Middlebury College will allocate $4.9 million in additional funding towards mental health services for students, thanks to an unrestricted gift from a member of the class of 1959.
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The Board of Trustees Middlebury wasted no time during their brief visit to campus at the end of October. Between Oct. 26 and Oct. 28, the Board covered a wide range of topics, including “For Every Future:” The Campaign for Middlebury, artificial intelligence, the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), conflict transformation and the college’s financial health.
Members of Student Life and Facilities grabbed their shovels and officially broke ground on Battell Beach for the new, long-awaited first-year dorm on Monday, June 26.
Let me begin by putting this in terms you may better understand: Baaah, bahh, bahh. This is directed toward the sheep that graze in Ross dining hall; the sheep that meekly fall into a single line the length of China’s Great Wall at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you’re saying to yourself right now, “bahh, bahh, bahh,” (translation: obviously there is only one line in Ross), well think again. The two line solution has had massive success in other areas such as Proctor and Atwater. With two lines in Ross, we can massively improve the efficiency of personal serving in Ross. How many times have you sat in line for eons for some harlequin to decide whether he wants one or two pieces of chicken, while a bounty of authentic penne and fragrant Midd Marinara, the only thing you’re hankering for, sits unscathed; just waiting, yearning, to be eaten by you.
Middlebury orientation leaders, or “MiddView” leaders, are being paid a stipend of $300 this year for their work leading orientation for new students.
Starting in the fall of 2022, Middlebury will offer half-credit courses, which will either run at full strength for just the first or second half of the semester or run at “half-strength,” meaning that the class will meet more infrequently than usual classes throughout the entire semester.
Middlebury has been steadfast in its condemnation of Russia’s military assault on Ukraine. The administration, alongside the Student Government Association (SGA), the Russian department and individual student groups, have sent out emails with official statements and information regarding campus-wide talks and fundraising efforts.
The beginning of the spring semester brought a return to seemingly “normal” dining operations, with staff shifting schedules and dining hall procedures to fully accommodate indoor dining, regular Grille hours and the impending opening of the food truck.
Middlebury welcomed students back to campus for J-Term amid a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases nationwide. Arrival testing and testing throughout the first week of the term brought the case count on campus to 122 active cases, 96 student cases and 26 employee cases, on January 13.
Munras Housing at Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) in Monterey, California opened for the first time this academic year, marking the first time the Institute has offered student housing in Monterey. It provides fully furnished housing for up to 85 Institute students, with singles, doubles and triples as well as shared kitchens, bathrooms, study spaces and common areas. The college is hoping that the new housing will make the program more accessible for students.
All Middlebury faculty and staff will receive two extra vacation days and a $1,500 bonus this December, according to an email from the Vice President for Human Resources to all staff and faculty.
The Student Government Association’s Justice Projects, a funding source created to advance diversity, equity and inclusion at Middlebury, has granted the Anderson Freeman Center $110,000 to use for travel-learning trips and speaker events throughout the year.
The Prism Center for Queer and Trans Life has been in the planning stages since June of 2021, and will likely be fully operating in the fall of 2022.
Sixty-five students began the semester living at Bread Loaf, but several have successfully moved out in recent weeks due to rooms opening up on campus or due to ADA accommodations. The college is housing undergraduates at the Bread Loaf campus for the first time to accommodate more than 300 extra students enrolled at the college this fall. ResLife has stressed that moving rooms — typically something available to students due to conflicts with roommates or other needs — will be extremely limited this semester, with priority given to students with ADA/Title IX accommodations and then to students living at Bread Loaf or the Middlebury Courtyard by Marriott. In an email to The Campus, AJ Place, associate dean for student life, said ResLife works closely with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) before and during the room draw to ensure that students who need housing accommodations get them. If students are experiencing trouble in their rooms, Place said that students should contact their RA or RD. If they reach out to ResLife directly, that is usually where they are pointed. If there is an immediate concern, Place advises reaching out to Public Safety. They should be in touch with different offices for support such as the Civil Rights and Title IX office or the DRC as needed. There was a room freeze in place during the first weeks of the semester, when students were unable to move to new residences. With the freeze lifted, many students living at Bread Loaf have sought opportunities to move onto campus — and some have been successful. When Liv Cohen ’23.5 and Lily Kanady ’23.5 first were assigned rooms in Bread Loaf over the summer, they were stunned. Dean of Students Derek Doucet