“Springtime at Middlebury College typically finds students packing away their parkas, cuffing their jeans, and finding any excuse to bask in the wavering spring sunshine — perhaps too eagerly for the still-frigid weather. But this past semester was one like no other.” Last spring, when students enrolled in Erin Davis’s Film and Media Culture course, Podcasting the Past: Leisure Time and Middlebury College, they expected to spend a good deal of time in the College archives, researching student leisure activities across Middlebury’s history. The idea was that they would then create podcast episodes that would fuse contemporary commentary with historical examples. However, when the pandemic hit and the campus closed in March, the students discovered that rather than extracting material from the archives they would be contributing to it. Middlebury Magazine and The Middlebury Campus are thrilled to collaborate on a joint publishing venture in which we will share student work that was created for this course and has found a home in the College archives.The Campus’ podcast episode is produced and narrated by Editor-at-Large Sadie Housberg ’21 and features work from both now-graduated and current students Adian Acosta ’20.5, Benjamin Rivitz, Olivia Green ’20, Benjamin Barrett ’20.5, Olivia Bravo ’20, Aman Deol ’20, Jacob Shashoua ’20 and Emily Ballou ’21, in order of appearance. Professor Davis gave each student prompts to describe their life at home in the early days of sheltering in place; the result is a compilation of self-portraits, life in isolation. The Campus is presenting all of the portraits at once while Middlebury Magazine is presenting each individually and serialized. They will be posting to the magazine’s Dispatch channel through August. The Middlebury Campus · In Isolation, Audio Portraits from Spring 2020
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William Garrett Nash lived without fear. His family and friends will remember him for his ability to live with joy in the present, his passion for innovating and the boundless love he held for those around him. Will died on March 7 at Middlebury. He was 21 years old. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]The world needs fearless people like Will Nash. They are our risk takers, our astronauts, our explorers, our entrepreneurs and our front-of-the-line first responders.[/pullquote] Will grew up in San Anselmo, California with his twin brother, Drew, and younger sister, Cate. At Middlebury, he studied economics and Spanish, competed on the track and field team in pole vaulting through his sophomore year, and spent summers and much of his free time pursuing entrepreneurship. “The world needs fearless people like Will Nash. They are our risk takers, our astronauts, our explorers, our entrepreneurs and our front-of-the-line first responders,” said Ross Sullivan, his pole-vaulting coach at Sir Francis Drake High School. On the track, Will was intrepid. His mother, Kristen Nash, recalled that after watching the 2012 Olympics, Will decided he wanted to become a pole vaulter. And so, he did. “By the start of his senior year in high school he was the leading vaulter in our county and third on our school’s all-time list,” Sullivan said. That same year, a basketball-stunt-induced accident left casts on both of Will’s arms, putting an almost certain end to his high school vaulting career. But rather than accept defeat, Will spent the next several months training for speed and strength — broken arms and all. His casts were taken off right before the county meet and he still managed to qualify for California’s NCS Redwood Empire Championship Track Meet, where he finished runner-up. “I have seen a lot of gutsy things in the 10 years I’ve coached pole vault, but without a doubt, watching Will on that day stands out from all others,” Sullivan said. At Middlebury, he would achieve his personal record in pole vault, qualifying for the NESCAC Championship his sophomore year. In the classroom, Will could be a quiet student, but you would be mistaken to assume that he wasn’t engaged, said Middlebury Economics Professor David Munro. “When he shared, it was often some of the most insightful thoughts and questions which enriched our discussions,” Munro said. “He was a searcher, reflecting with care on the meaning of our reading and our collective work,” said Jonathan Isham, an economics and environmental science professor. Outside of his studies and athletic pursuits, Will was constantly innovating. Known as the “idea man” among his group of lifelong friends from elementary school, Will was always coming up with shenanigans or new business ideas. He could be found designing desks with built-in toasters or discussing ideas for a craft brew label with his father, Lenny Nash. This entrepreneurial spirit continued to flourish at Middlebury. Will was selected for MiddCORE, an intensive experiential-learning program for leaders and innovators. Along with close friend and roommate Ayman Quadir ’20, he founded Semi Aquatics, a luxury streetwear brand focused on sustainable sourcing, in November of 2019. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]Will embraced the possibility of failure better than anyone I know. He welcomed risk and adventured into the unknown with the wisdom of someone far beyond his years.[/pullquote] It was Will’s fearlessness and creativity that made him so well-suited to the temperament of a true entrepreneur. “Will embraced the possibility of failure better than anyone I know. He welcomed risk and adventured into the unknown with the wisdom of someone far beyond his years,” said Blaine Shira, Will’s older cousin. “I can only hope that at the end of my life, I have lived as much as Will did in his far too short, but full life.” Whether it was skiing on the Alpine Meadows Big Mountain team in high school, rallying his friends for endless games of pick-up basketball or chasing wild boars in Spain, Will packed his days with action and adventure. Venturing far from his childhood home, Will lived in Barcelona with his family during his eighth-grade year, and studied abroad in Madrid during his junior year at Middlebury. “His spirit of adventure was awesome. His humor was the best kind: quick and dry,” said his mother Kristin Nash. “But mostly, his capacity to love his family and his friends was beautiful and big.” Above all, Will’s friends and family remember him as a true companion. He cultivated friendships with the same devotion and passion with which he approached entrepreneurial endeavors and athletic feats. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]His innate freedom to explore and appreciate each moment, and to love so easily and completely, is the stuff that people might meditate for years to experience, but to Will it came naturally.[/pullquote] Will remained close with a group of friends from his hometown – the self-proclaimed “Selmo Crew” — but made new friends easily wherever he went, whether at Middlebury or in Barcelona. Even as a kid, he never wanted to leave anyone out, Kristin Nash said. Childhood sleepovers would often entail pitching a tent and unrolling tons of sleeping bags to make enough room for everyone. “His innate freedom to explore and appreciate each moment, and to love so easily and completely, is the stuff that people might meditate for years to experience, but to Will it came naturally,” Stephanie Nash, his aunt, said. Friends at Middlebury attest to Will’s huge capacity to love. “He’d always be down to play one more round of NBA 2K, to stay up one more hour on a Saturday night, to cook one more meal in our suite even if GrilleMe was on the way,” Christian Chiang ’20 said. His circle of friends was deep and close, Chiang said, and to those who loved him, Will reciprocated a generous and true friendship. “Will was the life of the party,” said his friend Christopher Woodburn ’20. “I don’t know a better way to describe him than that.” “Above all else, he had a big heart,” added Chiang. “I don’t think there was any room for negativity in his life; he was always occupied with living his life to the fullest.” The Nash family hosted a virtual candle-lighting ceremony on Wednesday, April 29 – Will’s birthday — to celebrate his life. He would have been 22. They remembered him on this day by taking in one of his favorite sights — the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean — and making lamb and beef Bolognese, one of his favorite recipes that he learned from his friend Ayman. “Will was a friend to everyone. He lived fearlessly and on his own terms,” Kristin Nash said. “Although I was his mother, Will was one of my greatest teachers; he embodied everything I wish I could be. Now I will live everyday trying to live that way for him.” Nash is survived by his parents Kristin and Lenny Nash; his twin brother Drew Nash, also 21, a senior at Wake Forest University; and his younger sister Cate, 19, a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley. A video recording of the memorial service held in Will’s honor at Middlebury this March can be found here. The college will award him a posthumous bachelor's degree in economics. Will’s family has set up a William G. Nash Memorial Fund in Will’s honor, dedicated to promoting wellbeing among Marin County youth. To learn more about donating to that fund, please click here.
After wrapping up the college's year-long workforce planning initiative this May, a process that saw 37 staff members take voluntary buyouts and caused a redistribution of workload among remaining staff, administrators announced via email to all college employees that the process had been a success — Middlebury could reduce its deficit without resorting to layoffs. But an external email sent to facilities staff on Aug. 8 suggests the starkly different story, that some workers didn’t think workforce planning had been so “voluntary” after all. “Middlebury Needs a UNION! -read on your break” the subject line of the email said. It spelled out some of the pitfalls of the workforce planning process: Staff felt voiceless, overworked with insufficient pay, and as though the ground had been pulled from beneath them when they were offered buyouts and switched into new roles. Facilities staff specifically — those