Within only two months of Green Mountain College’s announcement that it will close after this academic year, Southern Vermont College (SVC) has followed suit. Located in Bennington, VT, the private, liberal arts college announced on March 4 that it too would shut down this summer, to the shock and surprise of many of its students. In his statement, SVC President David Evans said that the decision to close the college occurred after the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) voted to remove the college’s accreditation “based on institutional resources.” Evans specifically referenced financial problems due to “regional demographics” and “enrollment challenges.” Evans stressed in his announcement to the SVC community that “NECHE’s concern was limited to SVC’s finances only. The quality of the education we offer, institutional integrity, the transferability of courses and the value of our degrees, are not in question.” SVC’s accreditation will last until Aug. 31, 2019, allowing for students who need the summer to complete graduation requirements to do so. SVC’s current enrollment is around 330 students, a number that reached a peak of 500 in past years. Seventy of those students are eligible to graduate this year. The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), a short twenty minute drive from SVC’s campus, has been announced as SVC’s preferred teach-out partner, an agreement that would allow current SVC students to finish their degrees at MCLA. “We selected MCLA primarily because we have great confidence in their faculty and staff to be supportive of our students and the challenges they are and will be facing, which has already been demonstrated by their outstanding response to our situation,” Evans told The Campus in an email. “They have had teams on campus almost every day since the closure announcement, working with students and our staff to provide advice and options for transferring.” SVC is also working with Norwich and Castleton Universities to provide other transfer options for students who might not find equivalent degree programs at MCLA. SVC’s closure will also greatly affect its 100 full-time and 30 part-time staff members. “The staff and faculty have been distressed because they love our students and the work we do at SVC,” Evans told The Campus. “My sense is that their first impulse has been to protect the students, but of course they face employment issues and all kinds of other uncertainty as well, which is very stressful.” When asked about the seemingly abrupt nature of the closure announcement, Evans responded, “Ultimately, I’m afraid, there’s simply no good way to do something like announce the closure of a college, because people invest very intense emotions in these institutions for all kinds of very good reasons, and those emotions make our current situation deeply painful for everyone.” SVC began in 1926 as Saint Joseph College, first located in downtown Bennington. In 1974 the college was turned over to a board of independent trustees and moved to its current spot on the Everett Estate, according to the school’s website. The closures of Green Mountain College and Southern VT College reflect a greater pattern cropping up across both Vermont and the nation as a result of declining enrollments. Rural states like Vermont are struggling to retain a consistent pool of college-age applicants, causing significant financial problems for their small, private colleges. In addition to GMC and SVC, Goddard College in Plainfield, VT, is on probation with NECHE, and the College of St. Joseph in Rutland, VT, recently suspended its undergraduate program and faces a removal of its accreditation for both its graduate and undergraduate programs. “More than half of us are facing existential threats,” Evans told The Campus, speaking to the number of VT colleges in danger of closing. “Vermont has a tremendous problem with demographics already, which is a major cause of the challenges our colleges are facing, but at the same time the colleges’ problems are going to make the demographic issues even worse. From an economic and social standpoint, there is nothing good about what is happening to private colleges in Vermont.”
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[gallery ids="42580,42581"] MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Magazine: You see it around campus sometimes. You never signed up for it, but somehow it got to your parents’ doorstep and now they’re texting you about some speaker who came to Middlebury two months ago. You get regular ‘Middlebury News’ emails in your inbox with links to articles in the magazine and you never fully understand where they come from. And you’ve probably wondered about all these things, but never cared enough to find out. Well, now is your chance: here’s a look into the mystery behind Middlebury Magazine. Over the past week, the magazine’s staff have spent hours proofreading and tweaking the last details of their January issue — one of four issues each year — which will be distributed to its 50,000 readers within the next month. Over half of those readers will be alumni of the college, and the other half will include parents, current faculty and staff, those who choose to subscribe for free and anyone who decides to pick up a copy around campus. You are not alone, however, if Middlebury Magazine often seems to operate in an alternate sphere from your daily student life on the hill. The magazine’s central audience is alumni of the college and its central mission is maintaining those former students’ connections to Middlebury. This means that much of the magazine features life updates from alumni and changes on campus that seem like old news to current students. But even though the magazine is run entirely by college staff, students can always make submissions and take an active part in the magazine’s representation of the college. The Campus took a look into the alternate universe of Kitchel House, the building across the street from Twilight that holds Middlebury’s Office of Communications and the staff of Middlebury Magazine. The magazine staff were eager to give students a glimpse into their work. “Not that we’re intentionally opaque, but I think people don’t understand how stories get in the magazine, how stories are created, where they come from,” said the magazine’s Editorial Director Matt Jennings. “Who knows, maybe after this I’ll be hearing from people all the time.” Jennings has been the Editorial Director of the magazine for the past seventeen years, and his main responsibilities involve writing features, editing pieces and overseeing the magazine as a whole. The past week was a busy one for him because the magazine’s key feature piece came in later than normal. At this point, he had already received the issue’s final edits, which were FedExed back to him all the way from Portland, OR, by the magazine’s remote proofreader Nina Maynard. Though he has never actually met Maynard, Jennings has worked closely with her for the past seventeen years and described her work as “invaluable.” Back in 2002, Jennings was originally hired to work for the magazine full-time, but this only lasted about six months, he said, before he was given other non-magazine communications projects to oversee as well. This situation is true of most of the other magazine staff members, which is pretty unique; Dartmouth, for instance, has an entire staff solely devoted to its alumni magazine. Middlebury Magazine has only five in-house staff members — most of the magazine’s stories are written by freelance writers or alumni — but everyone’s job also includes outside responsibilities unrelated to the magazine. Jennings is in it for the magazine. “I’ve never seen another job here or anywhere else that I wanted to do more than I do now, and the magazine is a big part of that,” he said. “I’m happy overseeing other publications that we do, but my first love is this.” Other staff members felt similarly. Pamela Fogg is the creative director and has been with the magazine for twenty years. Her job mostly revolves around design — though she and Jennings usually collaborate on the cover. “I love working with illustrators and photographers, giving them the synopsis of the story and working