In the last race of the day at the 2022 NESCAC Championship meet, a 4x800 relay, Middlebury and Tufts were just points away from each other in the standings.
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I’ve always been sentimental about paper. I keep every ticket stub and playbill and program and letter I get. I wrote about my attachment to print when I oversaw the production of our magazine, A Year In, last spring, and I thought about it a lot in The Campus’ more than a year and a half with no print newspaper.
Middlebury alumnus Dan Schulman ’80, CEO of the financial technology company PayPal, will give the commencement address to the class of 2022 on May 29.
After more than a dozen years under the name English and American Literatures (ENAM), the ENAM department will become the English Department, under the designation ENGL, beginning July 1, 2022. Department Chair Brett Millier announced the change to majors and minors on Friday, May 15, telling students that the change had been made and approved last fall because members of the department felt that the "English and American" name implied that courses in the department only teach national literature, which they do not.
Last week, Visiting Assistant Professor of History Lana Povitz was unsure of her future at Middlebury. By Friday afternoon, she signed a contract for a tenure-track position in the History Department, starting this July. Povitz, who is currently completing her third consecutive visiting contract at the college, received a tenure-track offer from the University of Montreal in late February; students rallied to get the college to match Povitz’s offer before she had to provide an answer to Montreal.
Update, 6 a.m. March 17: Lana Povitz told The Campus on Friday, March 11 that she had signed a contract for a tenure-track position in the History Department, starting this July. Read our full coverage of the update here.
In January 2019, we published our first staff issue. It detailed the impact of workforce planning — a concerted administrative effort to reduce employee compensation costs by 10% — on the staff of the college. Three years (and one global pandemic) later, we again find ourselves in a critical time to better understand the experiences of Middlebury staff.
Dear Vice President for Student Affairs Smita Ruzicka, Vice President for Administration and Chief Risk Officer Mike Thomas and Public Safety Director Dimitria Kirby,
Middlebury’s Mead Memorial Chapel, named for John Mead, a Vermont governor and member of the class of 1864, lost the name Mead this morning in acknowledgement of its namesake’s role in promoting eugenics in Vermont during the early 1900s. The piece of stone bearing the chapel’s name was removed as of this morning.In a message to the community, college President Laurie Patton and George Lee, chair of the Board of Trustees, announced that a working group and the trustees had engaged in a careful deliberative process and decided to remove the Mead name. “We want to stress upfront that this was a process involving deep reflection and discussion. No issue like this should be undertaken lightly or often,” they wrote. The chapel will now be referred to as “The Middlebury Chapel” or just “the chapel.” In 1914, Mead and his wife Mary Madelia Sherman donated $74,000 to the college to create a new chapel. In 1912, two years before his donation, Mead gave a farewell address to the Vermont legislature in which he advocated for the use of eugenic theory in creating legislation and policy. His comments in that speech about marriage restrictions, segregation and sterilization inspired the research behind the Eugenics Survey of Vermont and led to the legalization of voluntary eugenical sterilization two decades later. The renaming follows unanimous decisions in the Vermont House and Senate earlier this year to “sincerely apologize and express sorrow and regret” for the state’s role in the eugenics movement, including the forced sterilization of 250 Vermonters. A Middlebury working group convened in May after the Vermont Legislature’s apology to examine the college’s relationship to Vermont’s eugenics history and the role of Governor Mead. After reviewing archival research regarding Mead and the history of eugenics in Vermont, considering the history and use of the chapel today, and reflecting on actions taken by other organizations that acknowledged historical connections to eugenics, the group recommended that the Mead name be removed.“Following its review, citing his central role in advancing eugenics policies that resulted in harm to hundreds of Vermonters, the working group determined that ‘the name of former Governor Mead on an iconic building in the center of campus is not consistent with what Middlebury stands for in the 21st century,’” Lee and Patton wrote in their email this morning.Patton then sent the working group’s recommendation to the Board of Trustees’ Prudential Committee, which voted unanimously to remove the name.The email from Patton and Lee also clarified that the decision was not made in response to student protest, nor was it an effort to erase part of the college’s history. The college said they “will be candid” regarding the decision to remove the Mead name where there are currently references to the chapel and that they are considering “educational signage.”The chapel is an iconic feature of Middlebury’s landscape and branding. It marks entry into the Middlebury community as the site of convocation, appears on merchandise and can be seen far and wide due to its location at the highest point on campus. In addition, alumni of the college, along with faculty and staff and their children, can use Mead Chapel for weddings.Mead’s financial gift to the college was not conditional upon his name being put on the building, so the college is not obligated to return the gift to the Mead family. Changing the name is not a fundraising opportunity, and there are currently no plans to rename the chapel, according to the announcement. Other signage around campus and text on the website containing the Mead name had not been changed at the time of writing, but is expected to be altered soon.
