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‘Larger than partisanship’: A Vermont Democrat works with Lincoln Project Republicans to defeat President Trump
“Your daughters are listening and absorbing that message right in front of your eyes,” a female narrator says over videos of President Donald Trump belittling female reporters and political opponents. The ad, titled “Girl in the Mirror,” is one of dozens aired by the Lincoln Project, a super PAC run by current and former Republicans who support Joe Biden in Tuesday’s presidential election. The project is led by a powerhouse team of self-identified “Never Trumpers” including founders like Steve Schmidt, who managed the late Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, and advisers like Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. To defeat Donald Trump, all hands are on deck — including a Vermont Democrat’s. RC Di Mezzo is the Lincoln Project’s national press secretary, a Burlington resident and fresh off a job as the Communications Director for the Vermont Democratic Party (VDP). Vermont politics A 2018 St. Lawrence University graduate, Di Mezzo is young but has years of experience under his belt. He was working on the campaign of Letitia James in her successful bid for Attorney General of New York when he got the job offer in Vermont. “There’s a natural relationship between that part of New York and Vermont,” said Di Mezzo, who grew up in the upstate town of Rome, N.Y. As Communications Director, Di Mezzo led the party’s communications strategies and relationships with the media. “When you work for a state party, you work for all of the candidates and none of the candidates,” Di Mezzo said. This was especially true of Vermont, the only state besides New Hampshire to have gubernatorial elections every two rather than four years. “There is a constant and perpetual state of election in Vermont, for better or for worse,” he said. “I’ll leave that up for others to decide whether that’s good for democracy.” Di Mezzo’s first dip into the 2020 presidential race was as the Vermont state director for Michael Bloomberg’s short-lived presidential campaign in 2020. After Bloomberg’s exit from the race, Di Mezzo went back to work for the VDP before getting a call from the Lincoln Project. The Lincoln Project “When you’re running against Donald Trump, you don’t have the luxury of building out a plan and just hoping that it goes well, because he’s a nightmare,” Di Mezzo said in an interview with The Campus. Di Mezzo was first hired to cover Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Maine. Over the last few months, Di Mezzo has shifted to a more national focus. “It’s certainly a different beast than handling the press corps in Vermont,” he said. The Lincoln Project is taking a nearly Trumpian approach to hit the president where it hurts. From their own Twitter trolling to brutal television ads to a team of founders frequenting cable news, their goal is to be visible to the President and to persuade fellow disaffected Republicans to swing over to voting for Joe Biden. “This isn’t about policy. This isn’t about what Joe Biden’s gonna do once he’s the president,” Di Mezzo said. “This is about making sure he becomes the president and making sure that Donald Trump’s enablers in the Senate are booted out, too.” Working with Republicans A Democrat going to work for a bunch of Republicans and independents may seem like an odd pairing, but this job is right up Di Mezzo’s alley. Before his journey to Democratic politics, Di Mezzo grew up as a Republican in a Republican family, so he understands how the Lincoln Project is a microcosm of this moment in politics. “This is larger than partisanship; it is larger than one political affiliation,” he said. “Donald Trump is the single greatest threat to our country, to our democracy, perhaps ever.” Di Mezzo acknowledges that after this election, he’ll put his “partisan cap” back on and do everything he can to elect Democrats across the country. “But in this moment, it doesn’t matter what your political affiliation is,” he said. “If you’re against Donald Trump, you’re on my team.” Vermont as an example of bipartisanship Di Mezzo hopes that if the president is defeated, both parties can tone down their rhetoric and return to a sense of decency. “Vermonters like to pride themselves on the state of their political discourse,” Di Mezzo said. “As a political communications operative, that can sometimes be frustrating.” He says his New York style of “snark” with his criticisms of his opponents doesn’t always sit well in Vermont, as the distinctions between Democrats and Republicans are harder to identify. He points to how electing Governor Phil Scott, a moderate Republican, is only possible in a Democratic state with this type of respectful political discourse. Di Mezzo hopes that this is the politics of the future, where “we can come together around a common goal of making Americans’ lives better, and we aren’t assuming motive, and we aren’t so quick to disagree.” “To understand where somebody comes from and to understand what they bring to a policy debate is important, and it’s something that has been missing,” he said. “That’s the Democratic Party I hope I can have a hand in building.” Editor’s Note: RC Di Mezzo agreed to speak with us as a private citizen of Vermont, not in his official capacity as press secretary for the Lincoln Project.
It’s March 10, 2020. At around 1:30 p.m., Middlebury students received word to pack their suitcases in preparation for an early spring break. It was around 7:30 p.m. in Stockholm, Sweden. As texts rolled in from frantic friends back on campus, I stood among a roaring crowd of over 5,000 Swedish hockey fans. “Are you coming home? We just got the official email,” a friend texted. “Nah I’m still here, we’re still going strong,” I sent back. “The Swedish government is pretty chill right now, luckily.” Luckily. I thought I had nothing to worry about. 48 hours later, I was on a plane home. In the wake of Sweden’s controversial approach to battling Covid-19 through “herd immunity,” I’ve reflected on my Covid-19-shortened semester abroad in Sweden’s capital city of Stockholm. I hope that my perspective of Sweden’s response from right before the pandemic can shed a light on Sweden’s widely covered response over the last seven months. Especially when — after being completely asymptomatic — I would later test positive for Covid-19 antibodies. A product of your own environment When I arrived in Stockholm in January, Covid-19 was making its way through China and beginning its slow but steady global spread. It wasn’t until the Milanese outbreak in Italy in mid-February that most of the West began to wake up to the potential threat of a worldwide pandemic. Even as President Trump downplayed the threat of the virus in the United States, Americans were nevertheless starting to learn the basics of social distancing and other measures that we’ve grown to know all too well. This was not happening for Swedes; it was from my parents over FaceTime that I first heard about the idea of social distancing. Life in Sweden faced no interruption, and thus neither did my daily routine. Classes, public transit and every business in the city were still running as normal. I was a product of my own environment. The Italian outbreak was my first wakeup call. In Italy, Middlebury shut down its schools abroad, sending home friends from Middlebury and others in the program in late February. My roommate in Stockholm, Jacob, was traveling in Milan during that outbreak. When he returned, we convinced our program that he should quarantine. “We are not expecting to see new cases of Covid-19,” said Dr. Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s Dr. Fauci, after Sweden’s second confirmed case on Feb. 27. “It is important to remember that there is a difference between individual cases and the spread of infection in society. That is not taking place in Sweden.” That assertion would not hold for long. Testing Let’s first use testing as an early case study of Sweden’s response. Sweden’s cases per capita has remained on par with much of Europe despite its more open approach. One reason for Sweden’s apparent success at first glance might be a skew in the numbers. Here in the US, testing for Covid-19 is increasingly available, albeit with a significant delay, to those with or without symptoms. In Sweden, it remains difficult today to get a test without either being hospitalized or showing recognizable symptoms. When Jacob, my roommate who traveled to Milan, returned to Sweden in early March, my other roommate and I vacated the room so he could quarantine for two weeks. Yet, it took a week and a half of constant contact with public health authorities to authorize his test. Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who expressed she likely had contracted the virus during her travels around the continent during the late winter, was unable to get a test herself in the spring due to similar reasons and standards. Even today, the Public Health Agency’s guidance on voluntary quarantine states, “If for some reason you have been tested despite not having symptoms, the seven days start from the day you had the test.” I think we can agree that “if for some reason” countries are not testing asymptomatic people potentially exposed to Covid-19, they’re not doing enough testing. Sweden vs. the United States To understand Sweden’s lax response to Covid-19, it is also crucial to understand how it is one based on qualities so ingrained Swedish culture. These qualities make the Swedish model difficult to directly compare with a chaotic “herd immunity” method of the US, but we can still compare their basic differences. Sweden is built on an intense trust in their welfare state, as is crucial in any social democracy, which is palpable in Swedish society. Swedes entrust the state to provide them with free healthcare, education, generous unemployment and many other benefits in exchange for high rates of taxes. This trust has defined Sweden’s response to Covid-19. With its lack of any sort of national lockdown, Sweden stands almost alone with its approach to confronting the Covid-19 pandemic. So how has Sweden attempted to confront the virus? The short answer: lagom. A term in Swedish meaning “not too much, not too little,” lagom is a balancing concept found in nearly every part of Swedish daily norms from work hours to alcohol consumption. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sweden has tried, and failed to find a point of lagom. In the spring, they closed universities, banned social gatherings larger than 50 people and encouraged the elderly and the at-risk to isolate themselves. However, restaurants and other shops remained open and few steps were taken to discourage people from public interaction. Swedish primary and secondary schools remained open and compulsory to attend — it is still illegal to homeschool your children or keep them home from school for family or personal reasons. Social distancing is encouraged, but few masks are worn. Many conservatives in the United States, including the President, have pointed to Sweden as an effective example of Covid-19 mitigation largely free of state-wide lockdowns and masks. Here in the United States, lockdowns, masks and many public health guidelines have been unnecessarily and dangerously politicized. We’ve learned all too well that one’s feelings about each of these safety measures are the product of one’s environment, culture and political leanings. In the U.S., small government libertarians pointed to Sweden as a reason to lift these lockdowns and the far right spent months protesting social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders. This is an errant comparison for two reasons. First, they fail to recognize that the very example they reference relies instead on more government trust and influence, and, second, occurs in a far smaller country with a population largely centered in only three major cities. The depoliticized Public Health Agency in Sweden trusts the population to adhere to basic guidelines and have Swedes trust one another to do the right thing. The approach of “herd immunity,” which has not been specifically endorsed by name by the agency, hopes the virus spreads at lagom: slow enough to not overwhelm the healthcare system. However, Swedish deaths per capita nearly match the tragic levels seen in the United States. Sweden’s nursing homes were decimated in the early stages of the virus, the main source of its nearly 6.000 deaths, a substantial number in a country of only 10 million. In Sweden, around 90% of its deaths are from those 70 or older; 95% are of those 60 or older. In the US, on the other hand, around 57% of deaths are 75 or older and 79% are 65 or older. Sweden’s overall health has spared more younger people from death than in the US, but the results are nevertheless tragic for its elderly population. Additionally, despite keeping much of the economy open, Sweden’s economy was hit even harder than its Nordic neighbors that locked down. Sweden’s GDP fell 8.3% in the second quarter, compared with 6.8% in Denmark and 5.1% in Norway. Even if a restaurant or store is open, people’s behavior still changes in a pandemic. Where do we go from here? In June, my dad and I both tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies. After seeing how remarkably similar Sweden’s approach looked to my experience in March, I decided to get tested along with my father, who was still commuting through the middle of Times Square only weeks before the New York outbreak began to emerge. Even after my antibody test, I continued (and still continue) to follow precautions amidst the risk of a false positive test or even of reinfection. My father and I also can’t account for the unknown long term health effects that two healthy men may suffer going forward. Sweden has sacrificed several thousand lives in exchange for a more open approach to tackling the disease. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven admitted in April that “[Sweden] will count the dead in thousands.” To their credit, Swedes are largely following health guidelines and keeping politics out of it. Cultural differences matter — this is a very Swedish strategy and is not something even remotely possible in the United States. The buy-in from Swedes is there, but the results are not. Sweden is far away from being anywhere close to “herd immunity,” and with no end in sight, the tradeoff is simply not worth the extra loss of life. I did not expect to be part of the herd. When and if this pandemic reaches an end after months if not years of interruption, death and economic collapse, Sweden will not be standing above the fray. It will be right there in the middle of it. Porter Bowman ’21.5 is an Opinion Editor for The Middlebury Campus.
As the college posts nostalgic images on its social media accounts, Midd Kids reminisce about the rolling green landscape that typically starts to emerge in the final weeks of the school year. Even with most students gone, college landscape workers remain hard at work maintaining the campus. The landscaping team was one of the first to resume work after the college’s shutdown, but keep a limited staff due to state guidelines from Vermont Governor Phil Scott. “Out of the 12 landscape staff members, I am now rotating five landscapers a day,” said Clinton “Buzz” Snyder, the college’s supervisor of landscape services. Snyder and his team have returned to their work on the campus’ landscaping needs, and on other projects as needed. The team’s work provides a glimpse into how collaborative work has continued while maintaining social distancing procedures. “I meet with them every morning to discuss the daily tasks at hand,” said Snyder. “We meet outside 20 feet apart, then they go off individually on their gators to work alone or with their group but keeping their distance on the grounds.” Snyder discussed how these cautionary measures and social distancing have become the norm in every part of their daily routine. For example, workers must wear a mask and gloves to retrieve tools inside the Facilities building, or have the option to use the same tools for the week and keep them in their gators and personal vehicles. According to members of the landscaping team, hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies are also available for their use on the job. “The gators’ seats and steering wheels are wiped down after every use to eliminate any cross contamination,” Snyder said. “Lunch is taken in their personal vehicles and to communicate besides from our morning meeting we use our cell phones.” The new guidelines appear to be working quite well for the team, who see little interruption in their work. Landscapers remarked that on a big campus, it’s easy to practice social distancing. “If we’re not safe landscaping and working outside, we’re not safe anywhere,” said landscaper Todd Weedman. “My wife is in more danger going to the grocery store than I am going to work.” Weedman and fellow landscaper Taylor Quesnel added that some of the day-to-day work has lightened with the campus closure. They said that campus lawns don’t need to be mowed as often and as precisely as they would be in preparation for a spring Commencement. Additionally, the typical spring work of mulching and planting in flower beds will likely be reduced or eliminated and instead will focus on weeding. “Besides preparing for the spring events, most of the work being done remains the same as when students were here,” said Quesnel. “The real challenge is trying to get all of our work done with less guys at a time.” The cutback in shifts and hours has also been a transition for the landscaping team. Landscaper Aaron Pelkey said that staff are given five shifts over the course of a two week schedule, with three shifts one week and then two shifts the next. For Pelkey, whose wife works with the elderly and cannot take time off as an essential employee, this current part-time schedule has been more than ideal for him and his family in the time being. “I get to work part time while also getting the chance to be home a lot more with my kids and help them keep their grades up,” said Pelkey. Quesnel felt similarly. Both he and his wife balance their part-time work schedule with taking care of their two young children, whose daycare facility remains closed. Weedman expressed that with the guidelines currently in place, he feels the staff can be ready to work at full capacity whenever Gov. Scott begins to ease restrictions. “We’re working about 50% of the time, but full time would be ideal,” Weedman said. “I feel that we can do that now and be safe.” Additionally, according to Quesnel, the landscaping team typically takes on three to five seasonal workers every summer to help with extra work. This will not happen this year due to hiring freezes, but will give the existing staff the opportunity to work more shifts. As the work has resumed, Weedman and Pelkey are eager to prepare for Middlebury students’ eventual return to campus. “The campus feels eerie without you guys,” Weedman said. “Sometimes I’ll see someone walking their dog, but it’s very quiet.”
School closures across the country have made it difficult for families to adjust to children’s remote learning and help them stay motivated academically. When College Horticulturist and Staff Council President Tim Parsons heard that Middlebury staff were struggling, he sent out a call for help. Hundreds of students answered the call. Middlebury Volunteer Tutors has rallied hundreds of student volunteers to help tutor the children of Middlebury staff. “We wanted to build an effort to connect students with staff needs to be as supportive as possible,” said Ami Furgang ’20, one of the lead organizers of the program. Furgang, Tara Santi ’20, and Jaden Hill ’22 worked with Parsons and Stacie Marshall, assistant to the vice president for college advancement, to create promotional materials and plans in order to reach out to both students and staff. This included a survey where students could indicate which subjects they were best equipped to help tutor. “We got 50 students in the first night,” said Santi. “To date, we have over 100 signed up to volunteer, with tutors in nearly every subject, language, and in fields like visual art and digital media.” With an extensive network of volunteers, Katie Cox ’20.5 signed on to help match volunteers with children of staff. “One of my first matches was for a four year old in pre-K,” said Cox. “The goal was to create mini-lessons with counting and letter-number recognition.” One request even came in for a tutor willing to teach French to a young student who wanted to start the language for the first time during their free time at home. “If they ask for it, we’re going to try to make it happen,” Santi said. The leadership team runs help and Q&A sessions for prospective tutors to get them oriented to the program. Cox says that the scheduling is done between the tutor and the parent or student, and sessions of all different frequencies and lengths have been created across the program. “Even a session as short as 15 minutes can be helpful, especially for much younger kids,” Cox said. “It’s valuable to just have the opportunity to socialize, even if actual tutoring is hard,” Santi said. “Young kids have a harder time socializing than college students — they’re not exactly on Zoom all the time.” In emails to Marshall, the feedback from parents has been consistent and full of praise. “This is fantastic! What a great community we have!” one parent wrote. “WOW,” wrote another. “This brought tears to my eyes. How absolutely wonderful of the students! Love this Middlebury Community,” a third wrote. Marshall’s own son joined the program and was matched with Bella Pucker ’21.5. "My kindergartener met with his tutor, Bella, this morning and it was wonderful,” said Marshall. “She was very personable and asked Owen lots of questions — and Owen seemed to like her and can’t wait to show her more dinosaur books!” Tutors are finding creative ways to teach from afar. Furgang talked about a Spanish tutor who used objects in their student’s room to teach vocabulary. Santi shared a story about a first grader, whose father described his art as, “explosive, messy, and completely wonderful,” being paired with a Middlebury art student to continue his love for art. “We’re seeing a sort of a domino effect in these families,” said Santi. “Once one signs up, then the rest of the kids in the family want in.” Santi says the plan is to continue the program through the end of the Addison County school year, but hopes that others can take on the torch after she graduates to continue this relationship between students and staff. “We want to continue to give back to staff and get to a point where staff feel that students have their back,” said Furgang. Furgang stressed a similar point about the effort, pointing to student support of higher staff wages and efforts like Mutual Aid in the wake of the pandemic, and hopes these efforts forge a stronger bond within the community. One parent even asked if she could reimburse students for their tutoring work, which shocked the leaders. “We laughed, because this is a way for us to pay back staff who have done so much for us,” Santi said.