with them to figure out the best approach for visuals that will be engaging when you tell the story,” Fogg said. She pointed out the colorful draft pages that line her walls, which she hangs up so that she can look at them with fresh eyes again and again. By last week’s point in the process leading up to publication, the designs were finished and Jennings brought Maynard’s final proofs to Fogg’s office for her to read and offer input. Fogg estimated that working with the magazine is about half her job, while the other half involves designing for Admissions and Advancement materials. For Fogg, too, the magazine has more appeal than her other tasks. She described the familial nature of the magazine staff, particularly evident in their weekly meetings. “These meetings are quite special in that we all operate like a big family — slightly offbeat, quirky,” she said. “Many inside references that we draw on that crack us up, we finish each other’s sentences, talk all at the same time and, in general, it’s an exhausting, exhilarating and oddly productive one hour per week.” Just like a big family, there is even some drama present among the dogs that frequent Kitchel House: Jennings brings his fluffy goldendoodle Tom to the office nearly every day, who is perpetually friendly until Fogg’s German Shepherd Schröder shows up and Tom retreats to his owner’s office. The cycle of fear continues when copy editor Jessie Raymond’s poodle/terrier mix Thor arrives, at which point Schröder avoids all eye contact in fear of the tiny dog. Jessie Raymond has worked part-time as copy editor since 2016, and though copy editing for the magazine is only about 10 percent of her job, she and her dog are part of the family too. During the past week leading up to print of the January issue, her job became magazine-focused, but her responsibilities are usually more heavily focused on copy editing all the other publications that come out of the Communications Office. Sara Marshall, the alumni editor, works in an office downstairs from the rest of the team. Though she also has tasks outside of the magazine, her central responsibilities revolve around the network of Middlebury alumni, tasks that she finishes up before many other sections. Marshall writes and edits the magazine’s Class Acts pages, communicates with the class correspondents who gather those updates about alumni and organizes all the photos that alumni send in of weddings and other celebrations. “I love working with the alumni,” Marshall said. “We get a lot of alums who react to things in the magazine and send in letters and that’s another connection. It’s a great way to keep that alumni base involved with the college.” Though one might expect an alumni magazine such as Middlebury’s to conform to portraying a certain image of the college to its former students — many of whom donate large sums of money to the school — the magazine staff consider themselves proudly independent. “What I love about it is that we can just tell our stories,” Marshall said. “There’s no pressure on us from anybody to make sure that you make Middlebury the focus of the story so we can make money.” Jennings echoed this sentiment. “We report on the same people who publish us,” he said. “But I feel that it’s incumbent upon us to be portraying the college in an accurate light, but also in an honest light, and that means telling complex stories sometimes… and it’s okay if someone doesn’t like something.” He cited in particular the magazine’s Spring 2016 issue entitled “Let’s Talk About Race,” the cover of which a reader ripped off and sent back to Jennings with an attached sticky note that read, “This is bullshit.” Jennings has received countless such “angry letters” from disgruntled alumni in response to the stories the magazine publishes. Some letters arrive in the form above, while others are longer and well-researched. Regardless, Jennings tries to respond to every one. “What I love about the angry letters is that it really shows that they care about the place,” he said. “I know that there are institutions out there that would not have been confident enough to have students and faculty talking very candidly about negative experiences at Middlebury, but that was happening. We felt like our alums needed to know that was happening.” Raymond, an alumna herself, agreed that though the magazine has to walk a fine line because of its audience, it also has the power to complicate Middlebury’s story. “I think the magazine is a good place for people to see the different sides of their little college on the hill, which is actually a little bit more than that,” she said. For full staff issue coverage, click here.
[gallery ids="42157,42158"] RIPTON — The 139-year-old Ripton Country Store has new owners, but never fear — the cozy, 19th-century-era shop will remain the same communal space it has always been. The only noticeable change? A small female terrier mix named Floyd is there to greet you at the door. Following two weeks of training by former owners Dick and Sue Collitt, Middlebury native Gary Wisell and his wife Eva Hoffman have spent the past two and a half weeks running the store on their own for the first time. But the reality of running a general store is that its owners will never be truly alone; the bell above the door rings every few minutes. Hoffman and Wisell are all smiles as they greet each customer. “I think it’s really important to point out how special everybody up here is,” Hoffman told The Campus. “There isn’t a single soul who wouldn’t help us.” The couple moved up to Ripton from Virginia, where Hoffman worked as a primary school teacher and Wisell as a landscaper, and though the transition has been hectic, both are happy with their decision. “Everything’s new, but that makes it kind of fun,” Hoffman said of the last two weeks. “I think we took to it pretty quickly,” Wisell agreed. “The hours are long, though. It’s a long day — a 12-hour day.” The couple has maintained the hours the Collitts held: the store is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every weekday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekend. But for Hoffman and Wisell, it’s all worth it. “People are awesome, very supportive, very patient,” Wisell said. “It couldn’t be better if we tried. … I think we made the right decision.” Hoffman and Wisell purchased the store this past July, but they weren’t the only ones vying for position, thanks to coverage in a March New York Times op-ed by Bill McKibben. Dick and Sue Collitt, who purchased the store in 1976 and ran it ever since, decided last year that it was time for them to finally retire. They put the store, including their upstairs apartment, on the market over a year and a half ago. It was only after the op-ed by McKibben, a Ripton resident and scholar-in-residence at the college, that the store’s advertisement got any attention. In fact, over 50 offers flooded into their realtor’s inbox, Dick told The Campus in April. [pullquote speaker="EVA HOFFMAN " photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]I think it’s really important to point out how special everybody up here is ... There isn’t a single soul who wouldn’t help us.