told them that there were rooms on campus that they had reserved, initially, but would be available in the August draw. They withdrew from their original housing placement and went into the August draw, but Bread Loaf housing was their only option and they were ultimately assigned to smaller rooms at Bread Loaf. Kanady had been emailing the school ever since the people she was living with over the summer got some of the last rooms on campus four hours before her slot, and she realized she would probably end up at Breadloaf or the Marriott. She also reached out to her therapist when she got the room draw in August and asked if they could reach out to the school. Then she decided to try to wait it out. On Friday, Sept. 24, Kanady and Cohen were able to move to the Chateau. “It was like the biggest relief,” Cohen said. They lost the incentives offered to students living at Bread Loaf, including the reduced room and board rate, though they still have discounted room and board from the weeks that they did live at Bread Loaf. Even though Middlebury always has reserved ADA rooms, students using accommodations still feared pushback from their peers for utilizing the resource. “It’s tough because you have to put yourself in a position of evaluating how dire your situation is,” Kanady said. “It’s like, I’m really affected day to day by living at Bread Loaf, and it causes me a lot of stress and anxiety. But then it’s almost like you gaslight yourself and it’s like, well, is it really that bad? And it is. It sucks.” Cohen and Kanady tried to remain positive about the half price for room and board, the shuttle service and the fact that some other people they knew were living in their hall. Yet on move-in day, Cohen saw only two students and reality began to set in. Instead of the usual hustle and bustle, it was silent. “I was just so taken aback by the feeling of isolation,” Kanady said. On weekends, Cohen and Kanady had to coordinate their schedule with the shuttle. Once, Cohen got to the shuttle at 1:30 a.m. and waited until 2 a.m thinking the shuttle was coming late, until realizing it had left ten minutes early, at 1:20 a.m. Another night, the shuttle was so full that people who lived in the Marriott in town had to walk home. Cohen said that planning her day became “mental gymnastics.” She felt the loss of little things, such as being able to lie in her bed between classes and changing clothes, as well as losing time coordinating trips back and forth. “That’s when it really started setting in that I would have a very different college experience than everyone else,” Cohen said. When Cohen talked to Katie Burns, her residence director, she was told that there was nothing she could do in those first two weeks. There was, however, a good chance that she would be able to move after the two week room freeze, as many people who had wanted to get out of Bread Loaf had already been able to do so by moving to the Marriott or Inn on the Green. Burns told her to talk to her dean, who then told her to talk to her RD. Cohen said she mostly got passed from person to person. Kanady confirmed with her therapist that she needed her to talk to the school. She also sent emails of her own to Place, ADA Coordinator Jodi Litchfield, Doucet and ResLife. Kanady said she did not know who would help her. According to Kanady, the school offered her resources and told her to talk to her dean. “Living in a community always brings up different values and perspectives and it is important to try to work through conflicts,” Place said. “It’s for this reason that we encourage all students to have open and honest discussions with their roommates(s) about their living styles.” Kanady said they avoided her questions. “They just scoot by them, and they don’t really answer them, and don’t really do anything about it, but just offer circular answers where it’s just like, ‘please be complacent, please god, just chill out,’ instead of actually helping. I just feel like they don’t care, and it’s really frustrating because I love this place so much, and it’s really disheartening,” Kanady said. Kanady went to Litchfield’s office herself. “‘Hey, I’m Lily,” Kanady said to Litchifield. “I’ve been emailing you about Bread Loaf, I haven’t gotten a response. I don’t know if you’re super busy, or if it got lost in just everyday life which is totally fine, but I just wanted to come and introduce myself because I need to get out of there.” Litchfield ultimately emailed Kanady back, who said that if she responded to that email indicating that she wanted a room on campus, ResLife could find a room for her within 24 hours. Kanady was initially looking for a double for her and Cohen. The school said that they had a double at Inn on the Green, an off-campus option for students where students still pay the full cost of room and board, or a single in Lang, which Kanady called stifling. She asked for the weekend to think about it, and if there were any other spaces on campus besides Lang. Litchfield followed up after the weekend saying there were two singles on the same floor in the Chateau. Now that she lives in the Chateau, Cohen says she can feel the college vibe again. She hears people outside and can text her friends for dinner within a five minute walk. Kanady said the situation put her in a moral bind, as she knew that other people might need housing for their own emergencies, but that she ultimately took the opportunity. “I think there are amazing parts of Bread Loaf, and for people that can make it work, it’s awesome. If you’re organized and you don’t mind driving and you like quiet and you’re like a planned person, it totally works,” Cohen said. “But I’m unorganized, very spontaneous, I make all my plans spur of the moment, it just was not working for me.”