In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, many Middlebury professors are revising their syllabi to address themes arising from the pandemic in creative ways. Professors have adapted classes, from the sciences to the humanities — to even foreign language classes, to show how the evolving crisis touches nearly every subject across the curriculum in both expected and unexpected ways. Genomics “This isn’t the last pandemic we will have, and we need to be better prepared,” said Professor of Biology Jeremy Ward, who teaches a 300 level class in Genomics. “Genomics is actually the perfect class for seamless integration of material related to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic,” Ward said. Ward has developed at-home labs and assignments to dedicate the remaining of the semester to the Covid-19 outbreak. Students were tasked with using early genomic sequencing of SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind Covid-19, to compare with the genomes of SARS and MERS, two viruses that caused their own epidemics. The class then used that genomic data to design their own tests for SARS-CoV-2 while adapting the lab skills they had learned on campus. “It's crazy to think that college students can essentially design a test,” said Meghan Keating ’21, a student in Ward’s class, “but the breadth of testing in the U.S. is still nowhere near the volume it should be.” The class covers not only genomic technology but also that technology’s applications to human society from the eugenics movement to present-day issues. Those discussions have become even more important as the class tackles the intricacies of the pandemic response in the United States and in countries around the world. “The idea is that you don’t really understand the science of the pandemic unless you understand the economic, political, and many other factors that influence the science,” Ward said. Health Economics and Policy These economic factors have been front and center for Professor of Economics Jessica Holmes, who has completely revamped her “Health Economics and Policy” class to cover the pandemic. “For the past two weeks, we have been focusing exclusively on issues related to Covid-19, such the ability of our health care system to deal with this pandemic, its economic impact, and the policy response of state and national governments,” Holmes said. Holmes’ students are reading articles and journals addressing the economic impacts of the pandemic on the healthcare industry and writing weekly discussion posts with policy recommendations. Holmes even encouraged students to write op-eds for their local papers to assess the government’s response to the pandemic. “Our first op-ed topic had us evaluate our nation’s response to the pandemic as a means to decrease the epidemic curve, raise the healthcare capacity line and flatten the recession curve while giving consideration to various approaches around the world,” said Ryan Cahill ’21, a student in Holmes’s class. Holmes is currently serving a six-year term on the Green Mountain Care Board, a group of five Vermonters nominated by the Governor to advise on and regulate much of the health policy in the state. As the crisis continues, she is playing a crucial role in Vermont’s state-level response. “Her role creates a special environment for us as students, whose diligent efforts have the potential to make tangible differences in real healthcare policy,” Cahill said. “Professor Holmes offers unbelievable praise and encouragement for our efforts, sharing our responses with fellow board members and healthcare colleagues as legitimate ideas for real policy discussion.” Said Holmes about the adaptation of her course: “Just trying to keep it real and relevant!” Decolonizing Zombies At first glance, an upper-level Spanish class on zombies may not seem as natural a fit as Ward’s or Holmes’s classes in tying into the pandemic. However, Professor of Luso-Hispanic Studies Patricia Saldarriaga’s class on “Decolonizing Zombies” presents fascinating parallels between fictional zombie narratives and the real-life pandemic. “Zombies can be seen as metaphors for marginalized people (e.g. race, gender, class, disabilities, immigration status) in a globalized world,” Saldarriaga said. “When you see that zombies propagate as fast as the coronavirus, and that people from marginalized groups are disproportionately dying, you say, ‘wait a second, this is not fiction, this is a gore reality.’” Students have been watching zombie movies from countries all over the world, and as the class moved online, the discussions of these films have naturally crossed over with those of the pandemic. “Honestly, if you were to listen to our class discussions, you might not be able to notice that we’re talking about fictional situations,” said Sean Rhee ’21. “It is eerie how the ‘zombie virus’ is interchangeable with the Covid-19.” Saldarriaga painted a chilling picture of how some of those films show eerie similarities to today’s reality, especially as communities of color have been impacted at proportionally larger rates by Covid-19. “During the pandemics, people die because of lack of protection and the dissemination of wrong information, and this is exactly what happens in movies such as 'Pontypool' or 'Seoul Station,' Saldarriaga said. “They (blacks, latinxs, gays, trans, the poor, the undocumented, the old and the disabled) are the vast majority of infected ones whose bodies are thrown into mass graves in the name of security.” For students, the added dimension of complexity brought on by the zombie theme remains ever-present as the class continues to straddle the line between fiction and reality. “During the last (physical) meeting in Le Chateau, Professor Saldarriaga reminded our class that zombies are fiction ('los zombis son ficción'),” Rhee said. “I didn’t notice this at the moment, but I wonder if she made that comment in order to help us separate the two entities — the zombie pandemic and the recent Covid-19 pandemic — that were converging at a concerning pace in our minds.” Genocides Throughout History Professor of History Rebecca Bennette is encouraging her students who are living history to become a part of it. In both her “Genocides Throughout History” class and her 600-level junior writing seminar, she encouraged her students to add to the historical record with an unique assignment: writing their own primary source. “Usually we're analyzing the primary documents of others, but creating our own of this particular time is also a way of learning,” Bennette said. Bennette is working with the college’s Special Collections to put these student reflections, stories and accounts of their experiences during the pandemic into the college record for future generations of students and historians. “Because as historians we usually know how the ‘story’ ends,” Bennette said, “but what we're living through now — with all its uncertainty — has made me better appreciate the anxieties, fears and uncertainties of past people writing out a story they did not know the end to yet either.” While still an optional assignment, numerous students have already taken on the challenge. Bennette is encouraged by the response and excited as to how their additions to the historical record could be used one day. “Usually we're analyzing the primary documents of others, but creating our own of this particular time is also a way of learning,” Bennette said. “And, naturally, I like the idea that in several decades maybe another history class taught by another professor after I'm long retired might stumble across these Covid-19 accounts and take a look at them!”
The college’s ski areas at both the Snow Bowl and Rikert Nordic Center have cut their seasons short. Despite previous plans to stay open for the weekend of March 13, the ski areas had their last day of the season that Saturday — the day before Middlebury students were required to leave campus, and three weeks ahead of their planned closure date of Saturday, April 4. “Making this about community safety was easy with respect to deciding to close,” said Mike Hussey, general manager of Rikert and the Snow Bowl. “It absolutely made sense to all of us involved in the decision making process.” Closure discussions Hussey and his team began discussions about an early closure once they received word on Tuesday, March 10 that Middlebury was suspending in-person classes and sending students home. “On Wednesday the 11, I met with the team at the ski areas and determined that keeping the areas open would not further the cause of ‘social distancing,’” Hussey said. “The Base Lodge [at the Snow Bowl] is a melting pot of a vast cross section of people.” Hussey recommended to Middlebury’s Senior Leadership Group (SLG) that the ski areas close on Friday, March 13. “The decision was initially left to me then the SLG took it up,” Hussey said. After the college announced it was extending its deadline for departures and that Middlebury students were allowed to stay on campus through Sunday, March 15, the two parties agreed to keep the ski areas open through the weekend. Hussey said that the Middlebury ski areas, which publicly announced their closure plans on March 13, were some of the first ski areas in the country to do so. While Vermont has not issued a state order to shut down ski resorts, as was seen in Colorado, Vail Resorts (including Stowe and Okemo), Alterra Resorts (Sugarbush, Stratton) and Powdr Resorts all announced on March 14 that they would close immediately. As a result, the Snow Bowl became a popular backup option on Sunday to skiers who had been left stranded by the immediate closures at other mountains along the Route 100 valley. However, at 8:20 a.m. on Sunday, 10 minutes before the scheduled opening of the lifts, Hussey made the decision to close the mountain as the lodge was already in excess of a 250 person maximum set by the state government of Vermont. “This was initially a hard decision as it was a great opportunity for new customers to experience the Snow Bowl, something we strive for,” Hussey said, “but in reality it was easy because it wasn’t about the Snow Bowl or the skiing but the safety of the people.” Lost revenue and opportunity The need to shut down quickly — sometimes temporarily, sometimes indefinitely — in response to the virus has greatly affected local business across Addison County and Vermont. Hussey said he doesn’t have an estimate yet of lost revenue from the early closure of the ski areas, but did note that the end of March is not typically a highly profitable time. “The main revenue sources are season pass sales, the holidays, and [the college’s] Feb vacations,” said Hussey. “We missed a few weeks of weekend skiing, mostly for pass holders, and a couple events.” Jack Brady ’21 was one of the many pass holders seeking to take advantage of the last weeks of the season. “I like to get out at least a couple of times a week through the end of March,” Brady said. “The conditions may not be as great towards the end of the season, especially with the amount of snowfall this year, but it is always fun to ski with friends.” Thanks to the decision to keep both campus and the ski areas open into the weekend, Brady was also one of many students able to take advantage of the Snow Bowl’s last days. “I was lucky enough to go to the Snow Bowl on Saturday, which ended up being closing day,” Brady said. “While many students had already left campus the prior day, I enjoyed this last opportunity to ski at the bowl.” Next steps Hussey and his team are still working hard to officially wrap up the ski areas for the season. “Currently, we are able to do the customary closure work for the ski areas as it is primarily independent work on the mountain and office work that can be done remotely,” Hussey said. He does not expect a major disruption in the work plan, with the early closure being close enough to their normal business cycle, but shares the uncertainty that most small business owners are facing amidst the crisis. “That said, we do not know what this pandemic will bring and are planning for how to work effectively in the next months.”