It’s been 553 days since we last printed an issue of our newspaper. It’s been 555 days since we were told that we were being sent home from campus due to the pandemic; it’s been 555 days since we gathered in our basement office to work on publishing an issue that looked very different than it did mere hours earlier. It’s been 557 days since we sat in a circle outside of our office, munching on Green Peppers pizza, while we discussed an emerging pandemic that seemed miles away from our small Vermont campus.In the past 553 days, we’ve continued to write, even while scattered across the globe. We’ve advocated for a safer environment for students and fairer wages for staff. We’ve written about all of the ways that Covid-19 has touched student life, and community life, at and away from Middlebury.Despite navigating lives marked by isolation, uncertainty and sometimes grief, we’ve still managed to put out a paper each week. And now, we return to print. Among the writers of this piece, one of us has never edited a print copy of our paper. Our staff is full of new faces, the majority of whom entered our office this past week for the first time. And even for some of our more seasoned staff, this fall was the first time they stepped foot in our humble basement office.It’s been a week of introductions, reunifications, and a cautious sense of normalcy, even as many editors are unaware of what “normal” is. While our paper has persisted online, the return to print represents a new era of The Campus, but in a familiar form. This print paper may feel like just a collection of words and photos, but our return to print is about more than taking what we run online and putting it on paper. With a newspaper, we are able to hold the material, tangible product of our work; we can see it scattered across dining hall tables, on the newsstands outside of the student center. Most importantly, it can reach the hands of our readers, of our friends, colleagues, professors, and staff, regardless of their ability to access our content online. In print, we present a collection of stories and photos written by a collection of students, curated within twelve, thin pages that bear witness to the actions of those around us and provide a capsule of a point in time — of this particular point in time. And at a time when many of us are relearning what it means to be a Middlebury student, we’re relearning what it means to be a community newspaper at Middlebury.
If you know me, you’ve heard this story. In middle school, I devoured Donna Tartt’s 1992 debut novel about a group of Classics majors at an elite private college in Vermont who conspire to kill one of their friends. Then I read it again in ninth grade — and again the next year. During my junior year of high school, figuring out where I wanted to go to college happened to coincide with a re-re-re-reading of “The Secret History.” This time, when I experienced the book’s historic buildings, lavish weekend trips and cultish academic affairs, I finally had the sense to wonder if it was based on a real college. I turned to Google. “Is Hampden College from ‘The Secret History’ based on a real school?” My search results informed me that it was indeed based upon a real school: Bennington College, which I had never heard of. Then came the most pivotal Google search of my life. A dig into Bennington revealed that the school only enrolled 700 total students (way too small, I thought), but my eyes wandered instead to the ‘People Also Search For’ panel, where they landed, fatefully, on another name I’d never seen before: Middlebury College. I clicked on it, did some light reading, and soon Middlebury was added haplessly to the rotation of colleges I was considering applying to. The in-between is history. I’m not, by any stretch, the only person here to have read this book. Perhaps you have too. Last semester I saw someone reading it while standing in line in Ross. And I have, to no avail, suggested that we ask Midd students if they’ve read “The Secret History” on our annual Zeitgeist student survey. I delight in encountering other readers of the novel, whether it carried them here, as it did for me, or found them once they’d already arrived. The thing is, no matter what, it is impossible not to draw parallels between the fictional and fantastical world in the book and the one here at Middlebury. The characters eat in familiar dining halls, go to familiar parties and take familiar (at least for some) trips off to the Vermont countryside for picturesque, lakeside weekends. The narrator, who is secretly just scraping by, comes face-to-face with the exorbitant wealth and private school backgrounds of his peers. Students form close (sometimes too close) relationships with their professors. Friend groups are challenged by romance and drama. Some characters spend their breaks in lavish hotels in Italy while others brave the Vermont winter for a measly work-study job. The elite college community comes into conflict with the local Vermonters and farmworkers. It’s also very easy to apply the Secret History ensemble cast to people at Middlebury. My best friend Cooper is a Bunny (blonde, jovial and prone to premature dad jokes) — which isn’t too much of a compliment, if you’re familiar with the book, but which spurned a months-long running joke about me murdering him (I promise that’s not a spoiler). A friend once told me that he always thought of former Campus Editor in Chief Will DiGravio as a Henry, because he walked about campus with the noticeable seriousness, wisdom and style of the group’s wise-beyond-his-years leader. Many see themselves in Richard, the California transplant who hides his un-glamorous past and navigates an elite, unfamiliar world. Exclusive friend groups invite comparisons to the coterie from the book. About two decades after its publication, “The Secret History” isn’t going anywhere. Charlie Keohane ’24 wrote about the timelessness of the novel in The Campus this January. It has a cult following to this day, and it has spawned many a novel tagged “Secret History-esque.” I still re-read The Secret History on a yearly-ish basis. My mom buys me a copy every time she sees one at a thrift store so that I have extras to hand out to friends. In the early days of the pandemic, I found myself sheltering in place with three friends in Southern Vermont. In that strange two-week Spring Break/quarantine hybrid, we avoided the grocery store, tracked Covid-19 rates voraciously and slept in until the afternoon. In a period of personal and global upheaval, my friends and I turned to the book that had seen me through transitions in my life. The rules of our new world still unknown to us, we did one thing that felt safe: hiking through the woods, where we knew we wouldn't encounter anybody, while listening to the audiobook version of The Secret History. As we hiked through the very scenery described in the novel, it felt in many ways as if we were living “The Secret History.” We cooked elaborate meals and read books by the fire. We saw ourselves in character traits. An unseasonably late snow started during one of our hikes, fulfilling a crucial plot point in the novel (I won’t spoil that one). More recently, when I lived in a Vermont attic this January — albeit a lovely and warm one, a far cry from the freezing, weather-vulnerable, nearly fatal one that Richard endures — I felt another glimmer of the book in my own life. Taken as a parable, a mirror or simply a story, “The Secret History” is worth the engrossing, sweeps-you-up, consumes-your-mind read. And, because it is my origin story, I can’t help but feel like it holds a little more magic than the average book. If you find the urge to read, I always have copies I’m happy to lend. Riley Board ’22 is a Managing Editor of The Middlebury Campus.