Assistant Professor of Economics Andrew Fieldhouse woke up on Sept. 21, with congestion and a slight cough. He sent out an email to his class, moving the Tuesday discussion section online. “Syllabus policy is that anyone with any cold-like symptoms shouldn’t come to class, myself included,” he said. As most courses resume in-person instruction, cold-like symptoms, possible exposures and caution have pushed some professors to temporarily hold classes online while they quarantine. “I think it was pretty easy to move online. I mean, it’s definitely not the most ideal environment for a discussion, but it was easy,” said Clara Geci ’22, a student in Fieldhouse’s Macroeconomics of Depressions course. Geci had not been in a class with Fieldhouse since the week before, and she knew that a number of students with back-to-school colds had tested negative. After Ajay Verghese, assistant professor of political science, was infected with the Covid-19 virus, he made the call to switch to recorded lectures for his comparative politics course for the remainder of the year. Agnes Roche ’24.5, a student in Verghese’s comparative politics course, said that on the first Zoom call, Verghese informed his class of the switch to recorded lectures. “I got the sense that he just got freaked out from his experience, and realized that it’s pretty serious getting it, even after you’ve been vaccinated, so that’s why he switched back to online,” she said. Verghese had been staying with his parents in Pennsylvania, when his 22-month-old daughter contracted Covid-19 in daycare. Even though Verghese, his wife and his parents had all received the Covid-19 vaccine, they all contracted breakthrough cases of the virus. “You can’t really socially distance from a two year old,” he said. Verghese was technically out of the quarantine period before classes had begun, but he wanted to obtain a PCR test to be safe before returning to in-person teaching. He started his classes online, and was ultimately back in the classroom the second week of classes. Verghese also remains apprehensive since his daughter has returned to daycare in Vermont, and he worries about another outbreak. “Right after I got a breakthrough infection, just walking up the stairs was exhausting, and I remember thinking, how am I gonna teach if I still have these symptoms?” he said. Verghese questioned how older faculty would be able to teach if they had a breakthrough infection. He never got very sick, he said, but he still has a residual cough. Last year, the college ran on-campus testing for faculty who were teaching in person, but this year, professors are expected to obtain testing locally. Symptomatic students can get tested through Parton health services, and the college offers a limited number of tests for asymptomatic students on Mondays. When Fieldhouse fell ill, he called his primary care physician, who then called in a test at Porter hospital. Porter did not call back for a day, and Fieldhouse ultimately received a test at the last minute when another patient canceled their visit. Getting tested while asymptomatic at local centers was easier, Fieldhouse said. According to Fieldhouse, Porter hospital is overwhelmed with the rise in Delta variant cases. “It’s unfortunate that there’s not an availability for faculty and staff to get tested through Middlebury if they’re symptomatic, and it’s harder to get tested,” he said. On Thursday, Fieldhouse received a negative PCR result and moved his discussion section back to in-person with less than a half hour’s notice. “In some respects, this is a huge silver lining to the pandemic,” Fieldhouse said. “If I was feeling really sick before, I just wouldn’t come to class, whereas being able to just abruptly move to remote modality for just one day, it’s pretty convenient.” Even though this semester offers more in-person classes and opportunities, students and professors are expected to remain flexible. Fieldhouse expects that there may be times in the semester in which many students are awaiting test results, and an online option will be necessary. “We’ll make that work,” he said.