The Student Government Association (SGA) has been working throughout the semester on projects and initiatives with the goal — as always — of helping the student body. As the semester comes to a close, here is an update on some of the recent activity of the SGA Student Senate and Cabinet: SGA structure The senate has engaged in ongoing discussions about the future structure and function of the SGA. The conversations were sparked both by the impending dissolution of the commons system, as well as by a reform-minded SGA administration led by president Varsha Vijayakumar ’20, who hopes to increase the visibility, legitimacy and impact of the body. At the Nov. 24 meeting, Vijayakumar stated her support for eliminating the commons senator positions, as well as for removing the voting power of the Community Council co-chair in the senate. This would shift the number of voting members from 17 down to 11. While nothing has been formally decided at this point, these discussions on the future of the SGA have taken place in their weekly meetings, as well as behind the scenes, as members hope to pass a series of structural changes in the coming weeks and months. If such changes were approved, the senate would then have to approve changes to the SGA’s constitution. Vegetarian Atwater At the same meeting, the senate voted down a proposed referendum which would have made Atwater Dining Hall fully vegetarian for the upcoming Winter Term. If passed, the referendum would have been put on a special ballot and sent out to the student body before the end of the current semester — instead it was rejected in a 15–2 vote. Many senators found several issues with the plan, and raised concerns on behalf of constituents who felt that dining halls should serve fewer meat entrees at each meal, rather than make an entire dining hall meatless. Additionally, many senators felt that a meatless Atwater would increase traffic at Proctor and Ross dining halls, especially after recent commentary from Atwater chefs about the low attendance on its Meatless Mondays. Senators expressed a desire to find other options to meet the Environmental Affairs Committee’s goal of 30% meat reduction in college dining halls. Ethical investing In the wake of the divestment movement and Energy2028, the senate passed a resolution to support ethical investing of Middlebury’s endowment toward companies and industries that fit within the college’s values. Elisa Gan ’20, the newly appointed Student Liaison to the SGA on Endowment Affairs, is planning a series of forums with several members of the college administration to help students better understand how the endowment is invested and how that will change over the next several years. Thanksgiving break First-Year Senator Miguel Sanchez ’23 has taken the lead on a bill that would make Thanksgiving break a full week, rather than just a five-day weekend. Sanchez has worked with Dean of Faculty Sujata Moorti to find ways to make the transition easier for faculty and staff, such as helping adjust the academic calendar, in order to make this possible. The bill has yet to be formally presented to the senate, since Sanchez is waiting on confirmation from Moorti and others that the change would in fact be possible. The New York Times subscriptions The Finance Committee, in conjunction with the Institutional Affairs Committee, received approval to fund the return of digital subscription access to The New York Times for all students. The college formerly paid for both a digital subscription to the paper, available to all students, and for print copies in the dining halls, but the decision was made by the Finance Committee only to fund digital access without returning the copies of the paper to campus. Student Ambassador Program The senate passed a bill to fund the Student Ambassadors Program for the remainder of the year. The program, which pays current students to give information sessions about the college at low income schools in their areas over breaks, will be funded by the admissions office beginning in the 2020–2021 school year. PE credits Ross Commons Senator Teddy Best ’22 has been working with Director of Athletics Erin Quinn to change the current requirement for physical education (PE) credits. The goal is to give students the opportunity to earn both of the required PE credits for the same activity. This would apply to all credit bearing activities, from student-led yoga classes to seasonal sports, and would benefit varsity athletes, who currently only get a maximum of one credit for their sport.
Middlebury saw its first visit from a 2020 presidential candidate on Oct. 16. William Weld, a former governor of Massachusetts running against President Donald Trump in the Republican primary, spoke to a crowd of around 40 students in Dana Auditorium in a talk hosted by the Middlebury College Republicans. Weld previously ran as former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson’s running mate in the 2016 presidential election on the Libertarian Party ticket, which garnered nearly 4.5 million votes nationwide. Weld also served two terms as governor of Massachusetts between 1991 and 1997. Brendan Philbin ’21, the co-chair of the College Republicans, met Governor Weld last spring after a campaign event in White River Junction, Vt. “He offered to give a speech before I could even bring it up,” Philbin said. “I was put in touch with his chief of staff and then worked to plan the event for the next five months.” Philbin said that he kept running into legal troubles, because any official campaign event hosted at the college would violate the college’s 501c3 nonprofit status. As such, Weld appeared in his capacity as a former governor and longtime political figure rather than as a presidential candidate. Weld spoke about his political background and policy views, and spent most of the event engaging in a question and answer session with students. Weld also held a pizza social event in the Robert A. Jones ’59 Conference Room after his talk, where discussion continued. “We know that the Middlebury community is very civically engaged and interested in politics, so we thought that this event with Governor Weld would give students, faculty and staff an opportunity to engage directly with a prominent politician at both the state and federal level,” Philbin said. “This is why I think the pizza social that followed the event was so valuable. It gave us a chance to speak candidly about politics with someone who’s been involved in it for decades.” Weld spoke openly about his dismay with the Republican Party under President Donald Trump and his hopes for the future of the party, both in terms of policy and politics. Speaking about impeachment and loyalty to the President, Weld was particularly critical of many Republican members of Congress. [pullquote speaker="Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]Loyalty is too often used as an excuse for doing the wrong thing.[/pullquote] “Loyalty is too often used as an excuse for doing the wrong thing,” Weld told students. Weld pointed to his time as governor of Massachusetts as an example of executive leadership. He described his budgeting strategies that helped the state out of a recession, his support of reforming but not repealing the Affordable Care Act and efforts to find ways to lower drug prices. He also stressed the importance of having a diverse political makeup of past and future administrations. According to students in attendance, the extended Q&A portion of the event was particularly compelling. “I definitely enjoyed hearing from an unconventional Republican candidate, and particularly found his bottom-up budgeting approach interesting,” Samuel Sullivan ’22.5 said. Philbin said that students asked tough questions during the event, prompting good discussion. “As I had warned Governor Weld would happen, the students did not go up to ask him softball questions,” Philbin said. “I was impressed, though not surprised, at how specific and interesting the questions that students asked were. They gave a great opportunity to really go in-depth into a presidential candidate’s political platform.” Justin Cooper ’22 appreciated the opportunity to engage with the views of a moderate conservative. “I thought Governor Weld gave very interesting insight into what a more moderate Republican’s political views might be, and it was very refreshing to hear a more level-headed conservative give alternative, in-depth policy ideas to Trump’s,” Cooper said. “That being said, during the Q&A, he did jump around quite a few of the questions, managing to fully evade giving a clear answer.” Alex Demoly ’22 also thought some of Weld’s answers were evasive, but found him to be open and worth engaging with at the same time. “My lasting impression of Governor Weld is that he is a very approachable man,” Demoly said. “Not one completely devoid of the talking points and rhetorical firmness necessary for a politician, but certainly one with whom you can have a comfortable chat, a slice of pizza in one hand and a Coke in the other.” Philbin found the event to be a successful show of discourse and dialogue amongst members of the Middlebury community from all political stripes. “I think it was important to show the Middlebury community, the overwhelming majority of which are of the political left, that Republicans are not all climate-denying corporatists unconcerned with issues like wealth inequality and minority rights,” Philbin said. “It can often feel like there is no common ground between members of our two dominant political parties but, once you’re able to have an in-depth conversation with them, it becomes clear that we often agree on more than we disagree.”