Anaïs Mitchell ’04, a Tony-award winning playwright and musician, will give the 2021 Middlebury commencement address. Mitchell is the creator of the acclaimed Broadway musical “Hadestown”, and was named one of the most influential people of 2020 by Time Magazine Mitchell, a native Vermonter, grew up in Weybridge and majored in political science at Middlebury. Her play “Hadestown,” a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice scored 14 Tony nominations in 2019, of which it won eight, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. She is only the fourth woman to write a full musical — including the book, lyrics and music — for Broadway. In a college announcement, President Laurie Patton expressed her excitement about Mitchell’s address. "Anaïs Mitchell stands apart from all other modern singer-songwriters for her imagination, storytelling, and tremendous songwriting talent," Patton said. "It is an honor to have Anaïs as our Commencement speaker. She is as interested in the world around her as the one inside her and she tackles big themes through music and theater — skills that will inspire our seniors as they prepare to enter the wider world." Mitchell will receive an honorary Doctor of Arts from the college at the ceremony. Three other Vermonters will receive honorary degrees at commencement. John B. Derick, a Trail Around Middlebury (TAM) coordinator for 30 years who has built and maintained trails for decades, will be a recipient. Dr. Mark Levine, Vemont’s commissioner of health, will also receive an honorary degree. Dubbed Vermont’s Dr. Fauci, Levine has led the state’s Covid-19 health efforts. The third recipient is Curtiss Reed Jr., a Vermont civil rights leader who has served as the executive director of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity since 2001. Mitchell and the honorary degree recipients will all visit Middlebury in person for the ceremony. Commencement will occur this year on Saturday, May 29, in order to accommodate Covid-19 restrictions. An update last week announced that students will each be able to invite two guests to graduation, and that the ceremony will be spread out across five locations to abide by Vermont's health regulations. Only graduating seniors, remote graduating seniors, their guests and on-campus members of the class of 2021.5 will be allowed to attend the ceremony. This story has been updated to include the fact that the speaker and honorary degree recipients will appear in person.
Last fall, go/snitch, the website shortcut for Middlebury’s Covid-19 violation reporting page, was ubiquitous on campus. It was used as a verb (“I just go/snitched on that group of 20 people”) in jest, and as a reply to questions about how to handle observations of violations. Technically, it was the repository for student concerns about the behavior of their maskless or partying peers. This spring, it no longer exists. Dean of Students Derek Doucet announced in a Feb. 2 email that the college would be sunsetting the violation reporting page because the form cultivated an “unhealthy atmosphere” of surveillance and anxiety. Created last fall to manage the flood of violation reports from the community in town, go/snitch embedded itself in the culture and discourse of Middlebury’s first in-person Covid-era semester. Despite its short existence and discontinuation this February, some believe the form should persist as a tool of student accountability. The origin of go/snitch Brian Lind, associate dean of judicial affairs and student life, created the form before the fall 2020 semester. “It was born out of necessity,” Lind said. After being inundated with emails from the community reporting observed violations in August, the form was created as a management strategy for the flow of concerns Lind received. As for the term go/snitch, Jack Landrigan ’22 created the go link during his fall two week pre-arrival quarantine, mostly as a joke. Despite only telling a few friends about it, by the time he got to campus, his own RA was telling their hall to use go/snitch for reporting violations. “People are fed up with watching so many people not following rules for so many months that snitching has become okay,” Landrigan said this fall. “It is a rebellion against those too self-centered to save other people’s lives.” Behind the form, Lind was working to juggle reports that came through go/snitch, from ResLife staff and from Public Safety. In early September, Lind told The Campus that five to seven reports came through the form each day. The biggest flaw of the violation form was the submission of reports that didn’t include enough information to appropriately act upon, which was a majority of reports Lind received last fall. Identifiers like names or room numbers were usually required for action; without one of these pieces of information, following up was often impossible. Contrary to popular belief, the form was not the fastest or most effective way to resolve a situation because it was not monitored 24/7. As a result, reports about temporary gatherings or exceeded room capacities were hard to resolve days later when the responses were eventually checked. Lind said that the way people used the form suggested they weren’t aware of this. Syr Esposito ’22, who worked in ResLife as a Community Assistant of Atwater Hall B last fall, was not expected to be on duty the way that underclassmen ResLife staff