Tucked away in the middle of the Marbleworks, 11th Hour Botanical Wellness is a hidden gem. It is a cozy but quirky space with a lot going on; colorful Nicaraguan art lines the walls of the espresso bar area, and there is a spa section near the main windows displaying botanical skincare products. However, looking more closely at wares housed in the round-top display case reveals yet another aspect of the business –– CBD tinctures, edibles, and yes, (THC-free) joints. Passersby may wonder: what exactly is going on here at this “spa-fé?” “This is my pandemic pivot,” explained owner Jenn Buker from behind the espresso bar in her newly refurbished space. A marine-biologist-turned-aesthetician, Buker formerly operated Pro Skin Studio, the popular spa and skincare side of her business, out of the same space. “I was the person that would have people book [appointments] a year in advance, because if you want to guarantee a spot then you need to,” Buker said. Then, when the pandemic hit, she made the difficult decision to temporarily close due to the risk of offering in-person services. The time off gave her an unexpected opportunity to branch out into other business ventures, including growing hemp for CBD products at her Lincoln, Vt. home. Buker met fellow Lincoln residents and experienced hemp farmers Erica French and Todd Curtis around Memorial Day of 2020 and worked with them to grow her first seedlings. While Memorial Day is a typical planting time, due to the timing of only recently befriending French and Curtis, Buker did not get her plants into the ground until July — truly the eleventh hour for planting, and hence, the name of her new business was born. “We had some of [the cannabis] turned into our [CBD] tincture,” Buker said. “And the guys that processed the tincture for us were like, I've never seen anything this good.” Although she is not a smoker or consumer of THC cannabis products, Buker has been using CBD products for years as a means of managing chronic pain caused by a connective tissue disorder. Knowing she had a quality product on her hands that was safe to sell during a pandemic, Buker decided to expand her business model. Thus, out of Pro Skin Studio, 11th Hour Botanical Wellness was founded. “It was just this very organic thing that happened,” Buker said. When the Bristol coffee shop Almost Home closed last year, Buker was able to purchase a lot of their espresso equipment. She now serves local espresso from Earthback Coffee Roasters, a small-batch Vermont roaster, as well as CBD-infused blends from the Colorado-based brand Strava. The café side of the business adds to the friendly community environment Buker hopes to cultivate at 11th Hour. “I wanted to have a place where somebody like me could come in and ask questions,” Buker said. “I just wanted a place that was… accessible to the entire community. I guess that's really the heart.” Because it is a cannabinoid, CBD carries a certain stigma, but unlike THC products, CBD does not cause a “high.” Rather, CBD taps into the body’s endocannabinoid system, and many people use CBD without smoking to help manage pain, sleep better or reduce symptoms of anxiety as an alternative to prescription drugs. Along with slinging espresso and continuing to provide spa and wellness services, Buker hopes to be able to share her knowledge of CBD with the community. But opening in January 2021 in the thick of the pandemic brought its challenges. Unexpected plastic cup shortages, the nationwide staffing shortage and occasional customer grumbling about masking requirements have all been roadblocks along the way. These added to the existing challenges of opening a new business in a small town. “The hardest thing in the world is getting customers to know where you're at. I'm a one woman show,” Buker said. She added that she’s now more engaged with the community as a whole, compared to her previous days of only scheduled appointments. Buker noted that the community’s reception of her new business has been positive. Despite the challenges of the spa-fé’s location in Marble Works, Buker has made efforts to make 11th Hour attractive and apparent to the community, providing plenty of colorful outdoor seating to allow for safe gathering. Middlebury College students get a 10% discount if they show their student ID, and with the option to pick up a CBD-infused treat or add a few drops of tincture to their morning latte, curious customers can simply dip a toe into the world of CBD products before fully committing.
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Midd Kids are big fans of coffee. Some brew it in their rooms or even roast their own coffee beans while others habitually head into town for a latte. Just a few weeks into the semester, you can always find students stationed in the college’s Crossroads Cafe or grabbing a second or third cup from the dining hall dispensers as they tackle their assignments. Taking the time to relax over coffee might seem paradoxical, but venturing off-campus in search of caffeination can actually offer a much-needed break from the daily grind. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of coffee shops in the Middlebury area that are well worth checking out. And if students can’t bring themselves to part with their schoolwork, studying at a cafe offers a great change of scenery. Among the dozens of coffee options in the area, here are four great spots to check out. Royal Oak Coffee Middlebury In the Venn diagram of third wave coffee snobs and Starbucks addicts, Royal Oak exists in the beautiful and elusive overlap that satisfies both. Located right in Middlebury, Royal Oak is about a mile away from campus on Seymour Street, and is beloved by many students. Co-owned by husband-and-wife team Matt and Aless Delia-Lobo, Royal Oak packs incredible quality into every drink they serve. Their latte flavors are unique and delicious. Cardamom vanilla and maple lattes are always on the menu, along with a rotating seasonal flavor. Whether you care deeply about the origin and processing of your beans or simply enjoy the pretty latte art, the cafe is the perfect place to try something new. Their shaken maple latte tastes like pure Vermont. Royal Oak’s sister shop, Lost Monarch, is located at the Stone Mill Public Market. If the weather permits, studying over a matcha latte on their terrace seating area is a great way to focus and relax. Olivia’s recommendation: hot cardamom vanilla latte with oat milk Vergennes Laundry Vergennes Vergennes Laundry strikes a perfect