who work in maintenance and operations jobs, like custodial and groundskeeping services, as well as jobs in planning, design and construction — have reported to The Campus feeling exhausted and frustrated by failures in communication, too-long hours and last minute call-ins. “I don’t know a bunch about unions — still don’t,” one facilities staff member said. “But I know the way that people get treated here. I’ve seen it. I just feel like we’ve got to do something.” Throughout the summer, the email’s sender, David Van Deusen of the Rutland-based branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), met with facilities staff who sought to discuss how organizing a union would mitigate the heightened voicelessness brought on by the workforce planning process. Not enough facilities staff have signed union authorization cards to trigger a vote to organize. Many said they see this as a sign that union efforts have failed. But Van Deusen remains adamant that efforts are ongoing. And facilities staff are insistent that something has to give. Most of the 12 facilities workers The Campus spoke with for the story spoke on the condition of anonymity, for fear of retribution from peers and upper management. Workforce planning raises “unanswered questions” Most Middlebury students don’t know what workforce planning really means. But for staff, the process — which the college announced in June 2018 as a way to cut personnel costs and distribute work more efficiently — was ever-present for the better part of a year. Department managers were tasked last fall with leading discussions within their divisions about how they could reorganize work more efficiently and cost-effectively, with the aim of shrinking staff compensation costs by 10% amidst an exigent budget deficit. That winter, senior leadership, in collaboration with human resources, finalized a list of positions that they would cut based on those findings. The college identified 150 staff positions to be eliminated, though 100 of that number were “were already vacant through attrition and restrictions on re-hiring over the last few years,” The Campus reported in May. In February of 2019, the college handed out applications for buyouts — formally called Incentivized Separation Plans (ISP) — to 79 staff members, in hopes of cutting 45 of the remaining positions. Twenty-eight of those applications were offered to facilities and dining staff specifically. The college sent more applications for the buyouts than were necessary, in the hopes that enough staff would elect to take them and the college would not have to resort to involuntary layoffs. If more staff than necessary applied, the most senior staff were offered buyouts first. The college also created “close to 40” new staff positions based on needs identified during work reevaluations, according to Vice President of Human Resources Karen Miller. Applications for those positions were first made available to the staff who were offered buyouts, giving them the option to apply to stay at the college, rather than taking ISPs. To protect the privacy of the individuals who opted to take buyouts, the college has not made public the list of eliminated and added positions. Ultimately, 37 staff took the buyouts, nine of whom were employees within facilities and dining. The college had hoped more staff would apply, but the number proved sufficient — the college did not have to resort to layoffs. “This process has been both lengthy and challenging, and caused many in our community significant uncertainty and discomfort,” said President Laurie Patton in a May email to staff. “Thanks to your participation, the process was successful.” Last year, The Campus reported growing anxieties among staff as they waited to hear from the administration about the futures of their jobs. For staff in some departments — like dining, in which a natural reduction of positions left few to be forcibly cut — these uncertainties have since mostly subsided. But in facilities, anxieties have subsisted. In some cases, they have worsened. “There were a lot of unanswered questions. There still are a lot of unanswered questions,” said one Middlebury facilities staff member, a supporter of the union. A 2017 survey, administered by the consulting firm ModernThink, shows that staff discontent surged even before workforce planning began. That survey showed frustration with communication from the Senior Leadership Group — Patton’s 17-member advisory council — a lack of transparency with decision-making and dissatisfaction with compensation, among other areas. Still, workforce planning seems to have exacerbated many staff concerns. Some, for example, are frustrated with how work has been redistributed since some positions were cut, which has caused employees to feel overworked and underpaid. “The work amped up with fewer people to do it,” said the aforementioned facilities staff member. “A lot of the extra stuff is taking away from the stuff that we need to do daily.” The worker said he was frustrated with what he felt was a murky process. Decisions about the “voluntary” process were often made behind closed doors, he