are and appreciated the extra support that the form provided in potentially overlooked areas. In an interview in September, Esposito noted that few people reached out to her directly about Covid-19 rule violations, likely because of the existence of the form. “People are just taking that into their own hands,” she said. However, she also acknowledged the ways that the form impacted student culture. “I can see how the model fuels distrust among peers and makes people feel paranoid,” she said. Last fall, 22 students were sent home in late September for large gatherings; those students suspected that they had been snitched on. Citing the power and consequences of the form, Esposito said, “This is not something to be abused. It’s not something that you take lightly.” Lind noted that the college’s Health Pledge asks students to live in a very deliberate and unfamiliar way, and that because everyone can use gentle reminders of those expectations, his hope is that students are willing to provide those reminders to their peers. “I’m always one who promotes mutual accountability, especially in communities,” Lind said. “I think the existence of a reporting structure can be helpful in a case where it wouldn’t be safe or prudent for students to address the situation. But if you’re … walking and see someone without a mask on, I would hope for our community’s sake that people would feel comfortable reminding each other and holding each other accountable in that way.” Esposito said she disliked the term “snitch” as it applied to the form, because the negative connotation of snitching displaces blame from those committing the violation to those reporting it, implying that the latter was doing something wrong. Lind said that he believes the name was used humorously but also noted the negative associations of snitching. “I’m sure there are people who feel like it’s the worst thing you could do, to submit a report, and yet we get reports, so there are some people that believe that it’s necessary,” he said. A snitch-free spring After the fall semester ended with three student cases and a last-minute campus lockdown, Midd students headed home unsure of what differences in disciplinary enforcement the spring would bring. In February, before students returned to campus, Doucet announced that the form would no longer exist because of its role in creating an, “unhealthy atmosphere on campus in which students felt under constant surveillance by peers.” “Students described a fear of inadvertently making a mistake, being reported and ending up facing a Covid-19 health and safety violation,” he wrote. Doucet said that those consequences were unintentional and concerning. He also wrote that the form would stay open to townspeople who wish to report concerns. In an interview with The Campus, Doucet said that the decision to get rid of the form was based purely on student concerns about the type of atmosphere that it created on campus and the “climate in which students felt overly scrutinized by their peers.” “I also heard from students that some believed the form created a disincentive to students respectfully addressing Covid-related concerns with one another,” Doucet said, noting that conversations around the issues with the form took place late in the fall semester. In the absence of the form, Doucet said that students can report violations they observe to ResLife, their residential directors, the student life deans or Public Safety. “Our hope for student behavior in the absence of the form remains the same as it was when the form was in use,” he said. “We hope that students continue to follow the necessary health and safety expectations in place in order to protect one another and the surrounding community, and that they respectfully engage with one another when they have concerns about Covid safety related behaviors.” Conversations about the value of go/snitch as a device for students continued at the start of the spring semester after the page had been disabled. On the anonymous confession Instagram account MiddConfessions, a post about Covid-related confessions includes one slide that reads, “I actually liked go/snitch.” Another critiques those who made use of the form in the fall. Isabella Conety ’24, who advocated for bringing back go/snitch in the comments of that post, has been frustrated by blatant safety violations she’s observed this semester. “The idea of [go/snitch] ending because it is pitting students against each other is such a cop-out excuse,” she said. “It’s meant to hold each other accountable.” Conety noted that she has high-risk family members and knows what it’s like to be scared for people she cares about. “I know there’s high-risk people here as well, and I want to do everything possible to keep them safe, even if it means snitching on people who are reoccurring offenders of the policies,” she said. She acknowledged the form may not be missed by many but said that she knows “there’s a good chunk of us who miss the ability to hold others accountable.” This semester, typing go/snitch will take you to the college’s homepage, but Middlebury students are still racking up Covid violations. Just three weeks after move-in, 74 students have already been disciplined for violations. In contrast, only 108 students were disciplined over the course of the entire fall semester. No students have been removed from campus this spring at the time of publication.
