International Student & Scholar Services’ (ISSS) International Pre-Orientation, formerly known as International Early Arrival, celebrated its 20th year of programming this summer with the arrival of the biggest international class Middlebury has seen to date. For many international students traveling to Middlebury, the time is not only a transition into a new school, but also a new country, schooling system and culture. This fall, the college enrolled around 330 international students — around 50–60 more than usual — representing over 70 countries. The group of international students included members of the class of 2025, members of the class of 2024 who studied remotely in their first year, exchange students, U.S. citizens living abroad and international transfer students. The program ran from Sept. 2 to Sept. 6, after which international students joined the rest of the first-year class for the start of MiddView Orientation. Before the first international student orientation was held in 2001, international students arrived at the same time as U.S. students and had to juggle their regular orientation schedule with extra required sessions for students with a visa status. The start of International Pre-Orientation, with the help of Director of ISSS Kathy Foley, gave new students the opportunity to meet other international students while becoming familiar with campus resources. Pre-Orientation sessions also covered specific topics that affect international students, such as U.S. visa status, student employment, cultural adjustment and U.S. taxes. Arthur Martins ’22.5, early arrival student coordinator, said he thinks Pre-Orientation is important for creating a sense of community. “It’s very hard and jarring to travel and to arrive at a different culture alone in the middle of Vermont which is so isolated and foreign to a lot of people,” said Martins. “It’s important to have a space where you can acclimatize and foster a sense of community with people with similar backgrounds. There’s a sense of solidarity.” Program Arrival Leaders (PALs) helped run the pre-orientation program, leading their own smaller groups to facilitate different icebreakers, conversations and activities. “If I came here and was dropped into U.S. culture without this week, I think I would have had a lot of problems just immersing myself in friendships and getting social cues,” PAL Abed Abbas ’24 said. “Orientation prepares you just for that cultural shock.” Sessions regarding visa status and employment opportunities were held throughout the week, informing students about documentation and maintaining their status in the U.S., as well as talks on academics and U.S. culture. Along with the more informative programming, there were also activities designed to build community, including a trivia night, bonfire and dance party at the Kirk Alumni Center. “When they have identities beyond U.S. borders and U.S. culture… there's just so many different complexities to that, and [Pre-Orientation is] just simply space to sit in that, arrive, and start to explore, and then also help students get their bearings on resources and just what it's like to be in Vermont,” Assistant Director of ISSS Christy Fry said. Pre-Orientation continues to be a space for students from all over the world to begin grounding themselves in the Middlebury community. “It helps people get their mind, body and spirit in the right place and time zone,” Foley said. “And then they can be ready to go with everything else that's to come.”
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Since the 1960s, Middlebury has conducted intermittent diversity climate assessments every six to seven years, according to Chief Diversity Officer Miguel Fernández. The most recent of these initiatives is the Action Plan for Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, a multi-year plan published in September by the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (OIDEI). OIDEI began writing the plan in fall of 2019 and circulated the plan to key stakeholders in the spring. Like many of its predecessors, publication of the 2020 Action Plan followed a discrete campus or national event: in this case, the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolisis police officer last summer, which set off a fresh wave of protests about racial justice and equity in communities around the country. The plan is ambitious in both objective and scope, aiming to “identify and implement strategies that will engage the entire campus community in the work of fostering greater access, equity, inclusion, and full participation for Middlebury students, staff, and faculty.” Though Fernández and Directory of Equity and Inclusion Renee Wells spearheaded the Action Plan, they consulted numerous constituencies, including students, faculty, staff, administration, trustees, committees and alumni. They also looked at nearly two dozen reports, assessments and data to identify the institutional barriers that are mentioned in the report. From the feedback they received, the original plan underwent several iterations of revision. “Diversity plans often present lofty goals but lack specificity and strategy and therefore lead to ‘diversity clutter’ with a host of disconnected initiatives,” reads the Action Plan. To avoid these usual pitfalls and increase accountability, the Plan is broken into five foci: Faculty and Staff; Students; Fostering and Restoring Community; Accessibility; and Transparency and Accountability. For each of the 61 initiatives described, the Action Plan details the responsible units, a proposed timeline and a measure of accountability which delegates the responsibilities of the initiative. Still, the Action Plan introduction specifies the document should be viewed as a “roadmap,” not a “mandate.” When asked to confirm if strategies in the Plan would definitely be accomplished, Fernández acknowledged that fiscal realities as well as student and faculty initiatives could slightly shift the Plan’s approach. Wells said that the timeline may accommodate strategies as they become financially feasible. “Our goal is that all of this gets accomplished and more,” Fernández said. This Middlebury Campus investigation reports on the progress of the initiatives in the Action Plan with a particular focus on those with a proposed timeline of the 2020-2021 academic year. This project is split into five sections — one for each the Action Plan — and is the product of dozens of interviews with staff, students, committees and administrators. “The United States of America has not solved racism or issues of equity and inclusion in 200- plus years. I do not expect Middlebury will resolve it in five years,” said Fernandez in an interview with The Campus. “So I'm sure there is going to be plenty of work to do in five years, [but] I hope we'll be in a much better place.” Introduction by Hannah Bensen '21.