said, and the redistribution of work showed a lack of understanding about the work being done. “There was nothing voluntary about it,” he said. Norm Cushman, vice president for operations, said communication can be a challenge in a department with so many workers. “It would have been very difficult to have solicited everyone’s input,” he said. Cushman said the process of work redistribution will play out piecemeal, as employees who took buyouts gradually leave the college and their departments develop strategies for how to “do less with less.” Low pay forces employees who work two jobs into a “balancing act” The Campus has previously reported low wages as a source of dissatisfaction among employees. Separately, pro-union staff who spoke to The Campus said low wages were a major reason they sought to organize. Many employees have to hold multiple jobs to survive. That balancing act, another facilities employee said, can become incredibly burdensome when workloads at the college are also increased in light of workforce planning. When many facilities staff did not show up to work after an unexpectedly severe snowstorm last year, for example, administrators questioned staff priorities. “We had a meeting with a manager who was extremely unhappy because a lot of people weren’t here helping,” the employee said. “He told us that if we had second jobs, we needed to not go in and instead had to come in and shovel.” The college has consistently framed workforce planning as a way to make staff feel more invested in the future of the institution. But according to staff, it doesn’t always feel like that. “Yeah, you could say workforce planning is for us, because now [the college is] financially sustainable,” said Staff Council President Tim Parsons. “But if you’re only making $12.07 an hour and your shift in the custodial wing starts at 4 a.m., workforce planning doesn’t really feel like it’s for you.” These low wages have led to shortages in some areas, like custodial and recycling services. To address these shortages, the college is currently spearheading a compensation review with an external consulting group. The aim of the study is to gather “market data” — information that will indicate what the college needs to pay going forward to make itself a competitive employer. David Provost, executive vice president for finance and administration, said the college is undertaking the review now because it has been nearly a decade since the last one of its kind. He also said that the college has seen increased turnover in the last two years in positions within the lowest two pay bands, in which many facilities positions fall. Wages for OP1 positions — for example, some dining hall servery positions — begin at $11 an hour, while OP2 positions — including some groundsworking and custodial jobs — begin at $12.07 an hour. Meanwhile, staff spoke about how comparable positions in town had wages that started three or four dollars higher, although without comparable benefits. Separately, custodians told The Campus that hiring shortages in custodial services might be due to the high costs of living in Addison County, costs which workers on an OP2-level budget are often not able to shoulder. “We know over the last 18 to 24 months it has been more difficult to attract and retain OP1 and OP2 level positions,” Provost said. “If the review suggests we need to increase these salaries, then we will.” He added that the decision would have to be contingent on timing and availability of financial resources. The college had to tackle workforce planning before the compensation review, Provost said, because addressing its financial management had to be a fiscal priority, given the severity of the deficit. Provost said he is expecting the study’s data to show that the college should pay its OP1- and OP2-level employees higher wages. The study is set to be done by the spring. At that time, the administration will begin to work its findings into the budget for the 2021 fiscal year. “A slap in the face” The college did not officially lay off any employees. Some felt the offers they received backed them into corners anyway. One employee, a servery worker who has been at the college for 31 years, said her situation felt like “a slap in the face.” She was previously employed in a facilities office job before her position was cut. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]At the college, seniority has never meant anything. I’ve been here 31 years — I’m a loyal worker, have always been on time, never been sick. Didn’t matter at all.