that one of our three carbon monoxide alarms wasn’t working,” Frankel said.
She was finally able to rest after Michael finished his work.
“He was incredibly nice and conscientious of the lateness, answering all of my questions and doing his best to fix the alarm with as little light and noise as possible,” Frankel said. “He replaced the alarm with a new one and then I passed out.”
While the duration of the alarm may have been unusual, Burchard says the response was typical for the situation.
“I’ve spoken with Facilities and they describe the above as a normal business process and typical response to an event of this kind. The first priority was the safety of the students in Atwater,” she said.
Middlebury fell from fourth to sixth place in the U.S. News & World Report’s latest “Best Colleges” rankings.
Published on Sept. 12, the list places Williams and Amherst first and second among all liberal arts colleges, respectively. Middlebury and Pomona are tied at sixth behind a three-way tie for third between Bowdoin, Swarthmore and Wellesley.
U.S. News uses a ranking formula based on graduation and retention rates (22.5 percent), undergraduate academic reputation (22.5 percent), faculty resources (20 percent), student selectivity (12.5 percent), financial resources (10 percent), graduation rate performance (7.5 percent) and alumni giving rate (5 percent).
“A move like Middlebury’s, from No. 4 to No. 6, is a small change. Some factors in the school’s ranking — including academic reputation, graduation/retention rate, faculty resources and graduation rate performance — were weaker this year. All these factors contributed to the school’s change in overall rank,” said Robert Morse, the chief data strategist at U.S. News.
Morse believes rankings like the U.S. News list are valuable resources for students because of their emphasis on graduation and retention rates.
“We strongly believe that students and families should pay close attention to these indicators as they can show how well a school is academically and financially supporting its students through graduation,” he said.
Bill Burger, Middlebury’s spokesman, disagrees.
“Rankings are rather poor guides for students deciding which college or university to attend,” he said. “Questions of academic interest, location, size, extracurricular activities and other factors are what really matter. Ultimately, students should choose the school they see as a fit for them. That is a much more subjective decision and one that should transcend the false precision of any ranking.”
Burger is ultimately not concerned by the college’s drop in the rankings.
“While we’re appreciative of the positive attention these rankings can provide, our view of them is unchanging regardless of whether we move up or down from one year to the next,” he said. “The statistical differences between institutions closely clustered together are often minute and, ultimately, insignificant.”
After senior college officials announced changes to the college handbook earlier this month, several student leaders expressed disappointment that they were not involved in the process, citing earlier meetings with senior officials during which they were promised input.
Kyle Wright ’19.5 and Travis Wayne Sanderson ’19, the current and former co-chairs of Community Council, were two of four students who met with senior administrators last spring.
Wright and Sanderson co-wrote and sponsored a bill last spring that aimed to change language in the “Demonstrations and Protests” section of the handbook in order to better protect the rights of student protesters. The Student Government Association (SGA) passed their bill at the body’s April 23 meeting.
After that resolution was passed, Sanderson and Wright participated in a meeting with President Laurie L. Patton, dean of the college Katy Smith Abbott and diversity officer Miguel Fernández to discuss the bill’s suggestions. Other students at the meeting included Emily Cipriani ’19.5 and Sandra Luo ’18, then a member of Community Council.
“At the meeting the four of us had with Laurie Patton, Katy Smith Abbott and Miguel Fernandez, which lasted one night from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m., there was a spoken agreement to involve students in the process this past summer in response to the bill SGA passed last semester,” Sanderson wrote in an email to The Campus.
Wright interpreted the same commitment from the administrators at the meeting.
“Katy and I had multiple conversations that were like, ‘We’re going to look at it this summer, handbook review is performed during the summer,’” Wright said. “It was communicated very clearly that there would be further conversations specifically and explicitly involving the handbook.”
But on Sept. 13 Smith Abbott announced the completion and availability of an updated handbook for the 2017–2018 academic year that did not involve students.
“I don’t know of any student involvement, which was promised to us,” Wright said.
Cipriani and Sanderson were both on campus this past summer, but were not contacted to resume discussion.