The Transparency and Accountability section of the Action Plan (Section V) was designed to assess and communicate progress towards strategic goals and ensure responsible parties complete them. The section also commits to ongoing assessment and planning to ensure the mission behind DEI continues into the future. Section V aims to create intentionality behind the work and enable the completion of tangible progress and goals rather than merely written promises, according to Director of Education for Equity and Inclusion Renee Wells. Of the 13 strategies in this section, two have been completed, seven are underway and four have not yet started due to a later timeline. The section differs from the rest of the plan due to the greater variety amongst the strategies. Many of the strategies are based on sharing progress and data, while others introduce key initiatives and projects to the college. This has made the Transparency and Accountability section more challenging to work on, according to Miguel Fernández. “The thing about this kind of work is that if there's no intentionality around being accountable and no process for being held accountable, it's really easy for stuff to just not get done,” Wells said. “So we're saying to ourselves that we need to be accountable for doing this work, but we're also saying to the community we need you to hold us accountable for doing this work. We're going to try to be as transparent in an ongoing way about where we're at, so that we don't just issue a plan and then assume that everything is magically happening, because that rarely is the case.” Communication with the college community is a central theme in the Transparency and Accountability section, and the opening strategy of the section commits to developing a communication plan to “ensure the centrality of diversity, equity and inclusion to Middlebury’s mission is clear and messaged both consistently and effectively.” “The communications plan to be developed will take into account the needs and voices of all Middlebury stakeholders and include all means of connection—letters to the community, podcasts, news and magazine stories, social media, press outreach, and more” David Gibson, vice president for communications, said. Four of the strategies in the section propose a timeline for the 2020-2021 school year, most of which are still currently in the works. Strategy #4 of the plan, one of the four of the 2020-2021 strategies, aims to create and maintain a dashboard that tracks progress towards institutional DEI goals and anti-racist initiatives. The Office of Institutional Diversity Equity and Inclusion (OIDEI), however, has had difficulty trying to create a proper model for the website, and a dashboard has not yet been made available to the community. “We have found that a dashboard is very hard to create when you don’t have numbers, this work is qualitative and not quantitative ...we have work to do in that area; we’re trying to improve our communication,” Fernández said. OIDEI has a mock-up for the dashboard and is working with Information Technology Services and the SGA Innovation and Technology committee to complete the project. While OIDEI works towards a way to properly present this material, Fernández has started a monthly update sharing information addressing aspects of the plan. These alternative forms of communication have included newsletters via email and webinars with students, alumni, parents and faculty. Both Fernández and Wells noted the importance of the dashboard in regards to creating transparency and accountability and hope it can be up and running soon. Two other 2020-2021 strategies include the creation of the Anti-Racist Taskforce (Strategy #7) and a DEI committee within the Board of Trustees (Strategy #8), both of which have been formed and are ongoing initiatives. The Anti-Racist Taskforce was created last fall and meets twice per month with a consistent group of 18 members comprised of faculty, staff and students. The force is divided into three working groups: funding transformative projects, launching an Anti-Racist learning hub in the Davis Library and creating a community dialogic standard. The task-force also facilitates monthly Story Circles, which seeks to understand the school’s collective history through sharing personal stories. “The Anti-Racist Task Force is interested in creating pathways towards anti-racism by educating and empowering individuals to evaluate their dependance on racist principles and ideologies,” Associate Professor of Dance Christal Brown, who heads the task force, said. “By creating personal accountability and relational understanding, we believe sustainable institutional change is possible; being accountable to one another is the first step.” In addressing strategy #8, the Board of Trustees voted to create a DEI subcommittee last October which reports to the Strategy Committee within the Board. The group had their first meeting as a subcommittee last January and plan on having more meetings to best identify ways the Board can align with and support efforts outlined in the DEI action plan. The fourth and final strategy for the 2020-2021 school year involves collecting and reporting out aggregate data on the diversity of students, staff and faculty. This data, however, will not be collected until the end of the academic year, according to Fernández A majority of the remaining plans have a later timeline, so many initiatives have not yet been implemented. This includes providing an annual State of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion address starting in the 2021-2022 school year (Strategy #5), hiring an external consulting firm to conduct campus climate studies (Strategy #9), and integrating inclusive excellence goals and benchmarks into the evaluation of senior academic and administrative leaders (Strategy #13). Other strategies, however, are in the early stages of progress and are more difficult to concretely track. Strategy #12, for instance, aims to “support unit-level efforts to identify and implement DEI goals and strategies relevant to individual departments, units, programs or offices.” Although it is more difficult to track the progress on strategies such as these, OIDEI is giving time for different departments to lay out their DEI goals. “I'm working with different departments and currently that's more of them reaching out proactively versus me reaching out to every department on campus. A lot of folks have been really trying to think about and identify what this support looks like in their respective units,” Wells said, in reference to Strategy #12. “Some of those are academic units, some of those are student affairs and student life units. So some of that work is already starting to happen.” Wells and Fernández both hope these goals within the Transparency and Accountability section will help create ongoing conversation and responsibility in the school’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion that goes beyond just numbers. “Diversity is about numbers and bringing people in, but the real work is in equity and inclusion,” Fernández said. “You can bring in all the people you want, and if they don't feel that they are a part of this community or a sense of belonging then what have you really achieved? You haven't achieved much right? And so the hard work as far as I'm concerned is that equity and inclusion.”