All students were required to obtain a negative Covid-19 PCR test within 72 hours before arriving at Middlebury this fall semester, in a change to pre-arrival procedures announced via email on Aug. 17. Students who had not yet received a test result by the time they arrived — those whose results were ultimately inconclusive — were offered a test from Health Services and were required to stay in room quarantine until they received a negative result. The college also provided Covid-19 vaccinations for those who did not have access to the vaccine before returning to campus. For some students, finding pre-arrival testing proved both difficult and costly. Shea Brokaw ’24.5 searched for testing sites along his drive from Southern Connecticut to Middlebury, but was unable to find anywhere with availability. When he finally found a testing site in what he thought was Manchester, Vermont, it turned out to be Manchester, New Hampshire. “I looked in every single town from Connecticut to Middlebury and couldn’t find a single place that would get our results back by Saturday,” Brokaw said. Brokaw and another student, Will Nemeth ’24, both drove four hours out of the way and ultimately paid $200 each for their tests. “Free testing is widely available,” according to the college’s Fall 2021 Semester Information page Q&A about pre-arrival testing. “If you are unable to secure free PCR testing, and the cost of testing presents a significant financial hardship, you may be eligible for assistance.” Last year, students were not required to get tested before coming to campus. Instead, all students were instructed to complete a 14-day pre-arrival quarantine, and were tested by the college upon arrival to campus. Students remained in room quarantine until they received the results of their Day Zero test. The college’s decision to require students to get tested prior to their arrival on campus, as well as an indoor mask requirement, followed a nationwide increase in Covid-19 transmission, said Sarah Ray, director of media relations, in an email to The Campus. Before the policy was announced in August, the college did not plan to require vaccinated students to quarantine or take any other precautionary steps before arriving for the fall semester. Students arriving early to campus were told of the requirement first, on Aug. 17, with orientation leaders slated to move in fewer than 10 days later. Students not arriving early were informed of the pre-arrival testing requirement via email on Aug. 19. Pre-arrival testing identified 16 Covid-positive students, who subsequently delayed coming to campus. Unvaccinated students and students coming from international points of origin were tested by the college several times upon and in the weeks following their arrival. Joshua Gluckmsan ’25 was not required to pay for his test, but still faced difficulties in finding a testing site. He returned to Vermont from Chicago three days before move-in to spend time with his family, and had to find testing in Vermont to meet the 72-hour timeframe requirement. “I was confused because Vermont is like the safest state in the country, but there were no tests,” Glucksman said. After his parents engaged in a long email exchange with the school, they eventually discovered that Glucksman’s Middlebury email address allowed him to claim Middlebury as his permanent address, even though he is not a Vermont resident. He drove about 45 minutes to get tested by the state, and received his results just an hour before arriving at Middlebury. The test itself was free and easy, but the process took a toll on him, and took away from time he had hoped to spend with his family before starting college.
Middlebury Senior Technology Specialist Scott Remick was arrested July 7 on federal charges of possesing child pornography. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and would be required to register as a sex offender. At his preliminary hearing on July 26, he pleaded not guilty. Remick allegedly had images of young children in various restraints, which a hacker discovered and turned over to authorities. The hacker was later granted immunity. According to authorities, the informant also discovered chat files which included exchanges of images of child pornography with someone named “Jeanie,” who the hacker believed to be a teenager. The college declined to comment on Remick’s employment status, but he has most likely been placed on leave. “Middlebury complies with and cooperates in all matters involving lawful requests from authorities,” Director of Media Relations Sarah Ray said in an email to The Campus. “In the rare event of an arrest, we ordinarily place the employee on leave and take other appropriate steps while we gather more information.” Authorities confiscated over 100 hard drives, computers and digital media from Remick, many of which belong to the customers of the computer repair business that he owned, Vermont Geek. Prosecutors have presented no evidence that Remick produced any images himself or had direct contact with any producers. The deadline to file pretrial motions is in November.