Nonproliferation, economic diplomacy and localization management are terms seldomly heard on the college’s Vermont campus.But 2,500 miles away on the coast of California, more than 600 graduate students and hundreds of faculty and staff research these very topics at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies (MIIS), an establishment as deeply institutionally intertwined with the college as its Schools Abroad or Bread Loaf School of English.In 2005, Middlebury College’s then-President Ronald Liebowitz floated the idea of affiliating the college with the Monterey Institute, as it was known at the time. The institute was a graduate school founded in 1955 with a focus on foreign languages that evolved to include programs in areas like international policy, translation studies and terrorism studies. In 2003, it was placed on probation by its accreditation institute because of a pattern of operating deficits.A 2005 Faculty Council vote about the possible acquisition of the institute overwhelmingly opposed the idea, with nearly 80% voting against acquisition. Liebowitz and the Board of Trustees pursued an affiliation anyway, at which point the college absorbed the institute’s debts and assets. Five years later — in 2010 — the college officially acquired MIIS, and by 2015, the school was renamed The Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.Over the last 15 years, administrators have made extensive efforts to bring the two institutions closer together. They’ve created funds to encourage inter-campus interaction, promoted collaboration between faculty and created opportunities for undergraduates to study away at MIIS. However, relations between MIIS and the college remain disjointed, partially as a result of their separate histories but manifesting more recently in financial concerns.In April 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic intensified, Middlebury’s faculty gathered to vote on the Sense of the Faculty Motion submitted by college Professor of Mathematics Frank Swenton recommending detaching MIIS from the college. The motion was spurred by fears of impending financial challenges resulting from the pandemic. Swenton believed disconnecting the schools was the most effective immediate step in avoiding risk of cuts to salaries and services at the Vermont campus.The motion sparked renewed debate in both Vermont and California about the place of MIIS in the college’s mission. In this series, we explore the forces, people, events and decisions that led to the relationship between the schools, the sentiments that persist at both institutions and visions for the future of the relationship.Click through the parts below to read more.
College faculty have come a long way from their meager 21% support of Monterey in 2005 to a slight majority at 52% in 2020. But some proponents of MIIS are still dismayed that, nearly 15 years into their relationship with the college, some college faculty remain hesitant to fully engage between campuses. David Provost has a glass-half-full perspective on the matter, noting the jump in support for the college’s connection with Monterey. Staff and faculty at the institute also have a positive outlook on the future of the relationship between the institutions, the potential for collaboration and the increased benefits to students as that relationship grows. “My sense of the trajectory is positive, it's my perception that there's growing recognition that Monterey is an important part of Middlebury writ large,” MIIS Professor of Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies Philipp Bleek said. “I think there's also a growing recognition that being part of Middlebury is important to what we do in Monterey.” The pandemic, for all of its challenges, has revealed in many ways the potential for remote connection. Provost recognized that this should mean a reconsideration of whether constant travel between California and Vermont is truly necessary, and Sawin noted that academic connections between the schools are strengthening, as undergraduates will be able to take classes at MIIS this spring semester as a part of their regular course load. Bob Cole, MIIS Director of Exploratory Initiatives and Partnerships, sees the pandemic as a harbinger of a greater cultural change. “In the wake of our extraordinary shift to remote work and teaching, I would hope that faculty and staff, wherever they are located, might get beyond the binary of the institute and college,” Cole said. “Perhaps this is not a common outlook, but if I am to trust the decisions of the administration and the Board of Trustees over recent years, Middlebury is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Opponents of the faculty motion claim that while budgetary motives are the stated reason for the opposition to MIIS, the real reasoning could lie in perceived cultural or prestige differences between the two schools. “A lot of the faculty on campus come from fairly elite backgrounds, to be honest. And for them, they think about the status of a school as being an indicator of the quality of the instruction. For those of us who went to all state schools, we don't have that same sort of bias,” added Teets, who earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland, a Master’s degree from The University of Chicago, and Master’s and PhD degrees from The University of Colorado. “I don't want to come off as elitist. Just the fact is, Middlebury is a top five to top ten program … Monterey, I don't even know everything it does,” said Swenton, who earned his undergraduate degree at The Ohio State University and his PhD from Princeton University. “I had never in my life heard of Monterey Institute until we acquired it. People have heard of Middlebury.” Other terms have been used to describe what some see as an untenable gap in student experience between the missions and cultures of MIIS and Middlebury College. “As for ‘fit,’ at last spring’s faculty meeting, I was listening for programmatic reasons that the college should maintain its relationship with the institute, and all I heard were descriptions of two or three instances benefitting at most 50 college students in all,” Bremser said in an email to The Campus. Teets and Newhouse both disagree, arguing that the vocational training that MIIS provides can supplement the college’s own liberal arts education. “As valuable as a liberal arts education is, and as much as I will battle to keep the Middlebury College education as true to its core of humanities and liberal arts as it can be, students understand the need for practical training and to understand how to implement the education they get from the college,” Newhouse said. The institute’s own graduate education offerings have changed over the years. In 2019, after 37 years of offering an MBA program, MIIS abruptly shut it down after a prolonged decline in demand for the program. Teets’ own professional work has given her opportunities to collaborate closely with faculty and