Last year’s Student Government Association Senate ended in the spring with threats of dissolution. Now, the new SGA is hoping to move in a different direction. Seven members of last spring’s senate — current President Varsha Vijayakumar ’20 and all senior senators, junior senators and Feb senators — are still on the SGA this fall. The 10 remaining senators were not in office last spring when the senate created its “13 Proposals for Community Healing,” many of which followed frustrations about slow progress on several issues between students and the administration. The proposals were announced in a school-wide email on Apr. 23 in the wake of the cancellation of a controversial talk from Ryszard Legutko, a far-right Polish politician, and were written with input gathered from the wider student body at a town hall a week later. After the administration’s initial response to several of the proposals — which included a tentative commitment to add a student delegate to the Board of Trustees and increase student representation in the administration’s Senior Leadership Group — the Senate decided not to dissolve in their last meeting of the semester. Status update Several of the 13 Proposals have been completed as written in the original statement, including the second proposal, which called for a student, staff member and faculty member to each be appointed as representatives to the College Board of Overseers. The College Board of Overseers is one of three committees within the Board of Trustees; there is also a board for the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and one for the Language Schools, Schools Abroad and Bread Loaf School of English. Vijayakumar, Associate Vice President for Advancement Operations Jami Black and History Professor William Hart were elected by the student body, Staff Council and Faculty Council, respectively, to serve as the three representatives to the board. Each representative will report back to their constituents following board meetings. Saif Panday ’21 joined Wengel Kifle ’20 as a student representative on the Community Bias Response Team (CBRT), addressing the ninth proposal’s call for more student representation on the team. Addressing the second half of that same proposal, which demanded more direct communication after the cancellation of campus events, Chief Diversity Officer Miguel Fernández explained that the request does not fall under the job description of his office. “Cancellation of campus events is not a bias incident and thus does not fall under the purview of CBRT, so we will not be sending out such communications,” he said. The college is offering a Black Studies major for the first time this fall, which was called for in the 13th proposal and has been in the works for several years. The major, led by History Professor Bill Hart and American Studies Professor J. Finley, came as a combined result of academic planning by faculty and administration, as well as renewed student campaigns in support of the program. Several other efforts related to the proposals are in the works. Fernández said President Laurie Patton has plans to appoint an ad hoc working group in the next few weeks to look into an LGBTQ+ center, which was the 10th proposal. “Movement on this center was stimulated by a student desire for programming, support, and mentoring for queer and trans students on campus,” he said. “I would say it was student-driven.” Elisa Gan ’20 was nominated to be the the Student Liaison to the SGA on Endowment Affairs (SLSEA). This came after a weeks-long nomination process, in which Gan was approved by the Senate during its meeting on Sunday, Sept. 22. Gan will be a non-voting member of the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees, has full access to information about the endowment, and will report back to the SGA on how the school’s endowment is being invested. The Senior Leadership Group (SLG) will be creating student advisory committees for each administrator in the group in response to the first proposal. This move will help bring in more student perspective to the work of the administration, and help improve cooperation between students and administrators. The third proposal, which asked the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (OIDEI) to create a due diligence form for speaker invitations, is no longer on the table and was deemed unworkable, according to Fernández. “It is not OIDEI’s place to vet speakers. My office was not consulted ahead of time and we do not foresee taking on this role,” Fernandez said. Fernández said that the fifth proposal, which proposed bias training for all hired staff, faculty, administrators and students, will be covered by Renee Wells’ Inclusive Practitioners program. Parton Health Center is currently conducting a search for a counselor with expertise working with marginalized communities, which was the 12th proposal. Administrators did not respond to comment on the progress of several other proposals. These include the proposals centered around communication from the administration about ongoing proposal progress, revisiting the protest policy, improvements to the Green Dot program, making all buildings ADA accessible and making all organizational expenditures available on the college website (the fourth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and 11th proposals, respectively). A spokesperson from student government said some of the above proposals are in the works. A change in tone Vijayakumar, who was serving as a junior senator last spring when the proposals were issued, has decided not to focus her presidency on their completion. “Frustration about the lack of student voice included in decision-making processes that will significantly impact our campus culture and student life was, is and should be warranted,” Vijayakumar said. “That being said, this new SGA has worked hard to lay the groundwork for a significant shift in approach that will focus on earning student support and attacking problems on our campus through a more analytical and pragmatic lens.” This new approach has been welcomed by administrators, some of whom felt the way last year’s SGA presented the proposals was unreasonable. “The administration did not sign off on the 13 Proposals,” Fernandez said. “This administration believes in dialogue and does not take well to demands. And let’s be honest, these proposals were demands.” As Vijayakumar worked over the summer to construct a new approach to achieve the SGA’s goals, this was very present in her mind as she built her cabinet, set initiatives and planned for the year to come. Her approach has been apparent in the first several meetings this year, and she has emphasized the importance of cooperation, accountability and responsibility amongst the entire body. Vijayakumar and her chief of staff, Drew Platt ’20.5, have stressed in recent meetings that representatives need to hold themselves accountable to their own personal initiatives and to the overall goals of the SGA. “In the past few years many individual members within SGA have done a lot of good work, but the body as a whole has suffered from lack of collaboration and consistency,” Vijayakumar said. “We spent a lot of time this summer diagnosing these issues and developing an action plan to ensure that SGA members will be held accountable within our body, and more importantly to the student body as well.” For example, the senate was unable to vote on the full proposed list of committee members of every SGA Cabinet Committee during the senate meeting on Sept. 30 after several committee chairs failed to submit their proposed lists on time. The SGA Cabinet consists of dozens of committees that touch every aspect of student life, from athletics to sexual respect. Vijayakumar called out these unnamed cabinet committee chairs who “didn’t pull their weight” and caused the delay to the approval process. After Vijayakumar set a new deadline, the senate voted Monday to approve the lists of committee members. The heightened focus of the cabinet, which had taken a backseat in previous administrations, has led to greater responsibility, support, and accountability for appointed cabinet directors from Vijayakumar and her executive team. Vijayakumar said she and her staff are holding cabinet leaders to a higher standard. “We have implemented several new accountability measures to ensure that these cabinet committees are more effective than they have been in the past,” Vijayakumar said. “As a result we are confident that the initiatives inspired by the proposals are in the hands of the people that are most dedicated to making tangible progress on those issues.” Vijayakumar has also sought to improve the underlying issue that drove the 13 Proposals, namely a lack of cooperation between students and the administration. She hopes to improve that relationship to make her SGA as productive as possible. “Students should also expect a new level of collaboration with the administration,” Vijayakumar said. “They have proven themselves to be more open to student input than ever before, and we are excited to work together in efforts to make this campus a better place for students to study and live.” For an example, she pointed to an event led by Fernández that will bring more clarity to the faculty hiring process and how that translates to hiring a more diverse faculty. The event, which will take place on Oct. 16, was organized by members of the Cabinet together with Fernández and the OIDEI. “The fireworks that we saw towards the end of last year represented justified emotions but ultimately did not serve as a means to build consensus or lasting change,” Vijayakumar said. “We have been very conscious of that as we set out our plans to shift SGA culture this year.” Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the number of returning senators.
Since the Student Government Association (SGA) presented its 13 Proposals for Community Healing at a town hall on April 23, the administration has agreed to address several of the SGA’s demands. For now, the administration’s actions appeared to appease the SGA Senate, who ended the academic year without fanfare weeks after several members threatened to dissolve the body if the administration failed to address their demands. The proposals include calls for mandatory bias training for faculty, a black studies program and a new LGBTQ+ center, among others. Travis Sanderson ’19, a senior SGGA senator, said the proposals had succeeded in pushing the administration to act. “The administration has capitulated to certain proposals due to students' pressure,” he said. The proposals to which administrators agreed to address include adding another student to the Community Bias Response Team and beginning conversations on an LGBTQ+ center with a working group of faculty, staff and students. The administration also said it would commit further to plans to make the restrooms in all new buildings gender-inclusive, including those in the new building that will house the computer science department and faculty offices starting next year as well as those in buildings awaiting renovations, like Munroe Hall, Johnson Memorial Building and Warner Hall. Sanderson said he appreciates the heightened level of transparency coming from the administration in announcing to the student body plans that are already underway, including the search for two new Health and Wellness positions who can work with students of underrepresented identities. “The administration has also shown good faith in committing to bringing up the idea of a second student delegate to the Board of Trustees, increasing student representation in the Senior Leadership Group, and clarifying plans regarding Black Studies,” he said. At the faculty meeting last Tuesday, faculty voted to accept the proposal for a Black Studies major, beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year. The proposal can be found at go/BLSTproposal. Chief Diversity Officer Miguel Fernandez said a working group has been working on the proposal for almost two years. “This is the 3rd attempt I am aware of by the faculty to create an ethnic studies major over the past 20 years,” Fernandez told The Campus. “The previous two failed for different reasons. As our discussions moved along, we ended up focusing on Black Studies.” Fernandez added that college has not abandoned the idea of creating an Ethnic Studies major, which could further down the road encompass programs like Black Studies, Latinx Studies and Asian American Studies. The administration also announced plans to offer bias training to faculty and staff come fall. According to Director of Education Renee Wells, the program will consist of a new “continuing education program” rather than stand-alone workshops. “The goal is to provide space for faculty and staff to center inclusive practice in their individual work and to be part of a community of practitioners who are engaging with each other on an ongoing basis about what that can and does look like,” she said. All faculty and staff will be able to register for any individual workshop, but none of the workshops will be mandatory. On Tuesday, May 7, the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (OIDEI) hosted a community conversation about a campus climate assessment report conducted over the last year as well as about the SGA’s proposals. “Our goal is to create space for us to come together, discuss the climate concerns we face, share how these concerns impact our community, and collectively imagine a path forward that thoughtfully and intentionally addresses these challenges,” Fernandez wrote in an all-student email. The first hour of the event was spent in small-group facilitated dialogues, followed by a second hour of a community dinner with remarks given by President Laurie L. Patton. The event as a whole allowed students to engage with representatives of the administration about campus climate concerns, as well as to understand the steps being taken to address such concerns such as the ones pushed in the 13 proposals. Despite the steps taken by the administration to address specific student concerns, there is still skepticism about how much this progress actually means. John Gosselin ’20, the current Community Council co-chair and incoming senior senator who wrote an op-ed against the SGA’s threats to dissolve in April, said the administration’s response was limited by the rushed timeline the SGA proposed. “The administration did not give sufficient responses because we did not give them sufficient time to formulate a good response,” he said. “Over the next year, the SGA should support these proposals by clarifying the language used to express them, inviting administrators to our weekly meetings, and asking trustees to Skype into our meetings. Instead of demanding certain proposals from the entire faculty, we should work with faculty amenable to our proposals to target our statements before making public pronouncements.” Sanderson said he thinks students need to remain vigilant in making sure the administration delivers on its plans. “Overall, I am moderately satisfied but feel there is a long way to go,” he said. “Financial transparency remains unaddressed, and many of the plans remain unrealized.” Fernandez wrote in advance of last Tuesday’s event that “all the recommendations will be reviewed by OIDEI as we begin mapping out our strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion over the summer.” Both Sanderson and Gosselin stressed the importance of working with administrators and faculty members on specific proposals to increase the likelihood that the 13 proposals will be realized. The Senate will look to pick up their work on these proposals in the fall and will continue to work with student advocates, faculty and administration on enacting specific proposals. “This is one step, one of many,” Sanderson said, “and vigilance will be needed from both students and their senators.”