The college has approved a small number of students to cross state lines to get their Covid-19 shot as eligibility criteria — such as having certain pre-existing health conditions — in some students’ home states qualify them to receive the vaccine. Vermont’s rigid age-based rollout process has barred students who would otherwise be eligible for vaccines in other states to receive it in Vermont. Students and administrators alike also learned on Tuesday that out-of-state college students are not eligible to receive the vaccine in Vermont, which may result in an influx of student requests to leave the state for inoculation. While the official rules regarding travel for the spring semester restrict students from traveling outside of Addison Country, students may receive approval from Dean of Students Derek Doucet to travel to vaccination sites outside of Vermont. “We made the decision to treat requests to leave campus for vaccinations as we would other essential medical appointments,” Doucet said. There is no specific travel radius written in the rules, but appointments must be within reasonable driving distance for a day trip, according to Doucet. Any travel that would involve an overnight stay requires additional consideration and approval from the college, and the returning student would have to observe a seven-day room quarantine followed by a negative test. Matt Brockley ’23 made an appointment in his home state of New York shortly after arriving on campus — before Vermont had expanded vaccine eligibility to include those in his age group with certain chronic health conditions. He received his first dose in Plattsburgh on March 27. Brockley emailed the Dean of Students explaining his eligibility and was approved under the condition that he did not make any stops and traveled alone. Along with pre-existing conditions, some students have been vaccinated in states where they will be employed for the summer. This June, Willie Thacker ’23 will be working at a summer camp in New Hampshire, a state that included camp counselors as essential workers. Thacker received a letter of hire from his boss attesting his employment, which he then showed to both the college and the vaccination site in West Lebanon. But Thacker initially weighed whether off-campus travel was worth it if there was a possibility he could be vaccinated through the college. “I feel safe on campus, but I also feel that I’m more likely to get Covid at Middlebury than any other place I’ve been,” Thacker said. “If I knew for sure that the college was going to vaccinate us before we left, I probably would have waited for that.” Thacker did not know the college was granting out-of-state travel for vaccinations until another student mentioned it to him. Other students have had more difficulty scheduling vaccination appointments, especially those whose home states are not a short day-trip away. Erin Hogan ’21.5, who has type 1 diabetes, was eligible in her home state of New Jersey before leaving for the spring semester. However, she could not make an appointment without violating the two-week pre-arrival quarantine that all in-person learners were asked to complete before returning to Middlebury this spring. Hogan appreciates what the college has done in regards to constant testing and feels safe on campus, but thinks the college could have had better communication about vaccinations. “I wish the college had made the [vaccination] information more widely available. It kind of puts a burden on high-risk students to figure out this weird system by themselves which is frustrating,” Hogan said. Elizabeth Callaway ’21 is eligible in her home state of Tennessee due to asthma, a condition that Vermont does not include in the high-risk category for vaccination. Callaway also expressed frustration over the college’s lack of communication. “I would have really loved some assistance from Middlebury in figuring out where everyone places in the Vermont phases. At home I have a better sense for how to navigate it, but in Vermont, Middlebury really is our only contact,” Callaway said. The college has not yet changed any of its safety guidelines for vaccinated students. President Patton, Doucet and Dr. Mark Peluso stated in an email last Thursday that students who meet requirements in Vermont can register using the college address to demonstrate residency. However, Gov. Phil Scott announced on Tuesday that out-of-state college students are ineligible, contradicting the college’s guidance. Doucet and Peluso reaffirmed that students may seek approval to get vaccinated in their home state in an email update on Wednesday that also told students not to cancel existing in-state appointments.