balance between authentic and upscale. Named for the laundromat that once operated out of the same storefront, Vergennes Laundry is about twenty minutes from campus in the center of Vergennes’ downtown. The highlight of Vergennes Laundry is their lattes. They are some of the creamiest and most well-balanced around. The coffee shop’s aesthetic is simultaneously minimalist and rustic, and its neutral color scheme and natural light are instantly relaxing. Local products and fresh produce dot the shelves, and the smell of freshly baked baguettes wafts through the room. Step up to the counter and order a drink (and maybe something tempting from the pastry case as well), and then head outside to sit and sip at one of the cheerful orange tables along Main Street. Olivia’s recommendation: iced oat milk latte Bristol Cliffs Café Bristol As the name suggests, Bristol Cliffs Cafe is located in downtown Bristol, making it a perfect pit stop on the way back from a cliff jumping trip at Bristol Falls. The interior is cozy, with warm wood tables and sunlight streaming in through the front windows, and an unpretentious menu contains all the classic cafe staples you might want. The coffee alone is decent, but not mind-blowing; Bristol Cliffs is definitely more of a spot to grab a meal. Think a gooey bacon egg and cheese wrapped in tin foil, moist baked goods or Sunday brunch. But if you’re simply looking for a quick and basic iced coffee, they’ve got you covered. Olivia’s recommendation: iced coffee with almond milk Brio Coffeeworks Burlington Brio Coffeeworks is a female-co-owned coffee shop just a few minutes walk away from Burlington’s Church Street. The interior is calming, with polished concrete floors and plants dotting the floor — definitely a little hipster. The baristas are knowledgeable and friendly, ensuring Brio doesn’t feel like an exclusive space. In addition to a full espresso bar menu, Brio has an abundance of coffee bags available for retail with some of the coolest packaging around. For a dorm-friendly option, you can purchase cans of nitro flash-chilled iced coffee to bring back to campus. If you can’t make the drive to Burlington but would still like to try the coffee, Brio espresso is served right in Middlebury at Haymaker Bun Co. Olivia’s recommendation: cold brew with a splash of milk if ordering in the cafe, or the flash chilled Costa Rica cold brew can to go
Midd students are always busy. They participate in clubs and sports, grab meals with friends and spend hours in the library studying. So it makes sense that when there aren’t enough hours in the day to sleep, the caffeine boost that comes from chugging coffee is a quick fix for many. Dining hall coffee is fine, but there is more to coffee culture at Middlebury than just getting energy — coffee is also a way to connect with other students and the local community. While many Midd kids love a good cup of coffee, a particular passion for it brews in a few. “I usually get coffee in either the dining halls or make some in my dorm room,” said Pia Contreras Balbuena ’22. Contreras Balbuena and her family are big coffee fans, and she has positive associations with the beverage as a result. “Coffee was a huge part of my daily routine when I was back home for quarantine. It felt like that was the only thing giving my day any structure,” she said. While she’s not the biggest fan of dining hall coffee, it has grown on her. “Recently, I've been trying to switch things up by getting dining hall coffee with a splash of oat milk. Now it's becoming part of my routine.” There are limited cafe options in Middlebury for students to get their fix, but each has its own unique charm. “I’m really a fan of Crossroads,” said Abby Wilner ’23. “I think it's such a nice place to go if you're in more of a mode of ‘I need to get some work done, but I don't want to be surrounded by stress.’” Her go-to order at the student-run cafe is a dirty chai. “It has the chai and the sweetness but then espresso… very necessary.” For more of a treat, Wilner also recommended Royal Oak Coffee. Co-owned by husband-and-wife team Matt and Aless Delia-Lobo, the cafe just celebrated its two-year anniversary of opening. “My suite loves Royal Oak,” agreed Jordan Kramarsky ’23. “[It] has such a nice atmosphere during non-Covid times when you can work inside.” Kramarsky’s usual order is an iced latte with oat milk. Otter Creek Bakery is another perennial student favorite. A convenient option since it’s such a short walk from campus, it’s a perfect spot to pick up a pastry to go along with your caffeine of choice. Meanwhile, Haymaker Bun Co. recently opened its patio seating for a more lingering, sit-down experience. “I haven't had that in so long; A real [ceramic] cup,” Wilner said. For the adventurous, brand-new “spa-fe,” 11th Hour Botanicals in Marbleworks offers CBD-infused coffee. “Getting coffee as an activity can be a great way to catch up with friends and have some lovely conversations in a more lighthearted/casual setting,” Kramarsky said. “If I'm buying coffee, I love having a little conversation with whoever is working.” Many Middlebury Coffee shops also work with local Vermont roasters. Haymaker partners with woman-owned roaster Brio Coffee Works. Otter Creek serves coffee from Middlebury micro-roaster Bud’s Beans and features a monthly rotating selection of guest roasters. Royal Oak and its sister shop Lost Monarch serve Vivid Coffee and occasionally also host beans from Woodstock’s Abracadabra Coffee Roasters. Both Lost Monarch and Crossroads Cafe also serve coffee roasted by a Middlebury student. Daniel Gutierrez ’22 founded Iluminar Coffee Roasters in January 2020, meeting an immediate and unexpectedly high demand. While he temporarily closed operations when the pandemic hit, he was able to reopen over the summer to sell beans wholesale to local cafes. Recently, he relaunched Iluminar’s online store where coffee lovers can purchase beans for retail sale. In addition to roasting his own coffee, Gutierrez is a barista at Royal Oak, which is understandably his Middlebury cafe of choice. He shared his perspective as a barista, saying, “I feel more connected to Middlebury as I have been consistently interacting with members of the community for the past two years.” Especially during the pandemic, coffee has been a way for Middlebury students to connect with each other and the town. “I think that, besides meals, getting coffee with people has been one of the main ways people have gotten together to socialize,” said Gutierrez.