staff at MIIS. In her view, it’s this collaboration that allows college faculty to fully realize the value of the institute, and the potential of their own research and academic pursuits in California. Programs like the One Middlebury Fund, which offers grants to faculty and staff across all of Middlebury’s holdings to encourage inter-campus collaboration and is allocated between $50,000 and $100,000 annually through a handful of restricted endowments, seek to strengthen and expand that collaboration. Sarah Bidgood, the CNS director of the Eurasia Nonproliferation Program at MIIS, who was a recipient of the Fund in 2018, also noted that increased academic collaboration between the college and institute is key to the future of that relationship. “The point of the grant is to facilitate closer interaction between the two campuses,” Bidgood said, noting that there may be some bad feelings about the history of the relationship but that, under the present “Big M” Middlebury umbrella, programs like the fund are necessary instigators of inter-campus collaboration. “We have the opportunity to really do this integration the right way and to build these connections that are going to be really valuable to students,” she said. “If we're going to do that, we need to find more ways to interact more regularly and, I think, more substantively, particularly as it applies to our work.” From Swenton’s perspective, however, these very programs are the reason that he sees MIIS as an unsuccessful addition to Big M. “The faculty members who spoke up against the motion, with possibly no exception, were all people who had a vested interest in Monterey,” Swenton said, noting that these faculty members had done work for the School of the Environment, or been a recipient of the One Middlebury Fund or otherwise had interacted with MIIS. “For the college as a whole, I don't think it really relates to our program as much as they'd like to make it sound.” Gracey Carroll ’22, who did a winter term internship at MIIS in 2020, found the experience to be one of the highlights of her time at Middlebury. “Being in an environment of intensive research and expertise was really life-changing and helped me to discover where I want my career to take me,” she said. “The sort of hands-on learning that I was able to do at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies was really different from the more theoretical classroom learning we do at Midd.” Carroll says that she didn’t hear convincing arguments from proponents of breaking with MIIS, but she does believe that better communication with the schools could help bridge current tensions. “Everyone I know who has tried to take classes at MIIS as an undergraduate has gone through bureaucratic hell in trying to make MIIS classes work on Middlebury’s terms, and I think the lack of cohesion between schools is a deterrent to students who would otherwise challenge themselves with courses at the graduate level,” she said.
In J-Term of 2017, Thor Sawin swiped his ID card to get into a Middlebury College building for the first time. Sawin, an associate professor at MIIS, was teaching a winter term course in linguistics, and had a moment of realization when he first set foot on the Vermont campus. “I'm like, ‘Oh yeah, I'm home,’” Sawin said. “I didn't even need to do anything special. I can check out a book out of the library with the ID card that I already had. It works in both places.” Sawin, who also serves as the current president of the Faculty Senate at MIIS, understands that faculty at the college might not know just how intertwined the two schools are. He had been previously asked by college faculty who his provost was (Jeff Cason, just like the college) and who his president was — to which he replied, of course, “Laurie Patton.” Financial fears about MIIS and its purported drain on the college aren’t the only barriers to total cohesion between the two institutions. Some college faculty still believe that MIIS simply doesn’t offer anything to the undergraduate liberal arts experience that Middleury provides, while others suggest that a failure of communication has left college faculty in the dark about MIIS’ efforts and values. And for some, a belief that MIIS is a fundamentally independent institution colors these sentiments. “It's just not Middlebury. It's not Middlebury College to me,” Frank Swenton told The Campus. From an administrative perspective, that simply isn’t true. “Monterey employees are Middlebury College employees. These folks are part of the family. They do fantastic work for the College and for Big M,” Provost said, using the term for the whole Middlebury institution, which includes the college, institute, schools abroad, Bread Loaf School of English and more. He also noted that Middlebury’s effort throughout the pandemic to provide wage continuity for employees and educational continuity for students applies unquestionably to all units, including the college and the institute. However, for Monterey faculty and staff, a division between the institutions described by some college faculty isn’t just less visible — it’s impossible. “Here in California, we can't help but be constantly thinking about Vermont. Everything that happens in Vermont totally affects our life.” Sawin said, noting that many decisions at MIIS can't be made "without thinking about Vermont first," but that college faculty aren't always obligated to think first of their California counterparts. Word traveled in pieces to MIIS after Middlebury’s faculty voted 122 for and 133 against ending the college’s relationship with the institute. Even though the motion lost, a nearly-split vote was a blow to morale at the institute, according to Sawin. “It was a depressing feeling around here,” Sawin said. The vote was especially disheartening in light of herculean efforts taken by institute faculty over the last several years to fit themselves into Middlebury by streamlining work, adjusting their jobs and cutting costs. MIIS reduced its full-time faculty from 84 to 71, 11 of them through a workforce planning process, last year, and the institute’s programs are currently well-enrolled despite an expected hit because of pandemic. However, Sawin said, the college’s faculty didn’t seem to be recognizing these painful belt-tightening measures and intense enrollment efforts. In reflecting on the climate at Middlebury that led to the vote, Sawin noted, “Either [college faculty] don’t know what we do, and we haven’t done a good job of telling our story,” Sawin said. “Or what if they know our story and they still think that what we do is not valuable?” Swenton’s proposition to move some current MIIS programs to the Vermont campus rather than eliminating them was met with mixed feelings. Sawin emphasized that while some faculty would be happy to do their job anywhere, many have a deep sense of pride about being Californians, and connect their academic work to the state and local environment. Sawin cited the institute’s