Though the pandemic upended many of the college’s usual traditions and delayed the start of the spring semester, Middlebury nonetheless welcomed the new class of around 100 first-year Febs in the last full week of February. Much like the first years who arrived in the fall, the usual orientation experience was replaced by a room quarantine, online floor meetings and socially distanced gatherings. Plans for gap semesters were uprooted; for many students, this semester is their first time venturing from home since the onset of the pandemic nearly a year ago. First-year Febs are also navigating this new college reality — the only one they’ve ever known — with a slightly different perspective: They watched from afar last semester to see how Covid-19 shaped the Middlebury experience. Sylvie Shure ’24.5 felt relieved she was beginning college on a campus that successfully handled Covid-19 in the fall but expressed how transitioning into college life after an extended break has been an abrupt change, especially since the pandemic also cut short her senior year of high school. “A lot of our Febmesters were pretty empty, and it’s been difficult transitioning from a full year of nothing to full-on college,” Shure said. “It feels like a shock to the body.” The “Febmester” — the semester before Febs enroll in courses — is often a defining aspect of the Feb experience, and although some students were able to continue with their plans through outdoor education programs, the gap semester is not the go-to conversation starter it was for pre-pandemic first-year Febs. “It’s not something students are really bringing up in conversation because a lot of us are in similar boats,” Shure said. “I hardly ever talk about my Febmester with anyone. There’s a clear understanding that everyone had very different experiences than they expected.” Though the college experience has been transformed this year, new Febs’ biggest worry remained the same as in years past: integrating with the rest of the first year class. It’s not unusual for the Feb class to stick together during the first few weeks on campus, but the new Covid-19 restrictions make meeting new students even more difficult. Many students shared how they have not yet had the opportunity to meet Regs, but they hope that changes soon. “I’ve really appreciated the community of Febs, but meeting people outside of that group has been a challenge,” Jude Ceo ’24.5 said. “There are not a lot of spaces to meet new faces yet.” Finn Warner ’24.5 has had a similar experience. “I do wish we had the opportunity to know more Regs and were integrated into the community a little better,” he said. “It’s easy to feel separated from the rest of the class, especially with the Covid restrictions.” Febs’ experiences have also depended on where they are living on campus. Forest Hall, where all of the FebYCs reside, is home to many of the new students, including Ceo and Warner. Both were grateful to be living among so many Febs and felt they have been able to form bonds quicker because of it, despite the lack of interaction with Regs. Other housing has provided a very different experience. Battell, the largest residence hall for first-year students, is known for its active social scene, and reports of partying and Covid-19 protocol violations spread through campus the first weekend of the semester. Shure, who lives in Battell, believes most Febs stayed away from the parties since it was still their first week on campus. “It was surprising to hear everything that was happening [in Battell] but I mainly stayed in my room, so I stayed intentionally unaware,” Shure said. “Most of us don’t quite know how the rules are regulated and enforced yet.” The first-year Feb experience can create space for instant connections, and new students are grateful for the community that being a Feb provides — even amid the uncertainties of college during a pandemic. Breanna Guo ’24.5 had never been to Middlebury prior to arrival day and said she did not know much about the college before she stepped foot on its campus this spring. “I’ve really appreciated finally meeting new people and feeling productive again,” Guo said. “It’s been a really smooth transition, and I’m grateful for the Feb community.”
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests that spread throughout the nation last summer, many Middlebury students and organizations called for institutional change, demanding the school take action against racial injustice and create a more equitable community. Through letters, testimonials and calls to action, student activists shed light on the ways racial inequalities and injustices run deep at Middlebury as a predominantly white institution. The college has created a multi-year action plan detailing initiatives intended to address inequality on campus and promote anti-racism. Many of the new initiatives came after students voiced their concerns and called for change. We check in with writers of three op-eds to see if the administration has met their demands and how they feel about Middlebury’s progress toward becoming an antiracist institution. Concerned Students of Middlebury: Reevaluating Middlebury’s Record with Black Students By Concerned Students Of Middlebury Concerned Students of Middlebury (CSM), formerly Black@Midd, wrote a letter to President Laurie Patton, the members of the Senior Leadership Group (SLG) and the Middlebury College community in direct response to “the tone-deaf statement issued by the Office of the President on May 31,” which equated the Covid-19 pandemic and the effects of racism, calling them “two plagues”. The CSM letter, published in The Campus last June, discussed the offenses in President Patton’s initial letter addressing BLM, provided instances of when the college has been complicit in allowing racism on campus and offered immediate and long-term actions for administrators to take. Myles Maxie ’22, one of the authors of the letter, saw that there was very little institutional support for ensuring certain voices are represented, specifically in decision-making bodies. “I look back at my own history at Middlebury, researched previous history at Middlebury and saw that this [May 31 email] isn’t just a one-time failure of diction, it’s a failure of action historically,” Maxie said. Administrators met the set of immediate actions CSM called for, which asked that three separate emails be sent from the school: one issuing an apology and the two others listing different resources for students. The two other suggestions for this school year have also been well received, according to Maxie. Beginning last semester, the SLG started meeting monthly with a group of BIPOC students representing different cultural organizations to help identify needs and implement institutional change. CSM also asked that Middlebury designate a student or faculty member to represent communities of color within the Board of Trustees. The SGA appointed a second student constituent to the College Board of Advisors of the Board of Trustees near the end of the 2019–2020 school year. CSM and the SLG have discussed the possibility of redefining that role to accomplish CSM’s demand. Maxie hopes to have a concrete