“[President Patton] mentioned that she hoped that since Travis and I were going to be on campus for language school maybe we could continue the conversation into the summer,” Cipriani told The Campus in an email.
“This seemed genuine on her part, however nothing came of it. Neither Travis nor I were contacted, and due to time constraints and the language pledge I did not contact President Patton. Whether something would have panned out if I had I will never know, but if President Patton was willing to meet with us until close to midnight my guess is she would have made something work.”
Sanderson interpreted his exclusion as indicative of a lack of administrative interest in student’s wishes.
“Their not inviting us sent a clear signal that they were not concerned enough about students’ opinions to have students in the room,” he wrote. “If Student Government, the representatives of the school, shows overwhelming support for a bill, then there should be active effort by the administration to try to fulfill its requests.”
Sanderson cited the availability of the April SGA bill as another missed opportunity for administrators to include student voices in a policy revision over the summer.
“Even if they had not invited us, they could have utilized the protest policies bill passed by SGA to reform the section. In the bill, there were very clear requests, democratically passed by a large majority of the elected representatives of the student body, thus signaling student body support,” he wrote. “These requests included down to the word of how to revise the section, so there was no vagueness whatsoever.”
Wright was similarly frustrated.
“It’s so troubling to see that we can have a very explicit conversation where things are agreed upon ostensibly, and then people are not involved. The change doesn’t happen and there’s no communication,” he said.
“I understand that plates can get full. People have a lot that they’re dealing with in the administration, but there’s this culture of unrest that has been percolating and is aggravated by this type of behavior and performance.”
He emphasized that the relationship between the administration and student leaders needs to change.
“It seems like summer comes around and students are no longer relevant. Once we’re not longer actually there in the space, any sort of coalition that was established dissipates,” he said. “It’s something that needs to change.”
Cipriani posited that the administration’s obligations to other interests may have prevented change to the relevant policy over the summer.
“With regards to the lack of changes, when the Charles Murray protests first happened, I assumed that the largest problem was that [administrators] were out of touch with the student body,” she wrote. “After meeting with President Patton, Katy Smith Abbott and Miguel Fernandez, I have come to the realization that [administrators] understand what students want, they just have other priorities, namely alumni donations and their own personal views on free speech.”
In an email to The Campus, Chief Diversity Officer Miguel Fernandez wrote that he was not involved in this year’s revisions of the handbook.
“My understanding of the changes to the handbook is that it has been a reorganization and not a change… the change in structure is for clarification, separating policies from practices, etc,” he told The Campus. “This does not constitute a review or change of policies, in which we would have every intention of including students.”
When The Campus reached out to Smith Abbott for comment on whether or not students were involved in the summer changes to the handbook, this reporter was directed to another administrator.
After The Campus sent a follow-up email to Smith Abbott, asking whether another review of the handbook would take place during the coming academic year, she agreed to comment. Smith Abbott described a plan to include students in the future, citing a student handbook advisory committee the administration hopes to create.
“In the near term, my hunch is that this group would focus on the demonstrations and protests policy, as per the SGA resolution of last spring,” she wrote. “Because that resolution was reviewed by the president and SLG relatively late in the spring, it makes sense to bring students together now to further discuss this policy and to consider other areas where our policies can be clarified or enhanced.”
Smith Abbott hopes the advisory committee will have a long-term impact on the way students interact with the handbook.
“The hope is that a standing student committee would ensure regular review and feedback on all aspects of the handbook,” she wrote. “Although the comprehensive updates...will continue to occur during the summer, while most students are away, the work of an academic-year student committee would ensure that we have input from a broad range of student perspectives, and that these could be incorporated into those annual (summer) updates and edits.”
“I’ve written to Kyle Wright, student co-chair of Community Council and Jin Sohn, SGA president, to ask for their partnership in constituting this committee,” she added.When The Campus asked Wright about his potential involvement in the committee, he replied that while he appreciated the intentions behind the proposal, he was frustrated by the way the plan came about.