One out of every six Middlebury students has contacted the Disabilities Resources Center (DRC) for disability-related accommodations, according to its website. ADA coordinator Jodi Litchfield says that half of these students have a learning disability or attention disorders, and a further 30% have psychological disabilities. But the campus rarely talks about the academic, social and emotional issues neurodivergent students face — nor takes notice of their presence, according to Isaac Byrne ’21. He is attempting to bring this “ghost community” to life through the creation of the Divergent Learners Collective (DLC), a new student club focused on supporting and advocating for neurodivergent students — a category that includes students with dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD and other divergences. “Mentally, I at least felt like I was going through the experience [of being a divergent learner] alone,” Byrne said. “It felt necessary to bring people together around a sort of common space.” The DLC hopes to fill a hole in activism on a campus that does not often acknowledge the experience of people with a disability or adjacent conditions, according to Byrne. Through meetings and initiatives, the Divergent Learners Collective aims to support divergent learners in the same way that other student organizations focused around identity groups do — and to create a dialogue about accessibility. One such initiative the club is working on is the creation of a handbook for neurodivergent students. “[The handbook will be] part map for the new generation, and part microscope for the wider community. A lot of people I imagine have no idea what it is like to be a divergent learner,” Byrne said. The DLC aims to create a living document that older students can use to pass on advice and knowledge from their experience to incoming generations of students. This includes both academic strategies and advice for navigating the emotional and social difficulties that come from being a divergent learner at a school with a neurotypical culture. The handbook is meant to complement the work done by the Disabilities Resource Center and guide neurodivergent students in how they can best take advantage of those resources. Middlebury does provide formal accommodations to academically support divergent learners. Extended time, note-taking assistance, assignment extensions and testing environments with reduced distractions can all be approved by the DRC for students who require it, sometimes in just a day with appropriate documentation. The DRC does not offer specific programming for students with disabilities, but the ADA coordinators are willing to help. “We’re more than willing to answer any questions that students may have about qualifications or additional support,” Litchfield said in an email to The Campus. For students who identify as having a disability but who may not want formal accommodations, Litchfield suggests contacting the student group Middlebury Students with Disabilities. The CTLR is another resource Litchfield recommends for all students. Still, the Disability Resource Center primarily works with individual students, and changes are happening on a by-class level rather than institutionally. Furthermore, the DRC works to review and approve accommodations as efficiently as possible, but issues with paperwork can make getting accommodations challenging. “One of our members was denied accommodations,” Byrne said. “They have a doctor's note about their divergent learning status that was too old.” Making testing for divergent conditions more accessible is one of Byrne’s suggestions.“For things like ADHD, if you present female, it's significantly harder to get testing when you're younger, because those symptoms present differently,” he said. Accommodations can also be outright denied. “A professor can say, I don't think this is fair … those conditions can be taken away,” Byrne said. While Byrne appreciates the work of the Disability Resource Center (DRC), he believes having a supportive, student-created space on campus is incredibly necessary. Some members of the club, such as Alex Dobin ’22, have also worked with the DRC to update some of the language used on their site in regards to ADHD. Byrne said he wants divergent learners to know to feel that they are not alone and have someone advocating for them. “Equally, I hope that people who don't have any of those conditions understand how what's normal to them could be a horrendously difficult and emotionally taxing experience for others,” he said. The DLC is currently going through the process of securing official club approval. Interested students can find more information at go/DLC or via the group’s Instagram or Facebook accounts. Editor’s Note: News Editor Sophia McDermott-Hughes contributed reporting.
Getting in line at Proctor Dining Hall promises something new every day: not only on the menu but also on the speakers. A Proctor morning might start with some gentle Taylor Swift, transition to throwback Elton John tunes by lunchtime and skip over several genres to arrive at rap by dinner — a practice that has been generating buzz among students. “I think it’s fun,” Amelia Seepersaud ’24 said. “I [was] getting dinner with a friend, and I know he has a very different music taste than I do. I enjoy a lot of the music they play [at Proctor], and he really liked [it] too.” Country, throwback hits, high-energy pop anthems and even EDM all make occasional appearances. “Whoever’s on aux is doing a great job,” Victor Esteche ’24 agreed. But who exactly is the dining hall DJ? “Usually the person who's checking [IDs is] playing the music,” Justin (J.T.) Lussier, who checks IDs at Proctor and is a member of the night crew, explained. “I like checking. It’s nice expressing interest in other people's lives,” Lussier said. In the morning, Lilly Smith, who tends to favor crowd-pleasing, upbeat pop, is often controlling the music. Lusiser is responsible for the nighttime playlist, which is a high-energy mix of hip-hop and rap music. Playing music during a shift has always been an option for staff. This semester, ID monitors like Lussier are making use of their aux powers more frequently after noticing positive student response. Dining hall staff and students alike have noticed that interaction in general is harder, as masks and limited seating have changed the Proctor dining experience. “You can tell a lot of people are stressed out,” Lussier said. “It feels good for people to come in and be like, ‘Hey, music’s fire,’ you know? I'm not saying I'm the cause of it, but playing music for people, and everyone just enjoying being able to relax more here and enjoy the experience rather than going back to [their] dorm is awesome.” Still, you can’t please everyone. “It’s a wee bit aggressive at times,” said Will Procter ’24. Volume is also a variable. There are still quiet spaces in the dining hall like the upstairs tables and at the booths, but loud music in the main room can make it hard to carry a conversation. If the music there isn’t your cup of tea, there is always the request list posted on the wall in line where students can write in song suggestions. For students who would like to experience the Proctor night-time playlist at all hours, Lussier dropped the name of his playlist: Popular Clean Rap and Pop 2020-21, by Steven Trotter on Spotify. Be sure to stay tuned: another hip-hop and rap playlist is in the works.