solution to this in March. Although the school responded well to the demands posed in the letter, further collaboration has often been difficult, according to Maxie. “There's a lack of clear communication from the institution. I don’t think it’s with malintent, but I do think it makes the student body feel more uncertain about the intention of those who have more ability to get things done,” Maxie said. Maxie believes the school could implement better timelines for institutional initiatives. He is satisfied with the college’s multi-year action plan, but thinks more guidelines and checkpoints are necessary in order to hold the administration accountable for their progress. CSM has also drafted a series of resolutions that were released throughout J-Term. “Our purpose is to provide an avenue for students who have been historically disenfranchised at Middlebury to have their voice heard and be able to construct meaningful ways of leading to change,” Maxie said. “We want a campus where maybe 20 years from now, 15 years from now, we don't need a CSM, because all needs of all students are being met, but as of now, that's just not the case.” Cops don’t belong on Middlebury’s campus By Middlebury Cops Off Campus Last July, Middlebury Cops Off Campus (MCOC) addressed a letter to President Patton, urging the administration to restructure the role of public safety on campus and dissolve Middlebury’s collaboration with police and private security. The letter claims that the presence of private security and punitive public safety systems place the most marginalized groups of the community at risk, and that these systems are “incompatible with Middlebury’s stated goal of advancing racial justice and anti-racism.” The letter concludes with various demands, including the group’s current primary goal of redirecting resources towards students’ overall wellbeing and prioritizing expertise in first aid, mental health and de-escalation. However, MCOC has been frustrated with the administration’s response to their calls for change. Following their letter, the administration redirected MCOC to the Community Council. Lynn Travnikova ’20.5, one of the organizers of MCOC and former co-chair of the Community Council, was disappointed by the administration’s lack of direct action. She believes some of their demands could have been implemented immediately and did not need to go through the long approval process of the Community Council. According to Travnikova, the administration was also not responsive to the group’s emails or requests for meetings, and MCOC has not been able to talk directly with the SLG. “They have the opportunity to hear from us, and they have the opportunity to listen to student voices, but by directing us to the Community Council, there seems to be an intentional delay in actually getting to what we have to say,” Chloe Fleischer ’21.5, another MCOC organizer, said. Due to the unusual fall semester, Community Council only held a few meetings, and MCOC did not meet with them until early December. Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration David Provost and Interim Director of Public Safety Dan Gaiotti were also present at the meeting. “We could tell from the things that David Provost was saying that there is a massive misunderstanding about what we’re asking for,” Travnikova said. “They focused a lot more on the idea of cops and talking about Middlebury’s relationship with the police department, when most of our focus and energy has gone towards Public Safety.” Travnikova believes this misunderstanding may come from the polarization of the issue in the national sphere and from a lack of true engagement with the issue beyond the name of the group. According to Fleischer, Provost claims he wants to reform the Public Safety Department, but that the administration is having a lot of these conversations behind closed doors. “As long as these conversations continue in private, it seems to me very unlikely that things are going to get that much better because there isn't really a clear understanding of what needs to happen,” Fleischer said. “They're functioning with a misunderstanding of the problem, so any solutions will be based on an incomplete picture of what we're asking for.” MCOC is still committed to transforming the way public safety looks on campus and holding Middlebury accountable to their pledges of anti-racism. “They see us as these bright young people who want to change the world, and I just want them to empower us,” Remi Welbel ’22, an MCOC organizer, said. “They want us to translate that to changing the world. Let us translate that to changing Middlebury.” Can you hear us now, President Patton? By Kaila Thomas and Rodney Adams Last September, Kaila Thomas ’21, planned a community protest in less than 24 hours, following the verdict that none of the Louisville police officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor would be charged for her death. Over 500 people, including students, faculty and community members, attended the protest. On Oct. 1, Thomas and Rodney Adams ’21 published a letter addressed to President Patton, denouncing her absence from the protest. Adams also shared his story from the evening after the protest, when he was the target of a racial slur by another Middlebury student. There were a number of demands in the letter, including asking for a Black Public Safety officer, a Black faculty and staff recruitment program and a working body composed of Black students to help create anti-racism programming on campus. Thomas said she and President Patton met following the open letter, and Thomas expressed her frustration with the college’s minimal acknowledgement of the success of the protest. “The racial event that happened with Rodney, it overshadowed the protest, which is totally fine, but then the administration solely focused on the tragedy rather than the accomplishment,” Thomas said. “If the institution wants to be anti-racist, they can’t just focus on the tragedies that happen. They need to focus and celebrate the accomplishments that also happen towards racial equity.” According to Thomas, all of the demands from the letter have been met or are in the process of being met, with the exception of the hiring of a Black public safety officer. Thomas is also part of JusTalks, a peer-led initiative that examines structural inequalities on campus. In advancing the college’s commitment to anti-racism, JusTalks partnered with the Feb orientation, where all incoming students were required to attend one of their conversations. “We want to start really prioritizing racial diversity, equity and inclusion type of courses with these incoming classes,” Thomas said. Thomas is unsure, however, about the plans to make these types of courses available for everyone but hopes they can be implemented soon. “I think they should work towards immediate change, and I know that that's difficult sometimes momentarily […] but I do think that the students of color on campus mostly want immediate change,” Thomas said. Thomas is mostly satisfied with Middlebury’s response so far, but acknowledges all the work that remains. She also understands the school has a lot to handle amid the pandemic.