Varsha Vijayakumar ’20 was elected Student Government Association (SGA) president for the 2019–2020 academic year last Friday, April 19th. She won the seat after receiving 611 of the 1,026 student votes cast this spring (roughly 60% of the vote). “I’m beyond humbled that my peers have chosen me to represent them next year,” Vijayakumar said. “I’m even more in awe because this means that my entire Middlebury career will be marked by women of color as SGA Presidents.” Vijayakumar ran on a five pillar platform centered around her dedication to the student body,focusing on health and wellness, social spaces and social life, inclusivity, access to resources and financial aid and employment. “I’m excited to dedicate myself fully to students, both current and future, by working to make Middlebury more of a place we all want to call home,” Vijayakumar said. Student turnout to SGA elections dropped drastically this year, down from 1,686 last spring to 1,026 this spring. This year’s turnout rate was just 36.81%. Joel Machado ’22 came in second place with 25% of the vote (253). John Gosselin ’20, current co-chair of Community Council, came in third place with 15 percent of the vote (162). Roni Lezama ’22 was elected co-chair of Community Council for the full 2019–2020 academic year. Lezama ran uncontested. Lezama, a first-year, is ready to engage with the community and take on difficult and important conversations. “More than anything, I’m looking forward to being in more conversations with staff because they are crucial to the well-being of the Middlebury community, and I want to embrace their embrace their ideas, opinions and proposals to ensure their own well-being on campus,” Lezama said. Six other races were also uncontested. No one ran for the position of Brainard senator for the fall semester. According to a current senator, there will be a special election held in the fall to fill the position during First-Year Senator elections.
Varsha Vijayakumar ’20 was elected president of the Student Government Association (SGA) for the 2019–2020 academic year on Friday, April 19th. She received 60 percent of the vote (611 votes). The number of students voting in the election dropped from 1,686 last spring to 1,026 this spring, bringing voter turnout to 36.81%. Joel Machado ’22 came in second place with 25% of the vote (253). John Gosselin ’20, the current co-chair of Community Council, came in third place with 15 percent of the vote (162). Roni Lezama ’22 was elected the co-chair of Community Council for the full 2019–2020 academic year. Lezama ran uncontested. Six other races were also uncontested. The race for fall Brainerd senator was vacant. The Campus will publish a more detailed report in the April 25 issue of the paper.
[gallery columns="4" size="medium" ids="44527,44524,44526,44525"] SGA President As the weather on campus is warming, Student Government Association (SGA) elections are heating up. This week, the Middlebury student body will elect a new SGA president for the 2019-2020 academic year. The position involves directly overseeing the SGA Cabinet and Senate and supporting the work of 11 Cabinet committees and five Senate committees. The President is viewed as the de facto leader of the entire student body. Three candidates are running for the position this election cycle, and The Campus spoke with each of them to get a sense of their qualifications, priorities and visions for the SGA. John Gosselin ’20 Winchester, MA native Gosselin has served in several leadership roles on campus throughout his time at Middlebury, including SGA Atwater senator. He is currently treasurer of the Tavern social house and Community Council co-chair. His campaign website can be accessed at go/voteforjohn. “I feel as though I’m an effective administrator who doesn’t respond with strong emotions,” Gosselin told The Campus. “This calm temperament will help with any possible hostilities that may arise next year.” While serving with the Community Council, Gosselin was the leading student voice on the steering committee for the Residential Life Report and has been involved in the process for over two years. As SGA president, Gosselin hopes to implement the first steps of the report, and believes that having a president who understands its importance is critical as the steering committee begins to tackle long term projects like renovating Battell and building a new student center. Gosselin also wants to improve social life and late-night non-alcoholic programming. To this end, he plans to work with different organizations on campus to provide higher quality non-alcoholic programming and work with the Vermont Department of Liquor Control and the college’s general counsel to “relax policies which currently restrict many events with alcohol.” On Community Council, Gosselin strove to support students of color and worked to approve PALANA as a new social house. He said the group has and will continue to do “a phenomenal job at providing a diversity-oriented space on campus.” Gosselin also wants to find more ways to support students over breaks. He feels the lack of resources provided to students, especially in the dining halls, prevent students from “having a full and equal Middlebury experience.” He says that he expects the SGA to either work with administration or prioritize the support of such efforts with SGA funds. Varsha Vijayakumar ’20 Vijayakumar, from Harrington Park, New Jersey, is a current junior senator with the SGA. She sees SGA president as a role that supports students who are already passionate about particular causes around campus. Vijayakumar made it clear that her platform does not only belong to her, but to the numerous students from whom she’s received input and support. Her experience with the Institutional Diversity Committee and the Senate have shown her the immense power the SGA can have for students. “I want to harness the passion of students,” she said. “Their power is unstoppable.” Vijayakumar’s leadership on campus is not limited to the SGA. She serves as the president of Midd Masti, has led a MALT trip to Miami about sex trafficking and hasserved as a JusTalks facilitator. Vijayakumar feels deeply connected with many communities and spaces around campus through her extracurricular involvement and hopes to bring these connections to her role as president. Her experience with Midd Masti, for instance, allowed her to “fall in love with her culture in a way that’s loving and affirming” and hopes that the SGAcan empower groups to provide those and other opportunities to even more students. Her campaign website, go/varsha, represents a platform created by students and for students. She stresses that her goal is not to push a certain agenda but to support the work and goals of student-centered causes. She hopes to work with groups on campus to tackle issues within health and wellness, social spaces and social life, inclusivity, access to resources, and financial aid and employment. She has identified these areas as key prioritiesfor an SGA under her leadership and is excited by the upward trend in student involvement with the SGA in recent years. She pointed to divestment and to-go boxes as examples of encouraging signs of progress. Vijayakumar hopes to find ways to streamline the SGA to be more representative and more efficient. “Student engagementwith SGA is the equivalent to our success,” she said. Joel Machado ’22 Machado, a Posse Scholar from New York City, is encouraged by what underclassmen can bring tothe SGA. Machado noted that first-years “are generally the most engaged and most involved on campus, and generally have the most turnout in elections.” Machado, who is involved with First@Midd and Distinguished Men of Color (DMC), pointed to his lack of experience with SGA as “not the end all be all.” “I want to bring new energy to the SGA, whereas the other two candidates lack the lens of being on the outside looking in,” he said. He hopes that he can bring his leadership skills to the role by using first-year enthusiasm to represent the entire student body. After identifying several institutional issues at Middlebury, such as rape culture and new Title IX policies, Machado first decided to speak out through the Spencer Prize, a first-year speaking competition. Machado then submitted his speech to The Campus as an opinion piece, noting that “it wasn’t worth it to wait” to act. “I wanted to vocalize problems I saw even in my first semester here on campus," Machado said. He tried to use these moments as a form of protest and hopes his candidacy can shed more light on the issues he hopes to focus on while in office. Machado’s platform, which can be found on his website at go/ourSGA, attempts to answer four questions. First, who gets to be a Midd Kid? Here, Machado wants to focus on issues surrounding diversity and creating opportunities for marginalized groups on campus in and out of the classroom. Second, how can we improve life at Middlebury? He hopes to enact change in such areas as registration, opening up study abroad opportunities in winter term and funding individual students to host their own parties and events on campus. Third, how should the SGA operate? Machado feels as though the SGA has too much bureaucracy and hopes to simplify the body to make it more efficient. He feels it should have “less of an organized structure and be more informal and conversational.” Fourth, what can we do for our future? Machado looks to work on long term efforts like enforcing Energy2028, eliminating rape culture on campus and collaborating on a new commons system. Community Council Co-Chair The race for co-chair of Community Council, a position shared with Dean of Students Baishkahi Taylor tasked with leading discussions and action on all non-academic issues on campus, will be uncontested this year. The Campus spoke with the sole candidate. Roni Lezama ’22 Lezama, a Posse Scholar from New York City, feels that the Community Council is a unique body that brings together students, faculty, and staff for important discussions about life at Middlebury. Lezama, who currently serves on the SGA’s Institutional Diversity Committee and recently won the Spencer Prize in Oratory, wants to embrace the power of the community and empower others to voice their opinions in an open, respectful forum of ideas. “I want to work towards a Middlebury that’s for the community and empowers community members and especially those of marginalized identities to speak up and voice their opinions,” he said. Lezama doesn’t want to set an agenda because Community Council is the “most important time to hear what other people have to say.” However, he wants to hear from the community on additional programs beyond Green Dot to fight back against sexual assault as well as focusing on issues like accessibility to a Community Council that should be “a place of openness.” In general, Lezama wants to focus on issues that affect all facets of the community. He gave registration as an example of an issue that gives headaches to everyone involved. He hopes that Community Council discussions and respectful debates can bring progress and meaningful solutions to problems like these in the next year.