The college enlisted the help of roughly 55 staff from Addison County Home Health and Hospice and several college departments to assist with testing on campus this spring. College employees were diverted from human resources, athletics and other departments to assist with Monday and Thursday testing sessions, according to Jen Kazmierczak, environmental health and safety officer at the college. Staff are responsible for overseeing every step of testing, from check-ins and directing traffic to printing out labels and talking students through self-administering their nasal swabs. Every role has been carefully planned by the administration. “The testing center was designed with safety and efficiency in mind for individuals working at the testing center and for those coming to receive a test,” Kazmierczak said. Kazmierczak credited Middlebury Director of Event Management Jen Erwin with the success and safety of the testing process. Erwin is responsible for managing the testing center. “Jen works tirelessly behind the scenes, on testing days and non-testing days, to keep the operation running smoothly while still supporting her own department,” Kazmierczak said. “[Her] dedication and operational skills have been essential to the success of our testing operations.” All employees who work at the testing center received training specific to their role through both videos and in-person training. They cover shifts either for a full day — from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — or take on a half-day shift. All employees are provided with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). One of those employees, Assistant Director of Athletics for Operations and Events Franklin Dean-Farrar, was initially hesitant to participate in the process. “The first time I was a [tester], I was assigned to the position, I didn’t volunteer to do it,” Dean-Farrar said. “I didn’t want to mess up and be the reason someone was in quarantine longer than they needed to be.” However, Dean-Farrar has ultimately found the job to be a positive experience. The provision of PPE and the thorough measures taken by the testing committee have contributed to his confidence in the safety of the process and the unlikeliness of exposure. “The evolution of the testing site from August to today is a testament to continued improvements and thoughtfulness for [not only] the people working the testing site, but also the students, faculty and staff being tested,” Dean-Farrar said. As an unexpected bonus, Dean-Farrar enjoys the chance to engage in in-person interaction with fellow staff and community members on testing days. “Personally, it’s one of the best parts of the week,” Dean-Farrar said. “You have an opportunity to see many of the students and community members and be a part of something bigger than any one person.” Dean-Farrar also noted his appreciation for the fact that working at the testing site has provided him with a tangible way to help students and community members in a time of need. “There are students going through so much change and uncertainty this last year, as well as staff members in our community working tirelessly to give our students the best possible experience they can.” He noted that testing brings a level of certainty to students and staff members. “At this point, almost everyone knows the process, and it’s a great time to meet members of the community I don’t know, or catch up with the ones I do,” Dean-Farrar said. “It’s a short window of time, but it’s amazingly rewarding.”
Although major spiritual life hubs like Mead Chapel and the Scott Center have not been able to host the usual holiday events or weekly services, spiritual life groups have worked to adapt to in-person gathering limitations and differences in modality. Both the Scott Center and student-run religious organizations have found ways to foster connection among Middlebury students — whether remote or on campus. While most programming has transitioned to Zoom, there are still some in-person services being offered on campus this semester. College Vespers, weekly Christian evening services, take place Thursday nights in Mead Chapel. Each service is 40 minutes long, consisting of reflective silence, music and a Bible reading. While the service is designed for Christian students, it is open to all. “No matter who you are or where you are on this journey, you are welcome here,” said Reverend Andrew Nagy-Benson, who leads the services. “I hope College Vespers provides a space for all participants to experience unconditional love, a warm welcome, the peace of quiet, the glow of candlelight… [and] a sense of belonging in community.” Unlike services of the past, everyone is masked and there is no live music. Even so, Mary Nagy-Benson ’24.5, daughter of Rev. Nagy-Benson, appreciates the in-person component. “It's just really nice to see other people and have that brief interaction before and after,” she said. “It’s like a gift.” Hillel, the Jewish student organization, runs weekly Shabbat services in multiple shifts to accommodate everyone in a socially distant way. Major holidays that normally have large services or an important communal meal, such as the Jewish High Holidays in the fall or Passover in the spring, have had to take place largely over Zoom. “We've had to get really creative, especially since food is such an important part of fellowship in any religion,” Rabbi Danielle Stillman, a Scott Center chaplain who works with Hillel, said. “I know Saifa, the Muslim chaplain, is also thinking about this because Ramadan is coming up in April,” she said. “[We’re] just trying to keep people connected in any way we can." Stillman noted that there wasn’t one modality for the annual High Holiday services that worked for everyone. “This year, it felt somehow easier to say, ‘We're going to have a nature walk on the TAM with different prompts for reflection, and we're going to have a playlist with songs that students think evoke the spirit of the High Holidays,’” Stillman said. Scott Center Chaplain Saifa Hussain, who works with the Muslim Student Association, echoed the sentiment, explaining that working with students as a chaplain over Zoom can feel foreign and awkward at times, but also rewarding. “I found the experimentation to be fun, fascinating, and [it] allows me to connect to introverted students in a way I haven’t been able to before,” Hussain said in an email to The Campus. While upcoming programming for Ramadan will likely be virtual, Hussain hopes to be able to pivot to offering in-person Jumma Friday services. “To be able to feel one’s laughter, see the life of facial expression or hear the fullness of one’s voice are things that can never be replaced,” she said. With some students learning remotely, Zoom meetings — while sometimes exhausting — are an important opportunity for continued connection. “It has been amazing how it’s been possible to still meet people [over Zoom],” said Clara Wolcott ’22, an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship leader. “[But] there is less community because you don’t have a chance to chit-chat with people and get to know them.” Wolcott is excited to start leading small in-person meetings for InterVarsity soon. The Scott Center is also creating a communal art installation, where students — regardless of their faith — can contribute and reflect on the grief and hope they have felt during the past year. Although students may have to be a bit more proactive to discover what is offered on campus this semester, the Scott Center encourages all students to explore their offerings. “You don't have to come from a religious background to take advantage of what the Scott Center has,” Stillman said. “We're really here for any student who's just asking big questions and trying to make meaning.”