Every Middlebury student who arrived on campus last week found a bag stuffed with snacks, beverages and non-perishable treats in their room. These bags, along with the packaged meals delivered during the first few days of campus quarantine, were the product of the hard work of Middlebury’s dining staff — some of whom worked overtime or more than seven days in a row — to feed students during their arrival room quarantine. Staff were tasked with cooking food, assembling bags and boxes in Nelson Recreation Center, loading food onto trucks and delivering the meals to dorms. “For us as cooks and service employees, it was just a matter of showing up when and where we were told to,” Atwater Cook Patricia McCaffrey said. “I can only liken it to a military operation on a certain level. We were broken down into small teams, likely with people you haven’t worked with before, and given a task to accomplish.” McCaffrey worked nine days in a row and worked overtime on three of those days. Ross Cook Starrin Ricupero worked 12 days in a row, with about half of them exceeding the usual eight-hour workday. But the dining staff had anticipated these long hours. “They let us know in advance that we might be having a long stretch and that we might be having a few long days that are more than eight hours,” Ricupero said. Staff members received overtime pay, except certain salaried managers and head chefs. The preparation for dining started before the break, according to Dan Detora, executive director of food service operations. Managers and head chefs completed the initial menu planning several weeks before students arrived and calculated the quantity of food and containers. Changes from last semester’s preparations increased the work for staff this spring. In the fall, the “swag bags” were not offered, students were tasked with carrying their own snack bags from the testing center and groups of students who arrived to campus early — such as ResLife staff and MiddView leaders — helped with meal delivery. Except for a small number of students approved to be on campus during J-Term, all students returning for the spring term arrived during a two-day window, so no students were available for delivery assistance. Staff began assembling the snack bags on Monday, Feb. 15 in the Nelson Center. The following days were designated for packing and delivering bags and 2.5-gallon jugs of water to each dorm prior to students' arrival. Beginning Feb. 19, work shifted to packaging meals which students received in quarantine until Wednesday Feb. 24. Dietary restrictions and last minute adjustments made delivering meals challenging. “The big issue with delivering the meals is the number of hands and ears information has to go through,” Atwater Cook Gabriel Austin said. “The constant last minute changes to dietary needs or room changes made things more difficult.” As students finished room quarantine, staff immediately returned to the dining halls to prepare for Feb. 25, the day dining halls opened and meals were no longer delivered. The quick turn-around resulted in many consecutive work days for the dining staff. “It was a very busy week and the project took a great amount of work,” McCaffrey said. “But at the end of the day, we made it through.”
Eighteen new security cameras have been installed around campus to update the college’s security system following the approval from the 2019–20 Community Council. After discussing concerns related to privacy and which groups the use of the camera footage disproportionately affects, the council came to an understanding that they would be placed outside of buildings rather than indoors to prioritize surveillance of external threats and not Middlebury students themselves. “The hesitancy, and everyone on the council agreed, was that cameras disproportionately affect BIPOC students, so we didn’t want the implementation of these cameras to serve as a way to unjustly punish BIPOC students on campus,” SGA Vice President Roni Lezama ’22 said. Lezama co-chaired the Community Council for the 2019–20 academic year, when the body approved the installation of the cameras. However, cameras have been installed both inside and outside of McCullough. Interim Director of Public Safety Dan Gaiotti, who is new to his role as Director of Public Safety this year, says he was not aware that the Community Council had come to this understanding. Security cameras had been a priority for the Department of Public Safety for several years before the installment project officially began last December. The plan was first introduced to the Middlebury community in an email sent in September of 2019. The announcement framed the cameras as a safety improvement for the campus and as a response to concerns raised by the community. “Cameras are standard practice at our peer schools and 90 percent of colleges and universities around the country. Public Safety's research drew attention to the importance of cameras for safety and security, Community Council endorsed their installation, and cameras are part of our efforts to adhere to best practices in campus safety,” Gaiotti said. The project was interrupted by the campus closure in mid-March but was completed upon students' arrival this fall. Signage posted in McCullough alerted students of the cameras’ implementation. To date, 18 cameras have been installed — 16 at McCullough and two at Bicentennial Hall. “Information obtained from security cameras is used for safety and security purposes, and for investigations pertaining to violations of law and Middlebury policies,” Gaiotti said. The specific functions of security cameras include deterrence and detection of violations, property protection and investigative assistance. In the event of a crime or policy violation occurring near a camera, Public Safety would review the footage to determine if it contains any information that would assist in the investigation. The number of theft reports varies throughout the semester, according to Giaotti. So far, Public Safety has only reviewed camera footage once this semester, after a report that laser projectors were stolen outside McCullough in late October. The college’s Camera Policy Statement states that audio is not recorded through the camera system and that visual recordings are only stored for up to 30 days. Security cameras on campus have been a topic of controversy in the past. In 2015, the Community Council voted against a proposal to install new cameras, and concerns about privacy, trust and over-policing led to pushback from students. Spray-painted messages such as “no camera” appeared around campus following the proposal. These sentiments resonated with current students. “Having security cameras on campus sets a precedent that Middlebury doesn’t trust their students the same way they do academically with the Honor Code,” Jenny Gold ’23 said. “I think this notion of mistrust affects the relationship between the administration and students. Personal responsibility over belongings is important, and I feel students can assess that themselves.” Although Gould understood that mistrust may not be the intended message behind the cameras, she believed that is how many students would perceive it. The camera use, however, goes beyond small incidents of theft within the community. Administrators also pushed for installation as a response to an increase in mass shootings nationwide over the years. “[The administration’s] interest was not in monitoring what students are up to. They cared more about what was happening on the outside, if there [were] a threat to campus,” Lezama said. A major point of contention was the issue of which groups the use of camera footage would most likely target. The 2015 down-vote was in large part to prevent over surveillance of BIPOC students on campus. The 2019 council also drew attention to hyper-policing of BIPOC students and how these cameras could perpetuate an oppressive system of surveillance towards certain students. In addition to cameras, police reform on campus has also been a major topic of discussion this semester following national protests against police brutality and systemic racism. These campus initiatives, however, have not been connected to the new security cameras. The Department of Public Safety intends to install additional cameras, although the details are not yet finalized. “There are plans to add more cameras in the future,” Gaiotti said. “The timeframe for installation will depend on several factors, including availability from the vendor.”