“I was immensely disappointed to learn, only upon reaching out to Katy myself this past Monday, that plans regarding a handbook review had materialized without input from students,” he wrote. “Entire conversations had occurred regarding the creation of a ‘handbook review committee’ supported by the SGA and Community Counsel without immediately involving SGA President Jin Sohn or myself.”
“Until [Monday] afternoon, I had received no communication from Dean Smith Abbott or other pertinent parties in respect to moving that process forward; nor, to my knowledge, were any other students contacted regarding that process,” he added.
Wright is disheartened by what he sees as continued failures in communication between administrators and students.
“This lack of clear and inclusive communication on the part of administrators continues to contribute to a campus culture in which conversations surrounding major decisions are made inaccessible to students,” he wrote.
“Nevertheless, I am glad that members of the administration have outlined a preliminary proposal to involve students in a review of handbook policy. I am very hopeful that we can continue to strengthen student and community involvement and move forward in addressing our most pressing concerns despite this snafu,” he added.
Will DiGravio contributed reporting.
This week The Campus sat down with Kyle Wright ’19.5, Student Co-Chair of Community Council for the fall semester. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Middlebury Campus (MC): What are your main goals for the upcoming year as co-chair?
Kyle Wright (KW): The biggest things that I focused on in the platform were inclusivity and community building as an umbrella to be able to discuss and tackle various issues prevalent on campus right now. A lot of that includes financial sustainability, transparency and accountability. Environmental sustainability is also a big factor.
With the events that happened last spring, there are conversations that need to be addressed. This year, I’m finally seeing that platform become more tangible. A complicated discussion has also fallen onto my plate: the administration is hoping Community Council will do a comprehensive review of the commons system, how effective it’s been, whether it’s been realized in the way the original establishers of that system thought it would be implemented and whether it makes sense to go forward with any emendations to the system.
MC: What do you view as Community Council’s main strengths as a body? Where has it failed?
KW: My understanding is that Community Council has been an ambiguous body for a long time and has had strong suits based on the co-chair and the student, faculty and staff members that are involved. Those typically tend to lean towards this recommendation process that has been increasingly solidified over the past year, and having Community Council be less of a legislative body and more of a community forum, able to deliberate over issues in a way that SGA, staff council and faculty council don’t.
MC: What role do you envision for Community Council in the ongoing aftermath of the Charles Murray event?
KW: I think a lot of people are looking to Community Council as the only forum that can tackle the discussion of not just what happened on March 2, but why it happened, because a lot of people appreciate that it wasn’t just about Murray. So how do we engage people in conversation to get to the root of not only the how, but the why surrounding the feelings, tensions, emotions and opinions of a variety of community members who need to be brought into that conversation? What created that environment, what went unsaid prior to that explosive demonstration on March 2, and how do we find ways to be vulnerable surrounding our individual roles in that?
How do we find ways to engage each other in dialogue after we were involved in events and actions that hurt other members of this community? How do we implement restorative practices across the institution, and support the administration in doing that? That’s the first step, which means reaching out to groups who aren’t necessarily active on campus, or who probably wouldn’t apply for Community Council. We’re going to have uncomfortable and at times extremely unproductive conversations. Whether people like it or not, that needs to be done, because we need to get to a place of understanding before moving forward.
Step two is to figure out a concrete series of mechanisms through which we can move forward and get to a place where this won’t happen again. That looks like hosting more events and bringing different groups together in spaces that will create a better sense of social community. In my opinion, a lot of the divides that resulted in the demonstration in March stemmed from the fact that we don’t interact enough, so events like that are the primary focus. Working with different clubs and groups on campus to understand their needs is also extremely important. I’m toying around with the idea of assigning community councilors to be liaisons to groups on campus and bring those voices to the table without having to fill our room with 40 or 50 people at a time, which isn’t feasible.
MC: In the Campus article that ran after your election win in the spring, you stressed your desire to promote “micro-conversation and critical self-reflection” as approaches to community building, as opposed to “rhetoric and confrontational free speech.” How do you hope to create spaces for these types of interactions?
KW: The majority of my work is going to be reaching out to constituencies and making sure there are lines of communication to get people there in the first place. The majority of the work implementing those events and mechanisms will go to Tina Brook in the spring.