[/pullquote] Wisell and Hoffman were actually too late when they first contacted the Collits that same month; the Collitts had already taken another offer. Though Wisell and Hoffman were disappointed, they had accepted that it was not yet the right time for them to make such a big move. “But [the idea] really put a spark into our minds and our hearts,” Hoffman said. “This was something we wanted to pursue.” The couple began a halfhearted search into other businesses around the state, but it was difficult to find a place they liked that could also house them. Even when they did find a store in East Poultney that could, it just wasn’t right. “I was looking for something similar to this, and the East Poultney store was similar to this, but it wasn’t special, it wasn’t the Ripton store, it wasn’t the place where my uncle got his mail for 40-some-odd years, it wasn’t the place where my family had history,” Wisell said. Indeed, the Ripton Country Store is unique — few other shops can boast an original antique cash register or continue to function simultaneously as the town’s sole post office. The Ripton store is particularly significant for Wisell, too, because this was the area in which he grew up. To the joyful surprise of the now new owners, the first deal the Collitts had made with another buyer fell through this past July, and Wisell and Hoffman immediately reached out to the Collitts to extend their own offer again. Though the Virginia couple was again competing against several other potential buyers, the Collitts seemed to have already decided Wisell and Hoffman were the right people for the job, even before meeting them in person. “They really didn’t ask us a lot of questions,” Wisell said, which Hoffman believes was mainly because of Wisell’s family connection — the Collitts knew his uncle well — and the fact that he is a native Vermonter himself. It seems also to have resulted from the new couple’s desire to keep the store exactly the way it is. “Forty-two years [the Collitts] were here,” Wisell said in an interview with The Addison Independent. “They must have done something right.” After the Collitts chose them, things moved almost too quickly for Wisell and Hoffman. They had to quit their jobs, fix up and sell their house in Virginia, figure out the finances involved in purchasing the store and then move their entire lives up north into a two-bedroom apartment. The move has proven stressful for the couple, but Hoffman and Wisell appear visibly content as they place logs in the wood stove and eagerly ring up customers at the cash register. “There’s a lot of joy in all of this, too,” Hoffman told The Campus. “Just meeting people, [and] the beauty of everything that surrounds us.” McKibben’s op-ed described the Collitts and the Ripton Country Store as the “heart and soul of our community.” New owners Hoffman and Wisell have already embraced this great responsibility with open arms.
OFFICE OF PETER REP. WELCH Congressman Peter Welch, Vermont’s sole representative in the U.S. House, has served in Congress since 2007. This week, he spoke with fellow Vermonter Ellie Anderson ’19, a local editor for The Campus, about some of the salient issues heading into the midterm elections, both within Vermont and nationwide. What would you say to college students who are not particularly motivated to vote in the upcoming midterm election? What issues do you believe are the most critical for college students to pay attention to and vote on? The reason to vote is that it’s all about your future. Do we want a future where diversity is respected? Where we attack climate change? Where we address this mountainous student debt that kids are graduating with? All these things are extraordinarily important. What kinds of opportunities are going to be there for you as students when you graduate? What kind of world are you going to live in? Voting is about making a decision to participate in the effort to change the world for the better. There have been some really compelling [issues] where there’s been great leadership by younger people — climate change is one, gun safety is another, respect for people regardless of their race, religion, creed, or sexual orientation is another. All of these causes are absolutely crucial to the future of our country, and young people have very much been the leadership up front. Voting is just a further way of expressing solidarity with others who want to have a better future. The national administration is a concern for many Vermonters and Middlebury students right now, particularly because of the political divide that the nation is facing, which was illustrated by the bombs that were mailed to various “Trump critics” last week. What were your reactions to this threat? What can you do as Vermont’s representative to address these concerns about this divide and the state of the national administration? Politics is about trying to resolve differences in a peaceful way. The responsibility all of us have, starting with the president, is to have respect for people who we disagree with, to have respect for people who are different from us. That has to be the baseline, so no matter what my position is, or yours, we have to start out with mutual respect where I acknowledge the right that you have to take the position that you have, and reciprocally, you acknowledge my right to take that position. What you’re seeing is this winner-take-all approach to politics, where the person who one disagrees with is demonized. That makes it impossible for people to find ways to reach common ground. It’s extremely dangerous to a democracy when there’s a breakdown of basic rules of civility and mutual respect. I’m very alarmed by it at the national level. Parkland shooting survivors and activists Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg and Alex Wind recently visited Burlington to speak about their new book and call for increased gun control. Were you able to attend? Where do you stand on Vermont’s gun control legislation as far as the banning of bump stocks, expansion of background checks and increase of the minimum age requirement to purchase a gun? Where do you stand on gun regulation on a federal level? I met with the Parkland kids when they came to Washington and they were very inspiring. They went through just an incredible tragedy and I was impressed with how focused they were in trying to improve our gun safety laws. I was not there when they came to Vermont, but I did meet with them in Washington, and met in Vermont with young people who organized the March for Our Lives rally in Montpelier. Sen. Sanders and I were there, just listening to one student after another give an eloquent statement about the necessity for gun safety. So this is an issue that is extraordinarily important. Gun safety has been something we’ve resisted and young people are leading the charge. They know that schools have become the target of choice for shooters — we had a near miss in Vermont, in Fair Haven. I totally support the gun safety legislation that Vermont passed and Gov. Scott signed. We need gun safety legislation in Washington and I’ll continue to fight for it. You were outspoken in your opposition to Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. Student activists at Middlebury College have recently raised concerns about poor treatment of sexual assault cases and victims on our own campus, and a student last spring posted a list on Facebook naming alleged perpetrators of sexual assault. What are your thoughts about how institutions like the Supreme Court or Middlebury should approach sexual assault claims? Well you know the colleges obviously are all working through that, but in Washington I’m working with Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) on legislation that would get rid of the so called “magic asterisk,” where the student who is disciplined for sexual assault on one campus applies to another without the disclosure in the application that that person had a sexual assault violation. Our legislation would require that that information be included in any transfer of transcript. So that’s what I’m doing in Washington — I don’t want people who have been convicted through the process at one school to be able to shed that from their record by simply applying to another school. In the past you have supported the rights of individual states to make their own marijuana laws. While possession of marijuana was legalized in Vermont this year, Gov. Phil Scott has expressed his continued opposition to legalizing its sale. While you’re more involved with federal policies, do you have a stance on creating a taxed and regulated marijuana market within Vermont? I favor legalization on a state level, but at the federal level I believe that we should respect the decisions the states make. It’s fully legal in Colorado — I think at the federal level we should respect that and not be threatening federal prosecution. Also at the federal level, we should pass legislation allowing for medical marijuana. That should be a national policy — I don’t believe that the government should get between a doctor and a patient when it comes to prescribing a medication or something that will alleviate pain, like marijuana or any other substance that is appropriate. So I fundamentally believe that at the federal