Nestled between Otter Creek Bakery and Two Brothers Tavern, the Vermont Folklife Center (VFC) is giving people a glimpse into a winter pastime shared by many local Vermonters. This spring, the VFC’s exhibit “Ice Shanties: Fishing, People & Culture” features the work of Vermont-based Colombian photographer Federico Pardo, who documented the ice fishing community on the West River in Brattleboro. Ice shanties are small structures used for ice fishing that are placed on frozen portions of lakes, rivers and floodplains. Pardo, whose work focuses on the human relationship with nature, noted that these ice shanties “became an instant curiosity and a subject of fascination” when he saw them reemerge on the West River each winter. The images are carefully constructed pieces of photography. Pardo used long-duration exposures to capture the shanties at night, which were a way to capture themes of “etherealness, solitude and contemplation.” Through his use of the sunset and the nighttime sky, he creates “a surreal quality of blended night and day … that tempt us to imagine otherworldly narratives about the shanties, their owners and the seemingly timeless space they inhabit,” according to the VFC. The shanties in Brattleboro are just one of many ice fishing communities that arise every winter across the state. According to John Barstow, the VFC’s Director of Development, ice fishing and the use of ice shanties are representative of “an oddball, subculture of local Vermonters.” Barstow noted that many shanty owners view it as a hobby but will often keep the fish to cook for a meal. Along with the shanties, the exhibit also shows Pardo’s photographs of the different types of fish that are typical catches from a day of ice fishing, such as the yellow perch, the chain pickerel and the golden shiner. The VFC also worked with Pardo to conduct interviews and document the stories of the fishermen/women behind each of the shanties. The recorded interviews are available to viewers of the exhibit using a smartphone app or by calling a phone number to hear excerpts from the interviews. One such participant, Roy Gangloff of Dunnerston, can be heard discussing how he found the perfect leftover scraps from a construction project to build his sturdy and lightweight ice shanty, one he has used for over 25 years. Gangloff also tells stories about his fellow fisherman and of growing up ice fishing on similar lakes and rivers with his father. This method of powerful storytelling is what the VFC is all about, according to Barstow. “Folklore is being created every day by everyday people, and a lot of folklife is history,” he said. Jessie Kuzmicki ’19 worked with the VFC this summer as a MuseumWorks intern. “I think all too often people idealize Vermont and its rural lifestyle, assuming that a certain quaint homogeneity exists throughout the state,” she said, a Vermonter herself. Kuzmicki’s work on several VFC projects, including hearing stories from farmers in Rutland, drag queens in Brattleboro or migrant farm workers in Addison County “can bring awareness to and appreciation for the state's multifaceted culture and people.” Much of the work of the VFC is done to encourage Vermonters to learn more about one another. This ranges from empowering kids to go out into their own communities and interview people to maintaining an apprenticeship program to teach people crafts that could otherwise be lost, such as blacksmithing, weaving or playing the fiddle.Barstow also mentioned the work done by the VFC in immigrant communities in Burlington, especially with the large Bhutanese and Nepali immigrant population. The VFC supports efforts for families to teach their children music and culture in order to allow communities to maintain their cultural identities from generation to generation. The VFC is engaged in a variety of other efforts, including housing a large archive of records and resources for folklife from different communities in Vermont, as well as their podcast, “Vermont Untapped,” which delves into the different offerings of the archive. The original exhibits that start in Middlebury will also rotate out to other towns such as Brattleboro, St. Albans, Newport, and Bennington in order to spread the work of the VFC to different corners of the state.
Below is an update on the initiatives, both proposed and passed, of the Student Government Association (SGA). Senate meetings run from 7-8:30 p.m. on Sundays in Axinn 220 and are open to the public. 10 O’Clock Ross After months of planning with Dining Services, the SGA Senate has finalized and passed the 10 O’Clock Ross bill. The long-awaited return of this late night dining option will go into effect on April , the first day of classes after the spring break. The pilot program will operate on Monday and Tuesday nights from 10-11 p.m. in the Ross Fireplace Commons. Student monitors will be employed to oversee the program. Depending on the success of the pilot, 10 O’Clock Ross may expand to another weekday later in the semester and continue next Fall. Club Coltrane In response to complaints that there is not enough alcohol-free, nighttime programing, the Social Affairs committee is working to create events and spaces for nighttime activities on the weekends and on weekdays. Senator Masud Lewis ’22 has been working to form the Middlebury College After Dark Programming Board, a group that will work with different student groups and locations on campus, such as Coltrane lounge, to plan events. Reusable To-Go Cups The Environmental Affairs Committee is working with Dining Services to introduce a reusable to-go cup system in the dining halls. The committee, which presented at the March 10 Senate meeting, is looking to build a pilot program this spring involving a handful of students with the goal of implementing the program campus-wide in the fall. The pilot program will look into a variety of questions such as whether it would be easier for Dining Services to use a carabiner-like system, similar to the to-go boxes, or if providing one reusable cup to each student that they would be responsible for would be simpler. Faculty/Staff Student Tables Sophomore senator Eun Ho Lee ’21 has been working to implement his program to bring students, faculty, and staff together for meals. One of the barriers Lee has faced is that faculty and staff do not have free access to dining halls. This has prompted larger discussion within the Senate and may change in order to support this program and other forums for student and faculty/staff interaction. Financial Literacy Senior senator Alexis Levato ’19 is working to expand opportunities for students to engage with financial literacy tools and workshops. After receiving responses from a campus wide survey, Levato is working with several offices on campus to provide resources and information on topics like personal finance, loan repayment, budgeting and others. Feedback Form John Schurer ’21, the Senate speaker and a sophomore Senator, has revamped the way that students can reach out to SGA with feedback and comments. The new form is available at go/heySGA.