That said, there are some integral mechanisms. I’d love to put together a series of reports that focus on issues that people want to know about. I want to work with people who are invested in this community and people who are not necessarily invested. I don’t want to put an idea out there that is just coming out of my head. I want to see what’s relevant for groups on campus and what’s going to help them participate more fully in these conversations.
A big part of this is coalitional resilience, which I’ve talked about relatively constantly since March 2. It’s the idea that rhetorical resilience isn’t necessarily enough. It’s a great theory and Laurie Patton put a lot of work, passion and time into her theorizations and conversations surrounding it. But if March 2 showed us one thing it’s that rhetorical resilience doesn’t take into account the lived experiences and traumas that can be dredged up by rhetoric. So for me it’s about allowing people to have hard conversations and then step back into safe spaces in order to recharge.
MC: Moving from SGA to CC, you’ve gone from working separately from administrators to working alongside them. How do you feel about that new collaboration?
KW: I have a terrific working relationship with Laurie Patton, Katy Smith Abbott, Baishakhi Taylor and [Associate Dean of Students] Doug Adams, so it’s easier for me to step into those spaces. Other students don’t necessarily have that luxury, so making sure that they do is a big focus. A huge part of that includes the administration owning up to things that a lot of us don’t want to talk about. That includes the fact that a lot of the student protesters sanctioned after March 2 were [sanctioned] in a way that was deeply isolating and targeting to those students. Many of them only had a few weeks left on campus and left Middlebury with memories of being, in essence, prosecuted by investigators, and having to prove themselves innocent prior to being assumed so. An entire other degree of damage was done in those weeks following the Murray protest.
Being able to own what we participated in so long as that’s safe to do, not going at each other’s throats for our political leanings or individual beliefs and stepping into a space where we can seek to understand and not critique is key. I think the most important thing we can do is reach out in ways that are uncomfortable. People need to have safe spaces. They allow participation in difficult discussions. But I think this community still has the power to have transformative conversations. This is a hard time for our college community, but I have faith that we’re going to be able to come out of it better than when we went in.
On April 11, sex and relationships educator Kate McCombs delivered the keynote address of the College’s programming for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM). McCombs spoke about the importance of enthusiastic consent. “Enthusiastic consent is more than just ‘can I touch you?’” she said. “[It] is about shifting from just avoiding a ‘no’ to seeking an eager yes.”
McCombs suggested that learning to get better at hearing no, working to make a partner feel comfortable saying no and learning to rethink consent as applying to every type of contact we have with other people, and not just to sex, are ways to start pursuing enthusiastic consent.
McCombs stressed the importance of improving communication skills in conversations that might normally be uncomfortable, and urged students to talk about sex outside the bedroom. “Good communication is what opens the door to finding out what you like,” she said. “I want you to have sex that’s good for you and for your partners– I want to encourage the idea that you will know what’s best for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to good sex.”
McCombs’ talk followed the launch of the MiddSafe Online Advocate tool, a website that contains all of the resources of MiddSafe’s 24 hour hotline. Advocates demonstrated how to use the website and answered questions in a reception in Crossroads. The Online Advocate can be accessed at go/onlineadvocate.
Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is recognized nationally, and aims to raise public awareness about sexual assault and methods of prevention. The College’s SAAPM events, sponsored by the Health and Wellness Education office, MiddSafe, Queers and Allies and Green Dot, included Green Dot Bystander Training, the launch of MiddSafe’s Online Advocate tool, a consentthemed carnival called ConsentFest and a workshop entitled “Queering Sex Ed.”
While programming for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month has occurred annually at the College, ConsentFest was a new event to the College this year. “ConsentFest is based on a successful program model from other schools including Bentley University and Amherst College. [It] aims to create space for conversations and questions about consent,” Director of Health and Wellness Education Barbara McCall wrote in an email to the Campus. Participants played games and spoke with representatives from various College offices and programs in the Axinn Winter Garden.
The Spring Symposium will also feature a number of academic presentations concerning sexual violence.
“I hope students see that violence response and prevention are important areas of work at the College,” McCall said.