level we should respect states’ decisions on marijuana, whatever their policy may be. State Rep. Kiah Morris resigned in September after receiving continued racist harassment. What were your reactions to racism directed at Rep. Morris? Do you have any thoughts about how to combat this type of racism and foster a more diverse legislature in a very un-diverse state like Vermont? I was appalled at what she had to suffer through. Kiah’s a friend, she’s been an outstanding legislator. Whoever was verbally attacking her was doing so on the basis of her race, and also at a time when her husband was having a significant medical issue, and it’s just cruel and completely reprehensible. Bottom line, I think we have to have tolerance and acceptance of everybody, regardless of what their race is or their sexual orientation. Vermont’s been pretty good on this, but we have to be vigilant all the time. The kind of language that we’re getting out of the Trump administration hurts, it doesn’t help. I think in Vermont, each and every single one of us [should] do each and every thing we can to have an accepting, open, and respectful dialogue, totally unrelated to a person’s race, gender, sexual orientation, religion. We’re all Vermonters. During this election cycle, there has been significant news coverage about voter suppression in various states including Georgia, where the state government recently stalled thousands of voter registrations. If Democrats take back the House, do you think that’s an issue they should be focusing on? I do. In a democracy we want to encourage people to vote, not discourage them from voting. We want to make it easier, not harder. It’s very alarming to me that some of these states — unfortunately with the help of the Supreme Court, which undercut the protections of the Voting Rights Act — are trying to win elections by keeping people away from the polls, by doing everything they can to discourage them from voting, by making it more difficult for them to vote. I want to make certain that if we do get the majority we pass legislation that absolutely and effectively protects the right to vote. We should make it easier to vote. Vermont’s very good — same day voter registration, early voting. The more people that vote, the more people who have a stake in the democracy, the more they feel the election is legitimate, the better our chances of making progress are.
A pie in the face of an improv comedy performer meant a $15 donation to the Charter House Coalition (CHC) last Friday. For nearly nine hours, members of the college’s three improv comedy groups — Otter Nonsense, Middlebrow and Baggage Claim — hosted the first annual “Charter House Improvathon” outdoors before a live audience, in the Gamut Room Amphitheatre. They took turns performing through the afternoon and evening in support of the Charter House’s fundraising campaign to make its building fully accessible for those with disabilities. Audience members were offered the chance to make improvisers say or do certain things in return for donations — for $10 one could make a performer sing or dance — and Charter House T-shirts were also on sale for $15. Attendance was consistent throughout the night except during dinner hours, and around 10:30 p.m. a rush of excited students crowded into the outdoor theater to join in the final hour and a half. As for the improvisers, who continued performing even as the audience fluctuated, the temperature dropped and pie cream congealed in their hair, they were exhausted but thrilled to be using comedy for a greater purpose. “One of my favorite things in this world is improv comedy, and to have something that gives me so much joy be used to make concrete improvement in other people’s lives makes it even more enjoyable,” said Middlebrow member and Campus cartoon editor Kaitlynd Collins ’19.5 after the event. “It certainly wasn’t my best improv — you tend to get a little delirious with a tiny audience, dried pie hair and hours of improv — but at the same time I would do it again in an instant.” The Improvathon raised $800, all of which will benefit Charter House’s $81,000 GoFundMe fundraising campaign for building accessibility. So far, the campaign has raised a total of $3,040. (To donate, go to www.gofundme.com/accessibility-at-charter-house.) CHC is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization located in downtown Middlebury that houses those in need during the fall and winter months and provides thousands of meals throughout the year. CHC actually opened on Saturday, Sept. 1 this year, six weeks earlier than usual, in order to accommodate the community’s extra needs. The organization is housed in a building generously gifted by the Congregational Church this past July. Unfortunately, it is in dire need of many repairs and renovations. [pullquote speaker="Charter House Coalition" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]Accessibility can’t wait that long[/pullquote] “The building is 230 years old, and there are several items that need to be addressed in order for Charter House to continue to operate a shelter,” Co-Executive Director of CHC Samantha Kachmar told The Campus in a previous interview about the shelter’s early opening. At the top of the list for Charter House right now are renovations to make the building more accessible. They began a three-year Neighbors Helping Neighbors campaign in order to raise funds for other repairs, but “accessibility can’t wait that long,” CHC wrote on their GoFundMe page. “Charter House needs to be made accessible this year, so we don’t ever have to turn someone away again.” The Improvathon fundraiser was born from the actions of Jackie Atkins ’20, a member of the Middlebrow improv group and a former intern at the Charter House, where she volunteered this past summer. Atkins was the one who originally launched the GoFundMe accessibility campaign back in August, and she cares deeply about the importance of and immediate need for Charter House’s accessibility to all. “If you think about how interconnected poverty and disability are, it’s just wrong that an inclusive space like Charter House isn’t easily accessible to everyone yet,” Atkins said. She is also painfully conscious of the separation between the town of Middlebury and the college, particularly regarding student awareness of homelessness and the Charter House Coalition. She attempted to bridge that gap through the Improvathon. [pullquote speaker="Jackie Atkins '20" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]There’s a lot of awareness and generosity among students here, but there’s also a lot of willful ignorance.[/pullquote] “I think there’s a perception that Middlebury is an extremely wealthy town because of the presence of the college, but there’s a lot of poverty here,” Atkins said. “There’s a lot of awareness and generosity among students here, but there’s also a lot of willful ignorance.” Indeed, Atkins and other student volunteers who worked the event found that many students had never heard of Charter House, further emphasizing the need for events like the Improvathon. “It’s an important thing because we want to raise awareness about housing insecurity here in Middlebury, which a lot of people don’t even know about,” said Mayher Patel ’19, who volunteers with Charter House and worked the fundraising table at the Improvathon. Though the Improvathon’s original fundraising goal was $2000, Atkins did not feel discouraged. “I’m extremely proud that we were able to raise $800,” she said. “To me, it proves that an event like this is worthwhile, and with better planning on my end, it could be much more successful.” The Charter House is always looking for new volunteers, and opportunities vary quite a bit: volunteers can work with the meal programs, take shifts supervising the winter shelter, work in the garden or join the maintenance team. Trainings will be provided on-site for new volunteers at the following times: Thursday, Oct. 4, 6:30–8:30 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 6, 9–11 a.m.; Monday, Oct. 8, 10 a.m.–noon; Saturday, Oct. 20, 9–11 a.m. Students interested in volunteering are encouraged to contact the chair of the Charter House Student Organization, Luna Shen, at email@example.com.