As Middlebury plans to return for a fully in-person fall semester, ResLife has replaced superblock houses with new special interest houses and approved all seniors who applied to live off campus next year. In past years, three properties have been available as superblock spaces. A large group — sometimes close to 40 students — submits an application with a theme and proposed property for a superblock house, then the group splits who lives there across the spring and fall semesters. Three groups are currently working toward establishing a permanent special interest house. The International House is transitioning from a superblock to a special interest house and will live at 97 Adirondack. The ResLife team is also working with the Center for Community Engagement to establish a Community Engagement house, though they have not finalized a location. The third group is still in early conversation, and ResLife was not able to provide details on their plans. Special interest houses are expected to fill their rosters, but any extra spaces will be available in the open housing selection process in August, according to Associate Dean for Student Life AJ Place. ResLife also approved 150 seniors, senior Febs and Super Senior Febs to live off campus next fall. This is up from the normal number of about 100 students, who typically must apply and then be selected through a lottery process. Because many students took time off during the Covid-19 pandemic, Place and the ResLife team expects an increase in students returning to campus for the fall. To house the unusually large student population, the college increased the number of off-campus applications that were accepted to live off campus and ended up not needing to run a lottery at all. However, not everyone who was approved to live off campus was able to find housing. Massimo Sassi ’22 had planned to live in town with three of his friends for his senior year, hoping to rent the apartment above Shafer’s. “We originally wanted to live off campus just so we could start to have more of our own space, kind of separate from the campus. We were thinking about going off the meal plan and buying our groceries and cooking and stuff like that,” he said. After the landlord went with other tenants, they found themselves unable to find anywhere else to live. Sassi heard of similar difficulties from many other students as well. Eventually, Sassi and his friends decided to return to the on-campus housing draw. According to Sassi, living off campus “wasn’t a dire thing.” “In all honesty, it will probably be more convenient to be on campus senior year for being close to classes and not having to drive to school is really nice,” Sassi said. “It was something we were very excited about, but it’s not like we were depending on that for any reason.” Place said that ResLife expects to return to the lottery process in future years for off-campus housing. Louisa Stevens ’23.5 had initially wanted to live in KDR in the fall — a Feb tradition — and Jewett in the spring. She was in charge of organizing housing for both groups, but as she browsed online, all of the application information seemed to be based on previous years. She began to hear rumors about changes to superblock housing and eventually decided to email Reslife. Stevens was unsure how she would have found out about the changes if she had not emailed. “Maybe I would’ve gone and spoken to someone, otherwise I would’ve just been pretty confused,” Stevens said. “It seemed like a roundabout way to get to it because at the end of the day, it’s not happening. I was wondering if maybe they didn’t want to deal with any sort of backlash around taking away superblock housing. Although I do think it’s a disappointment, I’m not entirely sure how the rest of the school would’ve reacted.” Now, she will probably live in a suite, just as she does this year. “I’m sure they have their reasons for creating the special interest housing, but I do think it’s kind of a bummer that juniors won’t be able to have houses because I think it’s great socially, and just for friend groups to have a break from dorm living. But it kind of is what it is, I guess.”
Eight Language Schools will return to in-person instruction in Vermont this summer while four will remain online, according to a Feb. 25 announcement from Dean of Language Schools Stephen Snyder. The Abenaki, Arabic, French, German, Hebrew, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish schools will take place in person, following Covid-19 health protocols similar to Middlebury’s guidelines for the fall and spring academic semesters. The Chinese, Italian, Japanese and Russian Language Schools will all take place virtually, and the School of Hebrew will also offer online options. All Language Schools were online in summer 2020. In-person students will follow similar protocols as students arriving in the spring, including a pre-arrival quarantine, getting tested upon arrival and quarantining in their rooms until they receive negative test results. Courses will be online for the first week. All students will have single rooms, and the Language Schools will create socially distant co-curricular activities that will primarily take place outside. According to Snyder, some in-person schools will still have online components, but having several programs fully online will help keep campus less crowded. Snyder worked with the directors of each school to make decisions about modality on a case-by-case basis, considering travel and safety on campus. According to Cecilia Chang, the director of the Chinese School at Middlebury, finding enough faculty to keep class sizes small — to allow for proper social distancing — would have been challenging, as many potential faculty members were only available to teach over Zoom and could not come to Vermont for the summer. Last year, concern about Zoom fatigue led the Chinese School to make larger classes asynchronous, allowing students to review class videos on their own time. The program length was also shortened from eight to seven weeks. Small classes averaged only three people, and each student spent 30 minutes in one-on-one discussion with an instructor every afternoon. This year, the Chinese School will keep the same academic structure and increase the individual discussion time to 40 minutes each day. Chang is hoping to set up a virtual host family with graduate students in China who will host extracurricular events for the students. Students will also be able to apply to be matched with an alum of the program in different career paths. Last year, more than 1,100 students enrolled in the 2020 Language Schools programs, despite the change in format to fully virtual classes. Approximately 1,500 students enroll in a typical year. “The language schools in their traditional model are really based on… experiential learning and it takes a great deal of faculty-student interaction and immersion experience,” Snyder said. “Everyone eats together and does activities all day, and that’s really where the proficiency gains come from, so we were struggling last year to recreate that in a virtual space and did the best we could.” Despite successes last summer with online Language Schools, Snyder and Chang still believe that in-person instruction is the best mode for learning a language. “Everyone wants to go back. The so-called Middlebury experience… is magical,” Chang said. “As a director and longtime teacher there, I want my students — I want many students — to experience that. It’s a wonderful place to be.” Applications are still open for the summer 2021 Language Schools and are accepted on a rolling basis.