The first day we were released from room quarantine this semester, I saw a dead crow half-frozen in the snow outside of Hepburn Hall. I’ll be honest, it didn’t seem like the greatest omen for the start of the semester. However, after my encounter with that one poor, unfortunate soul, I started noticing flocks and flocks of crows speckling the sky with surprising frequency: crows resting on patches of grass on the quads, taking flight at sunset, cawing and watching me ominously from the trees. What was going on with all these crows? Was it all in my head, some sort of Hitchcock-inspired paranoia, à la “The Birds”? I had unwittingly stumbled upon a “murder” mystery of sorts. I was determined to understand this phenomenon, so I turned to experts like local birder Bridget Butler, who delivered a lecture on the subject to the Otter Creek Audubon Society in 2019 and is known as the “Bird Diva.” The huge group of crows I was seeing were part of a winter roost, according to Butler. In the winter months in particular, flocking and roosting in large groups provides protection from predators and the ability to find good food sources by following other birds. Roosting together in large numbers also conserves body heat. “When you roost together, there’s body heat,” Butler said in an interview with The Campus. “Some scientists are using infrared cameras to look at what the core temperature is of the roost at night... it is warmer.” Still, this doesn’t explain why they’ve chosen Vermont — or Middlebury in particular — of all places. Oliver Patrick ’24, an avid birder, has a few potential ideas. “I can say [they’re] probably in the Champlain Valley… because of the agricultural region. Crows are open field birds. They’ll look for big fields,” Patrick said. As for why Middlebury in particular, the cause seems less clear. “Maybe it’s all the juju from students struggling with exams,” he joked. Although crows have been roosting in several spots across the state, they favor the spots with artificial light in more urban areas — locations that their predators tend to avoid. In past years, this has included locations such as the green in front of the Middlebury Inn, Chipman Hill and even across the road from the home of Ron Payne, the president of the Otter Creek Audubon Society. This year, though, some of the crows’ favorite roosting spots have been on the college campus itself. This explains why I was suddenly very aware of their evening roost, but why the shift in location? Payne offers a potential explanation. “You all haven't been around for most of the winter,” Payn said. “The campus has always been a [well-lit] place with lots of trees to roost in, but without students out and about at all times of the night, it must have seemed a much more inviting place.” For those curious about the geographic distribution of crows across Vermont, Butler’s online project — aptly titled “Crows in Vermont” — offers the opportunity to join a larger community of crow enthusiasts. “It’s a true community science project,” Butler said. The project allows birders to report flocks large and small to start answering the question of where the crows inhabit. Estimating the numbers of massive flocks is an acquired skill; birders count by group rather than individually, depending on how large the flock is. “It’s really quite miraculous,” Butler said. “It’s kind of overwhelming, cacophonous — lots of noise and chatter with the birds — and when dark falls, when you really get past that inky blue-black sky...they go silent.” Those interested in seeing the crows for themselves should catch them while they can: The large flocks will start to disperse again later in spring.
Daylight, to Ariadne Will ’22, is a phenomenon that is both universal and, depending on a person’s perspective and location, ever-changing. When she decided to launch a recurring publication from her home of Sitka, Alaska during the pandemic, it was this philosophy that led her to name her project Daylight Zine. Daylight, a “zine” or self-published small-batch print work in the style of a magazine, is founded and curated by Will and based out of Sitka, though it draws submissions and inspiration from all over the country. Will made her first zine in February 2020 as a Valentine’s Day gift, creating all the content and visuals herself, and got instantly hooked on the medium. She found herself totally absorbed in the creative process and knew she wanted to do it again, but this time, she also wanted to open her zine to include outside contributions. The zine serves as a platform to draw creators together during an exceptionally insulating time, while also acknowledging positionality. With a combination of vivid photography, prose works, digital collage and compelling organization, Daylight Zine manages to do so in a way that is genuine and visually beautiful. Looking through a copy of the most recent edition, called “Heritage,” there is a wonderful mix of over 20 contributors from Sitka, Middlebury and beyond. From the first page, the reader is treated to a combination of lush visuals and captivating prose. Alternating between photographs, studio art and works of prose and poetry, Will’s carefully balanced curation gives all submissions equal focus and respect. Elements of collage add visual interest and authenticity. Although the layout was created digitally, the zine retains aesthetic features that give it an almost handmade quality. Will says that submitting to her zine should feel “safe enough for people to take a chance on a written piece when they don't consider themselves a writer.” For Will, creating the zine is definitely a labor of love — with an emphasis on labor. Reviewing submissions, curating content, deciding the final order of submissions and getting the zines printed and shipped are just a few of the many steps Will must take herself to produce a single volume. All the while, she also takes accessibility into account by pricing the zine as low as possible while still breaking even. Still, the feeling of holding the finished product in her hands and sending it off into the world makes it all worth it. “It’s exhilarating… like, I created this,” Will said. Because every volume of the zine is unique, each round of submissions is equally exciting and unexpected. In fact, Will encourages unique multimedia submissions. “You can send a video and you can put in the QR code [and] a still from it, or you can write a song and we can publish the sheet music,” she said. Regardless of the medium, some of her favorite submissions are those that showcase new perspectives, especially unexpected contributions from people she may not personally know. In Daylight Zine’s most recent edition, one Sitka resident, who is fluent in Mandarin, submitted a piece about Chinese characters and the nuanced meaning and history they carry, focusing on Taiwan. Even a detail as subtle as font choice mattered in this piece, as some fonts did not include the necessary tone markings for the characters. “Here's a part of history that no one's ever taught me. This, you know, white Alaskan girl … here's this history in this one character,” Will said of experiencing that piece. It’s these moments of connection and learning that the zine aims to lift up, and its celebration of art feels particularly powerful in the context of a global pandemic. “Making time to create something feels really special. Reading something, or receiving a prompt that makes you want to respond, is also really special, and I think that's especially important right now,” Will said. To those considering submitting but feeling vulnerable or unsure, Will had some final words of encouragement: “Your art is beautiful. I want to share your art with the world.” Editor’s Note: Ariadne Will ’22 is a Local Editor for The Campus. If you would like to submit a piece to Daylight Zine, follow this link.