MIDDLEBURY — In response to a recent community appeal and the ever-growing need for homeless shelters throughout the country, the Charter House Coalition (CHC) in downtown Middlebury opened six weeks early this year, on Sept. 1. The decision came following an online post on Front Porch Forum, in which a local resident noted the number of people sleeping under Middlebury’s Cross Street Bridge and asked why the police were not involving themselves in the issue. The online post resulted in a passionate community-wide discussion about homelessness in the area and caught the eyes of both the town manager Kathleen Ramsay and the police chief Tom Hanley. While the community discussion was spurred by an apparent increase in the numbers of homeless people around Middlebury, this may not exactly be the case. According to Vermont’s annual statewide single-day count of the homeless, The Point-in-Time Count Report, the state’s homeless population has not increased significantly in the past five years. It is likely that homeless people in Middlebury and Addison County have simply become more visible to the rest of the population in recent months. Despite whatever statistical truths may lay behind the issue, the community’s fervent online discussion gave the Charter House the push it needed to finally put in motion the longer season it had been considering for years. “It seemed like the time had come to address the additional need for shelter that exists,” said Co-Executive Director Samantha Kachmar about the Front Porch Forum discussion. Kachmar’s co-executive director Doug Sinclair agreed. “We hope this initiative will foster continued community discussion so that none of our neighbors will have to sleep under a bridge, on someone’s porch or under someone’s deck next summer,” Sinclair said in an interview with the Addison Independent. And, so far, the early opening has been going “extremely well,” Kachmar said. Since they opened nearly two weeks ago, an average of ten individuals have stayed in the Charter House shelter each night, and while about four times that amount stay during the winter months, every person they can help matters to the volunteers at the Charter House. “The dedication of staff and volunteers and the belief by all in the importance of providing shelter for those outside was illustrated by the excitement and dedication to preparing the building for our guests six weeks earlier than expected,” Kachmar said. Each year, according to Kachmar, the Charter House is able to provide 34,000 free community meals, grow several thousand pounds of produce, and house 75 to 80 people, and all this is thanks to the 1,200 community members who volunteer throughout the season. “This is tremendous for a volunteer organization,” Kachmar said. One-third of the volunteers working with Charter House yearly are Middlebury College students, and Luna Shen ’19.5, the student chair of CHC, will be spearheading the College’s volunteer effort during the early opening. “I hope that more people in the community, especially Middlebury College students, understand that home and food insecurity are relevant and urgent issues in our community,” Shen said. As Shen noted, none of this success comes easily for a non-profit, volunteer-based organization. The Charter House is on a perpetual search for more volunteers and funding, which is why the early opening had remained only an idea for so long. In an interview with the Addison Independent before the Charter House opening on Sept. 1, Kachmar and Sinclair estimated that the extra six weeks would cost an additional $12,000. “There will be a financial risk to opening early,” Sinclair told the Independent. “We’re jumping in and then will ask for resources from the community. The community is the reason we exist, and the community will determine if we stay open year-round.” According to Kachmar, this approach has been relatively successful so far. Most of the Charter House’s funding comes from private donations or community foundations, and Kachmar said that “the community support generated through the Front Porch Forum conversation is bearing fruit in both volunteer interest and material donations.” In addition to funding needed for daily housing and food costs, in order to stay open the Charter House needs money to maintain the building itself. The Charter House building in its entirety was gifted to the Coalition by the Congregation Church this past July (the organization had been renting part of the building previously), but volunteers have been working on renovations for the past three years. “This was an amazingly generous gift that is much appreciated by CHC,” Kachmar said. “However, the building is 230 years old and there are several items that need to be addressed in order for Charter House to continue to operate a shelter.” To name a few, the Charter House needs to bring the building up to meet updated regulation codes, replace the heating system, renovate the bathrooms and address issues regarding accessibility. One of the campaigns the Charter House is involved in, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, is specifically designed to raise money to address such issues. “[Neighbors Helping Neighbors] is an opportunity for the community to help us make our house a home for those in our community without a home of their own,” said Kachmar. Particularly with their early opening, but also throughout their regular season, the Charter House is always interested in working with new volunteers. Opportunities vary quite a bit: volunteers can work with the meal programs, take shifts supervising the winter shelter, work in the garden, or join the maintenance team. Trainings are provided on site for new volunteers during the following times: Monday Oct. 1, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Thursday Oct. 4, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Saturday Oct. 6, 9:00-11 a.m.; Monday Oct. 8, 10 a.m.-noon; Saturday Oct. 20, 9-11 a.m. Anyone interested in donating or volunteering is encouraged to contact Samantha Kachmar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following a two year-long search for additional rehearsal and storage space, the Town Hall Theater has announced its decision to buy The Diner property on Merchants Row. The Diner will continue its regular operations up until THT’s official purchase on June 1. Following this date, the Theater board plans to open a new business — food-related or otherwise — to fill the space until funds are raised to support their future goals of expansion. “The key point we want to make to the community is we don’t want to shutter the building,” said Douglas Anderson, THT Executive Director and former member of Middlebury College’s theater faculty, in an interview with the Addison County Independent. “We think an empty storefront is bad for downtown. We are actively looking for anyone who has any idea of how to use the building, and we will entertain any idea.” The Diner was placed on the market about six weeks ago. Its owners, Carl Roesch and Caetlin Harwood, were relieved at its quick purchase, as they had taken some significant financial hits during the town’s bridge construction last year. In late January, Carol’s Hungry Mind Café down the street similarly announced its impending closure as a result of the bridge project’s impact on recent sales. However, Roesch and Harwood are glad that The Diner’s property will go to a neighbor. “Both Caetlin and I are extremely excited about the THT purchasing the property and expanding,” Roesch said to the Addison County Independent. “Doug has shared his vision with us, and we see it as something that will be great for the community.” In the meantime, Roesch and Harwood are committed to maintaining The Diner until June 1. “We want to go out with a bang,” Roesch said. Originally opened in the 1930s as Steve’s Park Diner, The Diner has long been a popular destination for Middlebury residents and College students alike. The breakfast and lunch spot is known for its milkshakes — “the best in town,” as The Diner claims on its website — and its creative daily specials. In particular, many students will miss The Diner’s iconic Nutella Stuffed French Toast. “It’s pretty sad,” said Logan Wright ’19, of The