close relationship to Silicon Valley, connections to Asia and the Pacific and research on oceans as some of the ways that the California location is integral to the work of its faculty. “We’re glad that you like us, and we get that ending our campus doesn’t mean you want to fire us and throw us into the street,” Sawin said. “But California is a big part of what we do, and what we are.” Swenton likens MIIS to an office of a company being moved, or employees being transferred to a different branch, and he says that expecting individuals to move for a job is “legitimate and not unexpected”. “I don't think it's an unreasonable ask,” he added. While moving operations to the Vermont campus may be plausible — if not academically practical — for the institute’s faculty, this strategy doesn’t present a contingency plan for staff in California, who would likely lose their jobs were the campus to be dissolved and its programs transplanted. Swenton acknowledges that job loss would likely occur, but says that this fact does not excuse the expenditures of maintaining MIIS. In his view, Middlebury bailing out a bankrupt Monterey on accreditation probation 15 years ago has already been a service to the employees of MIIS, but the college is not obligated to maintain that employment in perpetuity. “Would I say that for sure every single person who is used is working there, every single staff member and faculty member, would be moved over? I don't know, maybe that's part of the reason for the resistance,” Swenton said. From an administrative perspective, moving Monterey’s programs to Vermont isn’t on the table — in addition to the benefits of having a West Coast presence, David Provost says that the presence of 600 graduate students alone would be unsustainable for Addison County. “There isn’t housing stock in Addison Country to support 600 new individuals living here,” Provost said, noting that their existence would require massive new development. “Where would we put them? Where would they learn?” In addition to unrealistic infrastructure investments, Provost also noted that, without a doubt the closure of the Monterey campus would result in job losses for staff. He said that while he believes the college would hypothetically offer new jobs at the college to those staff first, asking those individuals to transplant from Northern California to the drastically different central Vermont would be logistically difficult for both those staff and the college and would lead to the widespread layoffs that the college has tried to avoid. Correction: An earlier version of this piece identified the wrong number of faculty who left MIIS through the workforce planning process. It was 11, not 13.
Proponents of the Sense of the Faculty Motion argue that such questions around keeping or releasing MIIS are necessary due to MIIS’ seemingly precarious financial situation. The motion references a staggering $100 million loss on the institute and suggests that cuts at the college were taken to subsidize expenses at MIIS. Further investigation into institute and college finances presents a more complicated budgetary situation. In 2005, when Middlebury and MIIS, then known as the Monterey Institute, began their affiliation, the college injected $7.4 million into MIIS for general improvements. In 2010, the college acquired the institute’s assets, which were valued at around $40–50 million at the time. Annual Middlebury College financial statements for the last 15 years are publically accessible through the College’s website. MIIS’ individualized financial statements are only available for the fiscal years of 2007, 2008 and 2009. The institute was profitable for all three years, and in 2008 held $24.7 million in long-term debt and $54.6 million in assets. In 2008, the college took on a total of $22.8 million of debt from MIIS. In 2009, the college operated at a loss before bouncing back to profitability in 2010. For the next few years, the college operated at a budget surplus. In 2014, the college began operating at a loss. The college’s Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration David Provost attributes this downturn to stagnant tuition prices, not MIIS. “My assessment is that [deciding to cap tuition increases at 1%] was fine, but there was no effort to control expenses going up at the same rate, and we saw expenses going up from 2013 to 2016 at the rate of five to seven percent,” Provost said in an interview with The Campus. Patrick J. Norton, the college’s Vice President for the Finance and Treasurer’s Office from 2008 to 2016, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Regarding claims about the size of MIIS’ role in the financial struggles of the last decade, Provost stated that from 2012 to 2020, the institute’s annual operating deficits only ranged from $2 million to $5 million while the college’s annual deficit ranged from $10 million to $22 million. “Strictly from a percentage standpoint…Monterey is contributing to about 20% of the financial struggle,” Provost clarified. In 2020, both the college and the institute were expected to break even on their budgets. While neither school did due to the pandemic, the institute is expected to break even in fiscal year 2021. In the motion, Swenton suggested that due to MIIS’ annual losses of $5–7 million as well as its $30 million of debt from 2005, the institute has accounted for “somewhere from seventy million to over one hundred million dollars” of debt service. Provost estimates that when accounting for MIIS’ earlier budget surpluses, that number is closer to $30 million. The $100 million number is a particularly popular, albeit incorrect, figure amongst those advocating for MIIS’ dissolvement, with multiple sources citing such a large deficit as their reason for supporting the motion. Many proponents of the motion point to the higher cost of living in California as a needless drain on college resources. At Middlebury College, the lowest hourly rate for staff in 2020 (the most recent year published) was $11.00/hr, Vermont’s minimum wage is now $11.75/hr. In 2019 (the most recent year published), the lowest hourly rate at MIIS was $12.00/hr; California’s minimum wage is now $14.00/hr. Opponents of the motion don’t dispute the operating losses of MIIS, but they do refute what they see as an “us or them” mentality and a lack of attention to student experience. “One thing that I really worry about when we have discussions like this is that I feel like they should be based more on student priorities versus who earns what,” said Jessica Teets, an associate professor of political science at the college. Others have a more pragmatic stance. “In defending MIIS, one of my colleagues said, ‘We’re a nonprofit — we’re not supposed to make money,’ which is true, but not relevant.” Bremser told The Campus. “For fifteen years, the college part of this nonprofit has been shifting resources to the Monterey branch, to make up for the fact that MIIS still can’t sustain itself.”