‘Frustrating and demoralizing’: Trans students struggle to have preferred names recognized on Middlebury’s online systems
Choosing and beginning to use a new name is an important milestone in the transitioning process for many transgender individuals. For trans students at Middlebury, that process is complicated by the bureaucratic ordeal of navigating the college’s many online platforms. In an ideal system, the preferred name and pronouns a student registers in BannerWeb would carry over to the college’s other online platforms. In reality, this information flows inconsistently and sometimes does not flow at all, making it incredibly difficult for trans students to fully transition at Middlebury, according to Director of Education for Equity and Inclusion Renee Wells. Legal names — typically the name a person is given at birth — are those that appear on government-issued documents. Changing them can prove an expensive and arduous process, depending on the state. Many trans students have yet to change their legal name because of these difficulties and because doing so could require them to come out in ways they may not feel ready or safe to do. Preferred names refer to names some trans people choose as a way to better encapsulate their identity in the meantime. Some platforms, like the students’ email accounts, automatically update once students change their names in BannerWeb. Others, like Canvas, require students to change their names on-site. Still others neither update from BannerWeb nor allow students to update them individually. StarRez, which manages rooming assignments, falls into this category. Students often use the platform to see who their roommate will be, which can inadvertently out trans students, especially first years. A.S. ’23 came out and began transitioning in high school, looking forward to a more “normal” college experience where he could live on a gendered floor and interact with people like his cisgender peers without having to be completely open or come out to everyone. Like many of his fellow first years, A.S. waited in nervous anticipation to find out his future roommate. When he checked StarRez and saw that he was listed with his legal name, that excitement turned to sickening dread as he realized that this stranger — whose attitudes were unknown and with whom he would be living in close quarters — already knew he was trans. “I shouldn’t need to come out to anybody without making that decision for myself,” A.S. said. “But especially to people I live with and work with and who I just don’t know how they’ll handle it if they find out I’m trans. That, I think, is the most important recognition of privacy and responsibly using students' information.” While other first years idly chatted and got to know each other in hall meetings, A.S. sideyed his roommate and first year counselor, wondering who exactly knew and what their reactions might be. While other first years nervously shifted in their seats during their first college classes, A.S. worried that his professors might inadvertently out him to the class during roll call. While other first years stressed about registration, making friends and forging their identities in this new environment, A.S. feared for his safety. Students also cannot change their names on Presence, the platform student organizations use to take attendance, organize activities and manage their members. When student leaders search for students using their emails to add them to the organization’s page, they immediately see the students’ legal names. Presence outed A.S. to several peers against his will, uncomfortably expanding the network of people who know that he is trans. The platform hosting the mail center’s data, the Center for Careers and Internships, and Advocate, the platform through which the college processes care and discipline reports, all fall into this category as well. This means that trans students often receive packages labeled by the mail center with their legal names or letters from the college addressed to their legal names. Repeatedly facing their legal names and incorrect pronouns causes substantial harm to trans students, many of whom feel invalidated or stigmatized by these experiences, according to Wells. For some trans students, seeing their legal name also brings up painful memories of family who do not accept who they are and weaponize their names to repeatedly reject their identity. This harm is compounded by the inconsistency of college platforms. Trans students never know when their legal name will appear and are often blindsided and unprepared for the harm it causes, according to Charlie R. ’21, president of Middlebury’s Trans Affinity Group. The increasingly online world of the Covid-19 pandemic has only heightened the difficulties trans students typically face when changing their names and pronouns. Students inevitably have had to spend more time on online platforms both inside and outside the college system, forcing trans students to encounter their legal name more often, according to Charlie. Correcting these issues often involves outing themselves to professors, classmates, administrators, human resources employees or Information and Technology Services (ITS) staff. For example, CourseHub, one of the platforms that hosts class rosters, experiences problems with displaying trans students’ correct names and pronouns. In the past, it consistently failed to update students' names. Now it often lists students’ preferred names in parentheses after their legal name, according to Assistant Vice President and Chief Information Officer Vijay Menta. Due to this set-up, professors who use these rosters to take attendance or call on students may misgender or use trans students’ legal names rather than their prefered names. This mismatch forces students to correct their professors, often in front of an entire class, effectively outing them as trans, according to Wells. While medical, financial or student records often necessitate the use of legal names, many internal documents and interactions do not require them, even in these departments. Neither staff nor trans students have always received clear guidance on when they absolutely must use their legal name. This uncertainty creates issues, especially regarding students’ health care. Appointments, emails and discussions between students and Middlebury’s various health care providers can legally occur under students’ preferred names but do not always, according to Wells. Francis S. ’23, who uses they/them pronouns, scheduled an appointment with MiddTelehealth this semester. Though they indicated their preferred name and pronouns when they created an account, their healthcare provider repeatedly misgendered them and wrote the appointment report using incorrect pronouns. A month later, Francis arrived at Parton for their mandatory flu shot and identified themselves by their preferred name. When the medical provider couldn’t find their appointment, Francis had to introduce themselves by their legal name, an incident they say many of their trans friends also experienced. Repeated instances of being misgendered or referred to by their legal names reinforce an oftentimes troubled relationship with healthcare and discourage trans students from seeking help when they need it, according to Charlie. Parton currently requires that students identify themselves by their legal names at appointment check in, though the center plans to work with their electronic health record to alter this process in the future, according to Associate Executive Director of the Center for Health and Wellness Barbara McCall. Health Services had never provided services on such a large scale before Covid-19 necessitated mandatory flu shots and was unprepared for the nuances of trans healthcare. McCall pledged to address this issue. “Misgendering, deadnaming and other kinds of identity invalidation can significantly affect people’s relationships with medical and mental healthcare, including not seeking services when needed,” McCall wrote in an email to The Campus. “The Center for Health and Wellness is committed to on-going training, systems evaluation and the integration of student feedback to meet the healthcare needs of Middlebury students, including honoring and respecting their identities.” Healthcare and financial platforms also are not required to display students’ legal names in their on-site interfacing, but many do anyway. Each time Francis opens Oracle — the platform that hosts student employment payments, records and communication — they are greeted by a large banner on the top of the screen referring to them by their legal name. When Residential Life sent an internal roster to student employees, they pulled names from Oracle and listed Francis by their legal name, outing Francis to their supervisors and peers. Some online platforms have internal information flow problems as well. Even after successfully changing their name and pronouns in Handshake, Francis still