Diner’s closing. “Every town needs a diner.” Fortunately for Wright and other Diner regulars, Roesch and Harwood have confirmed with the Addison County Independent that they will be returning to Addison County further in the future with a “new ‘food-driven’ venture.” Additionally, THT Board President Deppman commented on the possible inclusion of an eatery in the theater’s future plans for The Diner space, as one might be beneficial for intermissions and conferences. Located right next door to the Town Hall Theater, the purchased space at 66 Merchants Row could not be more ideal. The THT’s long-term plan is to remove the original diner building and construct an addition to the theater— “THT 2.0,” as Anderson calls it. This new building could extend back behind the Clinton Smith carriage house, as far as the diner property reaches, and would solve much of the theater’s trouble with space shortage. The THT began searching for such a real estate opportunity two years ago, when the theater’s overflow became so great that the board formed a committee whose sole purpose was to find a second property to rent or buy. However, the THT has been dealing with a lack of space for much longer. “It’s not commonly known, but we were short of space on the day we opened,” Anderson said in an interview with the Addison County Independent. “There is no storage. There is precious little office space. We don’t have a scene shop. We need a second rehearsal space. We’ve known all of this for quite some time.” Two whole years passed without any luck for the THT committee, which Anderson jokingly blames on Middlebury’s “success” in sustaining businesses. “There isn’t any leftover space,” Anderson said in the same interview. “What we wouldn’t have given for an abandoned factory or an empty schoolhouse. They just don’t exist.” When The Diner appeared on the market six weeks ago, the THT board “didn’t even have to discuss it,” Anderson said. The property was exactly what they had been looking for. Anderson noted that the THT’s plan for the property was indeed a “long-term” one. “It could be three, five or 10 years before we (a) figure out exactly what we need to move into the future, and (b) raise the money to fulfill whatever the dream is,” he said. Astonishingly though, the THT was able to raise the funds ($300,000) to purchase The Diner in just two weeks, thanks to the donations of about 15 generous community members. “I think it says a lot about people’s desire to keep the arts in the community,” THT board President Benj Deppman said of the pledges in an interview with the Addison County Independent. “It also says a lot about Doug and the quality we put on the stage.” Doug Anderson originally led the communal purchase of the THT building in 2000, when its previous owners, the Knights of Columbus, could no longer take on the great amount of repairs it needed. Anderson, a resident of Middlebury for 15 years, rallied a group of community members and organizations to support the purchase of the building, which eventually sold for $275,000. According to the THT website, some of the theater’s earliest support came from Middlebury College itself. Anderson reopened the space as a non-profit corporation, and has led the Town Hall Theater to where it is today.
Particularly in the current political climate, the fact that women make up less than 20 percent of the representatives in Congress concerns many. Elect Her is a national program that encourages more women to run for government and gives them the skills and resources necessary to alter this pattern of male-dominated political leadership. On Saturday, March 3, the Women’s Resource Center at Chellis House is bringing the Elect Her workshop to Middlebury’s campus. Also sponsored by Feminist Action at Middlebury (FAM), Middlebury College Democrats, the Center for Community Engagement, MiddVote, the Student Government Association (SGA) and the political science department, the workshop will run from 12:30–4 p.m. in Wilson Hall of McCullough. All female-identifying or non-binary students are encouraged to attend by signing up at go/electher. Free sushi and desserts will be available for lunch. The Elect Her program was originally developed in 2007 by Running Start and the American Association of University Women (AAUW), national nonprofit organizations that train young women interested in politics to run for office. Running Start has discovered that only four women in Congress today are under 40 years old, and that although women running for office win at the same rates as men, many fewer women run in the first place. As a result, Running Start’s mission is to empower young women to find their voice and gain the confidence they need to put themselves out there. In addition to their Elect Her program, which alone visits about 50 colleges per year and has trained over 10,000 college women since its creation, Running Start also runs several internships and has recently initiated a social-media campaign to challenge sexism in politics. Distributing sheets of paper that read #ILookLikeAPolitician at their workshops, Running Start has encouraged young women to pose with the hashtag and post their photos to social media in order to change societal perceptions of who can be a leader. Rana Abdelhamid ’15, now an internationally recognized human-rights advocate, first brought the Elect Her program to Middlebury in 2013. It found huge success, with about 100 students in attendance. However, the workshop has not been held at Middlebury since, and Chellis House director Karin Hanta, who collaborated with Abdelhamid five years ago and went on sabbatical immediately afterward, initiated its return this March. “At the time we did [the first workshop], there hadn’t been a female student-government president for a long time,” Hanta said. Following the workshop, a female SGA president was voted into office for the first time in what Hanta estimated to be about seven years. Though female representatives now make up 50 percent of Middlebury’s SGA, this statistic is not reflected at the state or national level, and Hanta said that she decided to bring the Elect Her workshop back to Middlebury in light of the current political climate. “We just want to keep up the heat,” she said. Susannah Wellford, who is the co-founder of both Running Start and the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee (WUFPAC), will facilitate the Elect Her workshop this year. She co-founded WUFPAC, Running Start’s predecessor, in 1999 with a similar dedication to electing young women to political office. The organization is now the only nonpartisan political action committee in the United States. Ruth Hardy, Lauren Sampson and Kristina Guerrero Sylvester from Emerge Vermont will also be attending the workshop to speak on a panel about local female elected officials. Hardy is the executive director of Emerge Vermont, which is the state chapter of Emerge America, a democratic training program for women leaders that supports candidates throughout their campaigns. Sampson and Sylvester are both alumni of Emerge Vermont’s program, and Sylvester is also the founder and CEO of TurboPUP, a company that sells compact bars of dog food to take on the go. Throughout the four-hour training, students will work in both small and large groups to develop leadership skills. The four central exercises will help students formulate their main campaign issue, learn how to build their network of support and give an elevator pitch and then give them a taste of a real campaign through a group simulation. The workshop will also include an interview with two female representatives from Middlebury’s SGA about their own experiences running for office. Though the Elect Her workshop is designed to train young women to run for government positions, this year’s program organizers emphasized that the training can be beneficial for anyone. “[The workshop] is really good for getting women into government positions and that kind of thing, but also for just general leadership and being inspired in that way,” said workshop organizer Mikayla Hyman ’20. “These are general skills that cross over no matter what you want your career to be, and there are a lot of different ways you can learn from this.”