Middlebury enforced restrictions for student employment and on-campus jobs this semester, prioritizing students who are awarded Federal Work Study through their financial aid package for on campus work. David Provost, the executive vice president for finance and administration, and Karen Miller, vice president for human resources, announced that there would be fewer work opportunities for students this semester in an all-school email sent this past July. “Due to the drastic reduction in available positions for the coming Fall semester, student employee supervisors may hire only aid recipients for their open positions, this includes rehiring past student workers,” the email said. Students who apply to work in fall 2020 must be awarded Federal Work Study or College Job aid. Federal Work Study is awarded to students as part of their financial aid package and is determined by Student Financial Services. “The intent of the student employment criteria for fall 2020 was to ensure that Middlebury could meet the obligation of employment availability to Federal Work Study and College Job students, the populations with the greatest need,” Miller said. Due to these restrictions, many departments have seen significant job cuts. Customer service positions located in offices have drastically been reduced due to office closures. Departments that typically host large events, such as athletics, have also been impacted because large gatherings are not permitted. Other areas like dining services, however, have increased their capacity for student positions in order to comply with new safety requirements. Of the 737 students employed by the college this semester, 415 are Federal Work Study recipients. Despite the new hiring guidelines, the college still employs some students who do not receive aid. This was necessary for certain jobs that required past experience. Shawn O’Neil, the Circulation Specialist at Armstrong Library, said the library needed fully trained students to adjust to the new work demand this semester. “We got approval to hire a couple of experienced workers who were not on Work Study. This is due to the workload at the libraries exceeding what we could manage with only Work-Study students,” O’Neil said. Covid-19 restrictions have also changed the duties of many job positions. Julia McClain ’22 works at the Athletics Center this semester, where ensuring safety and health is her primary responsibility. “Due to Covid, we have to wipe down all equipment during a cleaning period after each hour-long session,” McClain said. “We also have to check everyone in, check their Policy app and monitor to make sure people are wearing masks and distancing.” Crossroads Café opened for the first time this semester on Sept. 30 and has also seen changes to its operations. “This year we are not open as late and have fewer shifts, so we have fewer total employees,” Co-manager of the café Luisa Vosmik ’21 said. “However, we did have to hire quite a few new workers this fall to make up for baristas who are not on campus this semester or do not have Work Study.” The training process also looked different for Crossroads employees this semester. “We've all had to go through training for Crossroads this fall, even if we're a returning employee,” Zachary Varricchione ’21 said. “We've had a lot of online training with Covid Worker Safety and reading about new policies we'll have to work under.” Today there are currently 90 open positions posted online for student applicants. Out of these current postings, 63 are open to all students, though many of the remaining positions require applicants with specific skills. Students can apply to open positions at go/findajob.
Middlebury Language Schools, MiddCORE and the Bread Loaf School of English, among other summer programming, will be taught through remote instruction this summer, while the School of the Environment in China, the Museum Studies Program in Oxford, and several other Middlebury summer programs have been canceled, according to an April 17 announcement from Provost Jeff Cason. “We were most concerned to provide academic continuity and the possibility of degree completion for our largest summer programs: the Language Schools and the Bread Loaf School of English,” Cason wrote in an email to The Campus. Rachel Lu ’23, was excited to attend the French Language School this summer to meet the language requirement to study-abroad in France, until she heard of the change to remote and withdrew from the program. “My biggest concern for online school is that the immersive experience would be compromised,” she said. “I think Language Schools are tested and proven because of the environment it creates, but there is no way that can be replicated in front of a computer screen, unfortunately.” According to the Language School website, programs will only run if there is enough interest for each online course. Tuition will remain the same, but room and board costs will be eliminated. Cason said he has received significant positive feedback when the switch to remote learning was announced for both Bread Loaf and Language Schools. He predicts that the online model will draw in new students, including alumni, who can now participate in the programs from wherever they are located. After Mariana Zieve-Cohen ’23 learned of the switch to online, she decided to apply to the Spanish Language School. “As I spend all year in Vermont on Middlebury’s campus, I did not want to spend my summer there,” she said. “But with it online, I can stay home while also participating in the program.” She said she works well at home, so is not very concerned about being about to focus on the material, but is wondering how practicing speaking will be affected. “Remote learning is more accessible for many students so in that sense I think there are benefits,” said Zieve-Cohen. Still, Cason anticipates lower enrollment at the Language Schools this summer. This could pose a financial burden to the college, depending on the final enrollment numbers. “Normally, the summer programs provide a significant boost for the college in financial terms,” Cason said. This will add to the already large financial impact of Covid-19 on the college. Associate Dean of the Language School Per Urlaub and Director of Enrollment Molly Baker commented on how the shift to remote learning is changing preparation for the summer classes. “Preparing for the Language Schools is always a demanding process since we have so many moving parts to create a top-level curriculum, engaging co-curricular activities, and an environment for students with all the tools they need to succeed,” they wrote