receives emails from the platform with subject lines like “[legal name], we think you’ll like these new opportunities.” These display issues not only force trans students to confront their legal name more often, they create added stress as students worry their peers might see these sites or emails open on their computer. A.S. remains constantly vigilant while navigating Middlebury’s platforms. Everytime he opens a problem platform or email, he looks over his shoulder to make sure he’s alone, and he never leaves those sites or emails open on an unattended computer or phone. Even when college systems do allow trans students to change their name, they inconsistently display them. After updating their names in BannerWeb, some trans students’ emails and school directory listings continue to display their legal name and place their preferred name afterwards in parenthesis, as if it were a nickname. Displays like those effectively out trans students with every email they send or recieve, especially when either their legal or preferred name carries a strong traditional association with one gender, according to Wells. Because the college assumed that all of the systems for changing students’ names functioned correctly, no complete resource guide exists to guide trans students through the arduous process of changing their name throughout the many online platforms. Students must hunt down the individual instances where their legal name appears and attempt to change them one by one, Wells said. Francis estimates that they have sent more than 10 emails to try to correct the name displayed in Oracle, to no avail. "I had so many emails back and forth with HR that I just sort of gave up," Francis said. “It's really frustrating and demoralizing . . . [and] it takes a lot of time that I could be spending doing what I actually like doing. . . They see it as a minor inconvenience, but, for me, it's just another reminder that the world is hard for trans people.” Many trans students also see the challenges they face while trying to change their name in Middlebury’s online systems as an indication that the college does not fully welcome or accept them. Every time Francis sees their legal name or has to correct someone, “it’s another reminder that [they’re] not exactly understood or safe [at Middlebury].” That feeling of exclusion is even greater for students whose genders are not recognized by the college’s platforms at all. Students wishing to change their pronouns in BannerWeb are only given three options: he/him/his, she/her/hers and they/them/theirs. These options exclude genderfluid, bigender, demigender and agender students, among others, as well as those who use neopronouns like xe/xem/xyr. “The institution needs to create space for people and affirm people,” she said. “When we're sending out messages that are invalidating them, we're doing the opposite of that… It creates a lot of harm that's being done by the institution that you've chosen to make your home for four years.” This year, Digital Learning and Inquiry (DLINQ) added pronoun options to Canvas, which will display alongside students’ names on the class roster, discussion posts and other interactions. Students whose preferred pronouns are not included in the drop-down menu can submit a consultation request form to customize their pronouns, according to Heather Stafford, a DLINQ instructional designer. Wells approached ITS in the fall of 2019 to resolve these issues across Middlebury’s various online platforms. According to Menta, ITS has since made some small strides towards fixing the many problems, including creating space in CourseHub to display students’ preferred names and pronouns, but much of the problem remains unresolved. “There is no unilateral fix that will resolve all the existing errors,” Menta said. “There are many systems that need to be coordinated and important issues of accessibility and security to be considered as we make changes.” ITS’s former project manager got as far as addressing some small issues and identifying the key problems before he left in January. Unfortunately, the department has been unable to hire his replacement since the college instituted a hiring freeze last spring, and the project fell by the wayside. ITS is committed to addressing this issue “as soon as the pandemic is behind us,” according to Menta. Trans students who are currently forced to navigate the inadequate name-changing system are dissatisfied by Middlebury’s long-term approach to fixing it. “I totally understand that people are spread thin right now, but students still deserve to see their real names (not their given names) on Middlebury platforms,” Francis wrote in an email to The Campus. “When a friend comes to me saying that they want to change their name in Midd's systems, I hate having to tell them that it's an uphill, often impossible battle.” While trans students wait for an institutional fix, they must rely on each other for help navigating this process. For some students, the Trans Affinity Group fills the holes left by the lack of institutional support. Trans students use the meeting space and group chat to troubleshoot the process of changing their name across college systems, spitball name suggestions for transitioning students and provide a safe space and support as they attempt to navigate a college that does not always accommodate or prioritize their needs. “Being trans is beautiful. Being trans is fantastic. Transitioning is hard but has wonderful outcomes,” Francis said. “But [difficulties with updating my name on college platforms] are still a reminder that institutions...are not set up to make sense of who I am.” Editor’s note: Some interviewees have been granted partial anonymity for their own future privacy and protection. A.S. ’23 is a member of The Campus’ staff. Trans students seeking support can reach Charlie R., president of the Trans Affinity Group, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Despite the barriers to group gatherings and performances this semester, the Middlebury College Choir conducted by Professor Jeffrey Buetner will be premiering their fall choral concert performance this Sunday, Nov. 15 as a pre-recorded event. “The program wrestles with colonialism as well as American intolerance,” Buettner said. “I wanted to acknowledge these themes as an educator, but don’t claim to solve them.” The set is a celebration of the ability to come together in song in such an unusual semester. The program includes a mix of songs that are enjoyable to sing and also those that are especially thought-provoking. The concert will begin with two traditional African songs. The first is “Bonk’ Abaphandle," an arrangement of a traditional South African folk song by Michael Barrett and Mbuso Ndlovu. In a time of divisive rhetoric, “Bonk’ Abaphandle” is an inviting greeting song, translating to “all those outside, call them in.” It will be followed by, “Bwana, ni nani atakayekaa,” a Sukuma song from the Southeastern African Lakes region, arranged by Graham Hylsop. “Bwana, ni nani atakayekaa” offers an intricate combination of traditional African song and colonial, European influence by combining folk tunes and a psalm text. Next in the set is an original composition by acclaimed African American composer Rosephanye Powell. Her piece “Non, nobis Domine” is a Latin hymn and, notably, a composition rather than an arrangement; it is neither gospel music nor a spiritual. “I wanted to avoid stereotyping African American choral music,” Buettner said. “Non nobis, Domine,” a piece of insistent, driving repetition, is followed by “Meet Me Here” from Craig Hella Johnson’s “Considering Matthew Shepard” which conveys a message about inclusivity and diversity. This work was inspired by Shepard’s death as the result of a horrific anti-gay hate crime, which occured in 1998. The College Choir’s set concludes with Buettner’s own arrangement of American composer William Billings’ “Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal” in a celebration of song and making music together. Buettner said that with more time, he also would have liked to include Indigenous and Hispanic music, to further represent the diversity of the American experience and impact of colonialism. Still, even with a reduced program, students have appreciated the value of coming together to sing and understand the world in a different way. “We are a singing community. We explore the past, present and future through music of different times and places,” Buettner said. If you can’t wait until Sunday to hear the choir’s performance, you can hear the first three pieces as part of the opening act for the final concert of this semester’s Performing Arts Series Friday, Nov. 13. Recordings of the first three pieces from the program will open the concert before a performance from the Jupiter String Quartet, an acclaimed chamber music ensemble. The video of the College Choir concert will be available on the Music Department website.