On Saturday, April 15, eleven student project proposals were awarded summer funding from MiddChallenge. The competition was divided into four categories: Social Entrepreneurship; Education, Outreach and Policy; Arts; and Business. A total of sixteen project proposals were selected to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges. Two to three projects in each category were chosen to win. MiddChallenge, formerly called Stonehenge, is a program that developed out of the Center for Creativity, Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (CCISE) in 2011. CCISE, also know as the “Innovation Hub,” advertises on their webpage that the grant provides students with funding so they can “explore and expand their creative ideas.” All current students are encouraged to apply each year before the deadline in mid-March. This year, about 25 to 30 applications were sent in, and the top four proposals in each category were chosen to give 10-minute presentations to a panel of judges. CCISE interns Lena Jacobs ’17.5 and Jessie Klinck ’17.5 helped to organize this year’s MiddChallenge competition. They believe that the MiddChallenge grant program was an important addition to the other funding and entrepreneurship opportunities offered by CCISE because it allows for close guidance through the process. “This is a space for beginner-level projects to learn what it’s like to present in front of a crowd,” Jacobs said. “We coach them throughout the month that they know they’ve become a finalist.” MiddChallenge is designed to provide the same opportunities for both seasoned presenters and entrepreneurs as well as students with brand new ideas. “We like to encourage a whole plethora of people to apply,” Klinck said. The judges’ panels were comprised of alumni, community members and faculty. Following the four presentations, each category’s panel of judges provided each proposal with specific feedback and announced the winners. Each winner can be awarded up to $3,000, and the amount they received was based on their budget proposal. In the Social Entrepreneurship category, funding was awarded to Belle by Bella, MiddPool and Scholar Hunt. Isabella Epstein ’20 came up with “Belle by Bella” after traveling to Colombia and learning about the art of handmade jewelry. Her goal is “to empower artisans, indigenous and impoverished people by giving them access to a larger market.” MiddPool Ride Sharing was pitched by Amy Jo Weaver ’18.5 and Nosagie Asaolu ’18, who hope to create a ride sharing website for easy use “to, from, and around Middlebury Campus.” Ian Sexton ’19 and friend Derick Vigne came up with Scholar Hunt, a scholarship app that would “bring together scholarship providers and students onto one, unified platform.” In the Education, Outreach and Policy category, funding was awarded to the projects STEAM Girls and “The Desire to See in the Anthropocene.” STEAM Girls is a free two-week long summer camp that Computer Science majors Kristin Richards ’17 and Joy Wood ’17 launched last year after realizing how few female students were pursuing their major or working in the greater fields of STEM and computer science. Richards and Wood designed the camp for elementary and middle school girls interested in science and math, and taught within it three creativity-based classes tailored for such age groups. The classes involved learning about robotics through Lego Mindstorms, creating art designs on the computer through the processes of programming and devising model circuits by sewing threads together. Joey Hernandez ’19 joined Richards and Wood to present STEAM Girls and get awarded the MiddChallenge grant money for the second year in a row. Nicole Cheng ’17.5’s project, “The Desire to See in the Anthropocene,” proposed the creation of an audio installation on Middlebury’s campus that would emit the sounds of the forest and other parts of nature. An environmental studies major, Cheng hopes that this will bring attention to global issues such as deforestation and provide a better understanding of its effects on natural and human communities. In her presentation, Cheng noted that she hopes her installation will show “how that culture change can incite policy change as well.” She also wants this sculpture project to further emphasize the significance of art in STEM, two fields that she believes are not integrated enough. In the Arts category, the three winning projects were Bangkok Persona, The Basement and Favor It. Bangkok Persona was proposed by Smithi Skunnawat ’18.5, who plans to create an online documentary series about the Thai and non-Thai cultures that exist within Bangkok. Danilo Herrera, Brianna Garrett ’19, Devin McGrath-Conwell ’18.5, Iram Asghar ’18 and Maxwell Scott Leslie ’18 came up with The Basement, which will be a tenepisode web series “that celebrates differences and fictionalizes controversies we see in college settings.” Coumba Winfield ’17 pitched Favor It, an app that would connect students and allow them to complete paid favors or tasks for each other. In the Business category, winning project proposals included Red Ink, SmartWire and Share to Wear. Red Ink is a website devised by Connor Forrest ’17.5 and Craig Calhoun ’18.5 that gives new writers the chance to see early drafts of published fictional works alongside final drafts. Forrest described in the pitch that their goal is to “demystify the process” of creative writing. Rachael Salerno ’18, Linley Shaw ’17, Lena Jacobs ’17.5, Michelle Yang ’17.5, Greta Hulleberg ’19 and Lily Taub ’17 developed the idea for Share to Wear, an on-campus clothing rental business. The creators describe it as “one affordable, accessible, and fashionable closet.” SmartWire was proposed by Noah Klammer ’17, whose objective “is to change how consumers fundamentally interact with the electric grid.” MiddChallenge proposals that were not selected to present at the competition this past weekend still have the chance to access funding through both CCISE and the Center for Careers and Internships (CCI). CCISE offers a variety of funding and entrepreneurship opportunities in addition to MiddChallenge. MiddStart is a micro-philanthropy site that CCISE also launched in 2011 and gives alumni and friends the chance to donate to students’ projects, as well as follow their progress. CCISE’s New Millennium Fund supports students wishing to intern at Vermont-based start ups or non-profits, and the Old Stone Mill is a student-run space in town that offers room and small funding opportunities for students to work on non-academic and self-designed projects. In addition to grant money for unpaid summer internships, the CCI offers funding for self-designed and self-directed summer projects, which can be applied for in April each year.