in an email to The Campus. Moving the program online not only creates many of the same challenges, but also presents hurdles with technology and engaging students from a distance. But Urlaub and Baker do feel optimistic about the continued success of the program and the faculty’s ability to take on the new challenge of going remote. “At Middlebury, we are very fortunate to have the absolute best language faculty in the world,” they wrote. “Teaching online will be a new model for some of them and provides an invitation to experiment, but virtually all of them routinely use technology in sophisticated ways at their home institutions to engage with their students.” While mindful of the limitations technology and remote learning present, including less ability to expose the students during co-curricular activities to their target language and provide them with constant feedback throughout the day, Urlaub and Baker say the faculty and staff are up for the task and that the programs will have the same “rigorous spirit” and “intensive standards” as they always do. In addition to the Language Schools, the Bread Loaf School of English will also be offering online classes. Cason noted that it was important to continue these classes, since some of the masters students were planning on completing degrees this summer. But two of the three Bread Loaf Writers' Conferences have been cancelled. This includes the Translators' conference and the Environmental Writers' conference, both of which take place in June. A decision about the August Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference will be made in June. "I have generally asked our staff to hold on making preparations for the August conference until we hear further instructions from Middlebury’s senior management and their Crisis Management Team." said Jennifer Gotz, director of the writers' conference. "However, since we have officially canceled our June conferences, our staff is hard at work on that and on setting up some virtual programming that we are hoping to offer," Gotz said. These programs will be free and open to the entire community.
Fran and Spence Putnam, local climate activists and community members of the Sunday Night Environmental Group (SNEG), spoke Friday afternoon about their recent research trip to Scandavia and Iceland. The talk, titled “Climate Action and Social Democracy—Lessons Learned from the Nordic Countries” discussed their five week, self-designed study tour of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland, where the couple researched these countries’ climate policies. The Putnams cited activist George Lakey, author of “Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Right and How We Can, Too,” as a source of inspiration for their trip. They had never visited the Nordic countries before and were fascinated by the countries’ economic systems. “The Nordic model emphasizes society-wide risk sharing and the use of a universal social safety net to help their citizens,” Fran said. “From our observations, we would say that the Nordic model appears to be working and that it has support from all four coutries we visited.” Components of the model include a very strong commitment to free education, generous family leave, child care, elderly care and strong social infrastructure. These programs are funded through high tax rates. The presenters said that while taxing is a point of contention in the United States, many citizens in the Scandanavian countries don’t mind the higher tax rates — almost double taxes in the United States. “We did not hear complaints about the tax burden. We asked that question specifically many times,” Fran said. “We would ask people what they thought about the tax rates and they would say ‘I think they’re fair’ or ‘I don’t mind paying the taxes as long as I know what I’m getting for it.’” Zoe Booth ’23.5, who attended the talk, said she was intrigued by the contrast between how people in the US and people in the Scandanavian countries view their taxes. “The reality that people in the Scandanavian countries do not oppose them because they understand the causes differs greatly to the reality here,” Booth said. The Putnams’ presentation focused on two communities that are taking large steps towards combating climate change. The island of Samsø in Denmark operates almost entirely on renewable energy from wind turbines and conserves energy through thermal efficiency. Akureyri, a small town in Iceland, is currently transitioning to become carbon neutral and derives much of its energy from geothermal and hydropower. Both Samsø and Akureyri used communal decision-making tactics to reduce their carbon emissions, making sure town members were participating in the initiative. The towns implemented the co-op model so that people could own shares in public utilities such as wind turbines. Spence believes many ideas from the Nordic model can be adapted to fit Addison County. Like the Nordic countries, Middlebury is a small place with a strong local identity and accessible government entities. “We feel that Akureyri in particular has some lessons that can be applied here in Vermont,” he said. Spence hopes more group decision-making will be incorporated in decision-making in Addison County and in greater Vermont. He described how Green Mountain Power, an energy transformation company in Vermont, is looking to make the state carbon neutral by 2030, while the Climate Economy Action Center of Addison County is also trying to take steps to model the Nordic countries as much as possible. “The high functioning and faith in government allows the Nordic countries to tackle problems like climate change,” Fran said. “People aren’t constantly worrying about where their next problem is coming from, so they have the bandwidth to confront some of these big issues.” The presentation concluded by offering steps community members can take to help combat climate change, including putting pressure on the state legislature to help pass the Climate Solutions Act, measuring and reducing your own carbon output and making more efficient transportation and food choices. Although she emphasizes the importance of individual action, Putnam hopes the Nordic countries can be a good symbol of the change that can happen when communities come together. “The presentation gave me some hope in the sense that it gave an example of somewhere that was able to find enough political stability to do something about climate change, which I don’t think we have yet. And I think that’s one of the keys we’re missing in this equation,” Grayson Barr ’23.5, who also attended the event, said.