For the first time in recent history, the Middlebury College Cycling Team is set to host the Weybridge Road Race next month as part of the six-week Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC) season. The race will take place on April 7, and is a major milestone for the student cycling community on campus, especially for the Class of 2019. According to club president Katie Aman ’19, who has taken the lead to organize the event, this race has been a long time coming. “I don’t even know the last time Middlebury hosted a road race; an alum told me about a race in the 80s, but I know it hasn’t been for a long, long time,” she said. Aman has been working on bringing a race to Middlebury for many years, and the opportunity came to fruition after the club’s proposal was accepted by the ECCC last October. In her last year at Middlebury, Aman wanted to bring ECCC competitors to Middlebury to show off the cycling community of Vermont. “We love Vermont; the riding is spectacular and the people are even better,” said Aman. “The roads are fairly untraveled, and all of these factors make it a great spot for a race.” The cycling club is a close-knit group of dedicated cyclists who have fallen in love with the Vermont’s cycling environment. Aman said she is proud that the club “has almost equal gender representation — for both racing and training — which is quite uncommon in cycling.” Student cyclists like Beckett Nasvik-Dykhouse ’21.5 feels that being on a road bike is the best way to explore the state: “You can cover a fair amount of distance in a different way than a car,” he said. “You feel way more grounded and you pay attention more to what’s around you.” Aman, who is from Hanover herself, views Vermont as a haven for cyclists and a place where many New Englanders love to visit for long weekend rides. Aman, Nasvik-Dykhouse and other student cyclists often train on the six gap roads in the area, including Middlebury Gap, a climb with 2000 feet of vertical elevation change. According to Aman, “there’s an iconic four gap ride called LAMB (Lincoln, Appalachian, Middlebury, and Brandon Gap) that is 10,000+ vertical feet of elevation. People from all over the country come to do that four gap ride.” In April, these cyclists look forward to sharing the sport with Middlebury students. Nasvik-Dykhouse is excited about the event in part because of the exposure it will provide for the organization and sport, and hopes “students come out and support their fellow student cyclists.” In advance of the race, Ben Glass ’20.5 noted that “a lot of the team is working to chip away at the small tasks getting the race set up and organized, but we’re all so excited that the road race is in our backyard.” Glass added that the team is looking forward to having another month to “recon the course and train harder especially in these base mile training days.” The club cannot wait to bring the ECCC, a conference with 70 schools across the northeast from Delaware all the way to McGill in Canada, to the carefully planned race course. Aman’s excitement is palpable: “I’ve had really positive interactions with all five towns where our race goes through, and I think everyone sees this event as a great way to bring people to our state. We want more people to know about Vermont and see it as a destination for cycling. We’re so thrilled to be putting this race on in just over a month.”
Dining halls are hubs for students to take breaks, catch up with friends and talk about their days. They serve as classic forums for both impromptu get-togethers and planned meetings. Sophomore Student Government Association (SGA) Senator Eun Ho Lee ’21 saw an opportunity in these gatherings as the perfect places to foster conversations between Middlebury students and the faculty and staff that serve as essential parts of the college community. After several months of work last fall, he created a new program: The Faculty/Staff Student Tables. The inspiration for the program came from Lee’s high school experience. “When I first came to the U.S for the first time as an international student five years ago, I was socially awkward,” he said. “My daily conversations with my English lit teacher, music teacher, and many others gave me the courage to reach out to American students and to really get out of comfort zone.” When Lee came to Middlebury, he wanted to form similarly-close relationships with his professors. He admitted that he has struggled balancing getting good grades with getting to know faculty and staff on a personal level. Lee then began to think about how he could facilitate such relationships. “If we wanted to socialize with students and not with faculty, we could have easily gone to one of the big state schools,” Lee said. “But we didn’t.” Lee’s idea for the Faculty/Staff Student Tables program is to match students and faculty/staff for meals on Thursdays. The groups can then learn about one another and connect through conversation. Lee said that he will have two separate Google forms: one for students and one for faculty and staff. Interested participants can fill out their respective forms by Sunday night and Lee will then match up students and faculty/staff members. Lee is still facing some funding challenges, but he hopes to get the program into operation in the next few weeks. He will be looking to the SGA Finance committee as well as specific departments to fund the meals for faculty and staff who do not have a meal plan in the campus dining halls. Feb Senator Bobbi Finkelstein ’21.5 showed support for the program as a way to improve relationships between students and faculty and staff. “Our dining and facilities staff work consistently throughout campus, in our dorms and dining halls, and are rarely appreciated and thanked,” she said. John Schurer ’21, who serves as sophomore senator and the SGA speaker, thinks the program will have a significant impact on the campus. “Even in a small community like Middlebury, it is understandable that students, staff and faculty associate in separate circles,” he said. He believes the program will help people meet individuals who they might not have interacted with otherwise. After The Campus’ staff issue over Winter Term, SGA has made a concerted effort to find new ways to support faculty and staff. “I hope that Eun Ho’s faculty/staff-student tables can improve the relationship between students and staff members by encouraging respect and recognition for all the work they do,” Finkelstein said.
There will be two additional meatless days per week in the college dining halls in an effort to reduce the college’s meat consumption by 30 percent, according to an all-school email sent by the Student Government Association (SGA) on Jan. 15. In addition to Meatless Monday, which already takes place in Atwater dining hall, Ross Dining hall will go meatless on Wednesdays for lunch and Proctor dining hall will go meatless on Fridays for lunch. The step is meant to lower the dining halls’ environmental impact, improve the health of students and save money that can be reverted to higher quality meats and local producers. This initiative has been led by EatReal, a student organization that promotes more sustainable eating habits on campus, and the college’s Environmental Affairs Committee and Sunday Night Environmental Group. These groups have been working with the college’s dining services to reach at least a 20 percent reduction from 2017 data by the end of 2019. The college’s dining halls serve 1.5 times the amount of protein recommended per person per day by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, according to a 2016 EatReal survey. Based on these results, EatReal passed a bill in May 2017 to reduce meat consumption by 30 percent, in increments of 10 percent for each of the next three years. The bill passed unanimously in the SGA and with the support of 66.86 percent of surveyed students, as well as support from athletes and coaches on campus. According to the bill, the first phase included a reduction in meat soups and salads, offering a plain meat option at every lunch and dinner, smaller pieces of meat in dishes to promote portion control and reduce consumption and more. Between 2017 and 2018, these changes contributed to a 7.95 percent reduction in meat and around $32,000 in savings. The Jan. 15 email indicated that the second phase involves the additional meatless days in the dining hall. EatReal found that the Meatless Mondays initially reduced the numbers of students in the dining hall but that gradually the number of students has recovered and there has been limited negative feedback. Some students still expressed concern in spite of these findings. While many students support the meat reduction initiative as a whole, some, like Nathaniel Blumenthal ’21.5, remain skeptical about the implementation of this second phase. “Ridding certain dining halls of meat on particular days may cause unforeseen congestion issues if students change their eating habits based on whether meat is being served in the dining hall,” Blumenthal said. Dan Detora, executive director of food service operations, remains hopeful, however, saying that he believes the college is moving in the right direction by considering the environmental impact of meat consumption on campus. “Hopefully meat-eating students will at least try some of the very delicious vegetarian entrees,” Detora said, although still maintaining that these changes will have minimal impacts on dining experiences. Detora said in an interview with the Campus that the financial implications of these changes are still uncertain, however. “Keep in mind that non-meat entrees can be just as expensive if not more than meat entrees,” Detora said. The SGA spoke to these some of these and some other student concerns in a second email sent to students on Jan. 20. In response to concerns of inconvenience, they wrote that the current phase only requires students to either eat a plant-based protein instead of protein once per week, eat a sandwich with deli meat once a week or eat in a different dining hall once a week. This second email also reversed course on the implementation; the full meatless days announced in the first email were changed to only meatless lunches on those same days. It encouraged students to submit feedback at go/meatreductionfeedback. The SGA Athletic Affairs Committee sent out a survey to all varsity, junior varsity, and club teams for reactions towards this second phase and the bill in general. While the results of the survey are still under review, there are also athletes that look to the bigger picture in addition to their own nutritional needs. “I’m for it, though my initial reaction was negative,” said Willson Moore ’22, a Nordic skier. “I eat a pretty hearty amount of meat myself as an endurance athlete and like meat-included food better in general, but recognize the need to cut back on consumption as a college is much more important.”
Middlebury students will have Martin Luther King Jr. Day off for the first time in college history this Monday, Jan. 21. The holiday, traditionally observed by most schools and many places of work, has been a class day for Middlebury students since President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983. The change to the calendar was made to allow more students to participate in celebrations surrounding the holiday. In years past, the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) has held events the weekend prior to the day itself. This year, the CCE will host an MLK Afternoon of Action on Monday. According to CCE Program Director Ashley Laux, the CCE is soliciting volunteers to help with the event. In the Ilsley Library Meeting Room, volunteers will read books to and participate in arts and crafts activities with young children from the town. At the Addison Central Teen Center, volunteers will help with a collage art project and talk to local teenagers about mobilizing for change in one’s own community. Volunteers will start at 1 p.m. while youth in the community can come to the event between 2:30 and 4 p.m. Laux and the CCE team will be coordinating with AmeriCorps VISTA member Sarah Litwiller to organize the event, and encourage interested students to sign up at go.middlebury.edu/mlkafternoonofaction. Although students will have classes off this year, Laux expects that event turnout will be comparable to last year’s. Ricardo Lint Sagarena, director of intercultural programs, is also organizing a brunch at 10 a.m. on the 21st in the Redfield Proctor Room in Proctor Dining Hall. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words and selfless actions continue to be an inspiration and never-ending call to action for tolerance and peace,” Sagarena said. “In that spirit, students, faculty, and staff are invited to come together to share a meal and talk about their commitments and convictions.” He advised interested students to register for seats at go.middlebury.edu/mlkbrunch. Sagarena is unsure about how the day off will impact participation, as it is yet to be seen whether students will take the day off to attend these events.