With sufficient precautions, the college’s choir and a cappella groups are determined to find a way to continue the experience of ensemble singing. To restore some sense of normalcy, music groups are adopting precautionary measures while simultaneously trying to preserve their normal routines. The college choir is holding in-person auditions and rehearsals this semester. As a preventative measure, the group uses a microphone network to accomodate in-person rehearsals. Holding in-person events requires an immense amount of planning and preparation. Over the summer, Professor of Music and Choir Director Jeff Buettner consulted colleagues across the country, read the latest scientific studies and weighed the risks before coming up with an in-person plan. Singing carries a higher concentration of aerosols than ordinary conversation, so simply standing six feet apart, even if masked, isn’t enough. “We want to err on the side of safety,” Buettner said. The eight to 10 singers in each 45-minute staggered rehearsal slot are masked and at least 15 feet apart. This separation, while necessary, poses an acoustic challenge in a space as resonant as Mead Chapel, where the group rehearses. Keeping a group’s tempo consistent and clear at that distance requires a creative solution. “My hypothesis is that a modest headphone system can help capture some of that clarity,” said Buettner. Each singer uses their own earbuds to connect to a network of microphones placed around the chapel, which improves cohesion. Still, expectations are different this year. The group’s repertoire needs to be rhythmically simpler, and learning music will take far longer. The focus is on simply being able to come together and sing. “We’re actually doing something, working on vocal art,” Buettner said. To capture the social aspects of being in an ensemble outside of singing together, the choir is also employing Zoom to meet for meals, homework and more. A Cappella groups get creative Auditions for a cappella groups have been delayed until later in Phase Two. “We want to get this going as soon as it's safe to, but [we] are closely monitoring conditions and restrictions to keep everyone involved safe and following guidelines,” said Torre Davy ’21, the president of Stuck In The Middle, an all-male a cappella group at the college. The uncertainty of auditions has been frustrating. Going through the Student Activities Office for official event approval can take several weeks. Even with student coordinator’s support, preparing a proposal is difficult without concrete details about permissible spaces, group sizes and more. “The onus has fallen on us to figure it out,” says Bair Lambert ’21, music director of the Mamajamas, a gender-inclusive a cappella group. A cappella groups are trying to coordinate their auditions so that singers can audition for multiple groups. One option, proposed by the Dissipated Eight group, would include an outdoor, in-person audition. “That part would be blanket scales and pitch match first,” says Cassandra Wong ’22, musical director of the Mischords. Other possibilities include a Zoom audition or setting up a camera in a designated audition space, with leaders of different groups tuning in to evaluate. Auditioners might also send in a recorded video of their solos. “When we take new members, we all have to unanimously agree,” Mischords co-leader Annabella Twomey ’21 says. Being able to share video with all members would help to preserve that process while following appropriate guidelines. However, others worry that giving singers the opportunity to submit a video will remove some of the integrity of the experience. “Auditions are a one-take scenario. Part of the process is rolling with it,” Rachel Rose ’21 from the Mamajamas says. A video gives the auditioner the opportunity to do multiple takes, which removes that organic interaction. If planning auditions wasn’t difficult enough, rehearsals, too, must be dramatically altered. “Looking ahead, I could see sectional rehearsals and then a person or two from each section meeting to work on group sound,” Davy said. Stuck in the Middle will continue working with MuseScore and other tools that they’ve previously used to individualize some aspects of rehearsal. However, nobody plans to sing in isolation. Small rehearsals consisting of one person per part, supplemented by sectionals, are a popular option. With no performance plans in the near future, groups are simply focusing on the positives: being together and having the chance to fine-tune their musical skills. “This is like our version of sports still practicing,” Lambert said. Ideally, rehearsals will be held outdoors as long as possible. Eventually, they may move indoors to spaces where appropriate distancing of at least 10 feet is possible. Spaces could include Wilson Hall or certain performance rooms in the Mahaney Arts Center. Outside of singing, all a cappella groups plan to check in with each other. As small, tight-knit groups, members highly value their sense of community and closeness. As the college enters Phase Two, groups are planning dinners, Zoom sessions and bonding activities like apple picking. “Beyond an a cappella group, the Mischords are a community of very supportive women,” said Wong. “We’ll definitely find ways to gather safely.”