MIIS first appeared on Middlebury’s radar through a trustee connection in 2004. Later that year, the college conducted an exhaustive probe into the finances and academics of the institute. Liebowitz and a committee presented their findings and answered questions in March 2005, determining financial concerns to be outweighed by the expanded opportunities of affiliating with Monterey. “At the time of the merger, there was a strong emphasis on maintaining independence between the campuses,” Noah Graham, a professor of physics at the college, said, “both financially because many at the college were concerned about Monterey’s deficits, and academically because — as President Liebowitz put it at the time — we did not want to become like a university, where ‘undergraduate students compete with graduate students for the faculty’s time and attention — and usually lose.”’ Faculty at the time were given the sense that the institutions would remain financially and academically separate. In an email to The Campus, Priscilla Bremser, a professor of mathematics at the college, recalled that, “Ron Liebowitz and his team assured us that there would be a ‘firewall’ between the finances of the two institutions, that our reputation would be enhanced by the association, that Monterey would not be a distraction and that it was a good fit because … sorry, I found that argument so utterly unconvincing that I can’t even paraphrase it.” A Campus article from 2005 notes that “Liebowitz stressed that the final arrangement agreed upon is not an acquisition but an affiliation” in response to the overwhelming faculty disapproval. However, a 2010 progress report written by the college notes that the relationship “initially took the form of an affiliation, with the aim of a merger as the ultimate objective” if the affiliation was successful. By February 2008, Middlebury had notified the NESCAC of its intent to merge with MIIS. In a 2014 interview with The Campus, Liebowitz — with the benefit of nine years of hindsight — clarified his future goals for the relationship. “My hope, then, would be that students take advantage of the opportunities to combine a professional international education offered at Monterey with their undergraduate traditional liberal arts experience to the benefit of their post-college plans; that they would use the resources that Monterey offers for both advanced degrees and a robust, international-oriented network,” he said. Liebowitz, who left the college in 2015 and has been the president of Brandeis University since 2016, declined to answer questions from The Campus. A spokesperson wrote that “President Liebowitz and many other academic and administrative leaders at Middlebury worked together and with the Board of Trustees to bring about the affiliation with and acquisition of the Monterey (now Middlebury) Institute prior to his departure from Middlebury five years ago,” and directed questions about the relationship between the institutions to current administrators at Middlebury.
At the time that Swenton’s Faculty Motion was introduced, the full economic effects of the pandemic were still unknown. Fears of layoffs and pay cuts circulated among faculty and staff, and the college’s refunding of room and board only increased anxieties. After three years of painful “workforce planning” and austerity measures — including different health insurance options — the college was again staring down a sizable deficit. The college has since been able to maintain pay continuity across all employees, but hiring has been frozen since May. Facing pandemic-related financial belt-tightening, Swenton put forth a proposition that traded MIIS for financial stability at the college: “We, as the faculty of Middlebury College, resolve that before any further cuts in benefits, compensation, or staffing are made of faculty and staff, Middlebury should make clear plans to dissolve its campus in Monterey on some reasonable schedule, and to put a stop to additional investments in Monterey in the interim, as a sign of good faith,” the motion reads. But others see the Faculty Motion as something larger than just budgetary hand-wringing. “I think that it is indicative of a stubborn minority of the overall staff and faculty who have either never accepted the decision to buy MIIS in the first place, or have not had enough interactions with MIIS to understand what it's about, why it's special, and why it's worth saving,” Alex Newhouse ’17, a research lead at MIIS’ Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism, said of the Sense of the Faculty Motion. In an interview with The Campus, Swenton was clear on his motivations. “The whole reason for the motion was… a constant issue of money lost [at MIIS],” he said. “When we acquired [MIIS], it was back in the days of when the economy was doing well.” In May, however, under the threat of Covid-19-related losses like the chance that students would not want to come back in the fall, Swenton said that the college needed to make various financial decisions to stay afloat, and continuing to prop up Monterey struck him as a concern.