On Saturday, March 11, The Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs hosted its Fifth Annual International Conference, drawing many students, faculty and staff who were keen to hear lectures on the theme, “From Scroll to Scrolling: Shifting Cultures of Language and Identity.” The conference was composed of seventeen lectures by scholars from around the globe, each organized by theme into six individual 90-minute sessions. Lead organizer of the conference and Director of the Rohatyn Center Tamar Mayer introduced the event on Thursday, March 9, before speakers Stephanie Ann Frampton of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Associate Professor of Anthropology James L. Fitzsimmons commenced the lectures. Mayer thanked everyone who made it possible and situated the theme within a historical and modern day setting. She spoke about a New York Times piece written by Ilan Stavans, the LewisSebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College, entitled “Trump, the Wall and the Spanish Language.” In his piece, Stavans likened President Trump to Shih Huang Ti, the Chinese Emperor who built the Great Wall of China and banned all books from the kingdom – acts which seem parallel Trump’s construction of the wall between the U.S. and Mexico and his elimination of the White House website’s Spanish-language option. “[Stavans] points to the power of political authority within languages,” Mayer said. “In addition to demonstrating the potency of words within a binary of structure of us versus them, the Shih Huang Ti story illustrates the role of new writing systems in forging a national identity and the power of political authority to make decisions about language.” “This was the case more than two millennia ago and remains so today,” Mayer said. Mayer’s intention was to emphasize the relevance and importance of language to modern culture, which is evident in Stavans’s piece regarding the minimization of the Spanish language within the U.S. and the resulting exclusion of Spanish speaking U.S. citizens. “Of the more than seven thousand languages and dialects that exist today, it is predicted that less than 10 percent will survive by the year 2100,” Mayer said. “Since language is an important menu for culture and the display of heritage and history, linguistic and cultural survival are intertwined.” In a lecture titled, “Learning to Write in the West,” Frampton, who is a scholar of classics and the history of media in antiquity and an associate professor of literature at MIT, spoke about her research into the formation of the written Roman alphabet. Frampton argued in her abstract “that from its first appearance the Roman alphabet — our alphabet — was a deeply multicultural and historical technology, tying the Romans in visible ways to the communities that surrounded them.” She shared a photo of the earliest known example of the Greek alphabet, which was an inscription on a vase used in burial practices in Osteria dell’Ossa, Italy. Its inscription, which reads “she who spins well,” is assumed to refer to the woman buried with it. Frampton spoke about the way in which this inscription gave value to what was otherwise a simple, clay vase, and how this was most likely the reason it was included in the burial. “When writing first appears in Italy, when the alphabet first appears in the Western Mediterranean, it appears to give value to the very material that exists as its physical support,” Frampton said. Frampton discussed the way in which the inscription upon the vase reflected not only material value, but also many aspects of the community’s culture. Frampton concluded her lecture with a focus on the “fundamental integration” of object and text, as seen in the relationship between the vase and its inscription. “The meaning of the inscription is indelibly linked to the substrate on which it was written, both integrated into the activity of honoring [the woman],” Frampton said. “By re-joining texts and object, this interpretation secures the significance of this faint text as an intentional monument of commemoration for the woman in whose tomb we find it,” she said. Fitzsimmons followed Frampton with a lecture entitled, “A Spectrum of Literacy: Writing and the ancient Maya.” He argued that the complicated nature of the Mayan writing system was actually intentional because, as he said in his abstract, “for the ruling class, broad illiteracy was a key part of statecraft.” Throughout his talk, Fitzsimmons built upon Mayer’s introductory point that when authorities control language, they also control knowledge. He displayed an image of ancient Mayan glyphs and described the way in which such inscriptions were most often read aloud because so much of the population was illiterate. “Being able to read and write, being able to understand the complexities of the system you see here was probably not an ability shared by people everywhere,” said Fitzsimmons. “The vast majority of people [in these Mayan communities], perhaps as much as 99 percent, could not read or write ... The elites were the ones continuing to read and write inscriptions.” However, Fitzsimmons emphasized that this did not mean that most of the population was ignorant or unintelligent, and that the elites were not necessarily all completely literate, which is where the “spectrum of literacy” comes into play. Many elites used scribes who were able to read the complex Mayan system and were not accessible to the common man. Fitzsimmons’s lecture was followed by an extended question and answer session, in which themes of status, literacy and the democratization of language were discussed. The lectures also generated thought about the aesthetic value of language, and student audience member Kylie Winger ’19 brought up the phenomenon of tattoos in America being written in Chinese and Japanese characters and tshirt slogans in China and Japan being written in English. Winger, who is a Literary Studies major at the College, said she attended the conference because of an interest in the theme. Winger has taken Chinese for six years, and as a result felt an appreciation for those who are able to decipher the Mayan glyphs Fitzsimmons displayed. “Sometimes I would run across people who would be blown away that I could read Chinese — it was such a foreign thing,” Winger said. “That’s how I felt when [Fitzsimmons] was talking about the Mayan writing system — it’s insane that we can read that.” In addition to the discussion of language in Frampton and Fitzsimmons’s lectures, topics ranged from a study on “The Democratization of Texts and Qur’anic Healing in Morocco” to a lecture on the “Theater of Rebellion: Danny Yung and Political Hong Kong Theater.” The Rohatyn Center will be hosting its Sixth Annual International Conference on March 8-11 of next year, this time focusing on the theme, “The Decolonization Project.