[/pullquote] Even though she shared a similar workload with the two other employees in her previous office, she had a different job title from her co-workers and hers was the only position that was cut. In other offices, where multiple workers held the same positions, the process was more “voluntary,” since one worker’s choice to take a buyout or job transfer meant others could refuse. The servery worker was, as multiple staff members put it, “workforce planned.” “At the college, seniority has never meant anything,” the employee said. “I’ve been here 31 years — I’m a loyal worker, have always been on time, never been sick. Didn’t matter at all.” The staff member was informed by supervisors that her position would be cut toward the end of that phase in the process. But she couldn’t afford to take the buyout package the college was offering. The staff member instead applied for several of the then-newly-created positions posted on a private portal. Many of the available job postings required degrees, she said. “I don’t have a college degree,” she said. “Doesn’t mean I didn’t have the qualifications — I didn’t have the degree.” All jobs for which she was eligible required higher levels of physical activity than she was used to. After working at a desk for so many years, the transition to a job that requires her to carry heavy loads and stand for hours at a time has taken a toll. Last week, she suffered a workplace injury. Contacted by AFSCME while she was still in a facilities position, the staff member attended initial meetings and supported the effort to unionize. She said she would support unionization among facilities staff, even in her new role, “Because you’d have someone else looking out for you besides the people who are higher up here,” she said. “They expect the lowest paid people here to work the hardest.” Despite low wages, staff like the servery worker identified the benefits the college offers to its faculty and staff as exceptional in comparison with other positions in the area. Among them are good healthcare, extensive retirement plans and paid time off, as well as discounts at some stores, free gym passes and roadside assistance. “If it was not for the benefits, 90% of these facilities people would not be here,” the first facilities employee said. “Benefits here are a lot better than what you would find anywhere else around here,” said the other. “But I can’t go down to Hannaford and buy groceries with my benefits.” “Middlebury Needs a UNION!” Van Deusen, the union rep and the president of the Vermont American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), said he was contacted by facilities employees over the summer about starting a union. While some staff concerns, like low pay and abrupt, last-minute shift scheduling, have been prevalent for a long time, Van Deusen believes this round of workforce planning catalyzed the staff’s outreach. After their first meetings in Ilsley Public Library in July, Van Deusen said he was in contact with “dozens of facilities staff.” At subsequent off-campus gatherings, he spoke with interested parties about what the union could offer them. Many were intrigued. One of the facilities workers told The Campus he “absolutely” supports the formation of a union, “Mainly for pay. And also, to have a voice.” He cited the workforce planning process as a period during which he felt particularly left in the dark by his superiors. The servery worker said she would be in favor of a facilities union, “because of the seniority part of it. And to negotiate a better raise,” she said. Some workers were also inspired by the successful union effort at St. Michael’s College. In 2012, custodians there unionized with AFSCME. They later negotiated $15-per-hour pay in their second contract. Despite this recent win for Vermont labor advocates, Sociology Professor Jamie McCallum, who specializes in labor studies, said union decline in the U.S. has been happening since the 1950s and picked up speed in the late 1970s. Once word of mouth began to spread about the Middlebury union effort, Van Deusen handed out authorization cards for interested employees to sign. What followed was a flood of information and rumors circulating between staff and the administration. On Aug. 19, one month after union authorization cards were first distributed, Miller, the vice president of human resources, replied to the initial drive in a letter that administrators hand-delivered to all facilities employees. “Middlebury supports your right to choose whether to unionize,” the letter said. “We know that many of you have raised legitimate and important concerns about your jobs,” it later added. “We also believe that joining an outside labor union to address those concerns is not the answer.” The letter highlighted some commonly cited “disadvantages” of forming a union, such as the potentially high cost of monthly dues. A few days later, Van Deusen sent an email to facilities employees responding to the administration’s outreach. “AFSCME, the labor union many of you are seeking to affiliate with, is aware that Management has been spreading false and misleading information in an effort to get you to NOT form a Union,” it said, before addressing what it called “actual FACTS” about forming a union. In the days following, some staff opposed to the union left flyers in certain shops and break rooms on campus, countering Van Deusen’s points. Shortly after, the administration sent a list of FAQs to staff, based on questions it had received from facilities when administrators traveled shop-to-shop with Miller’s first letter. The union effort has not yet reached the strong majority within facilities that it needs to move forward. There is no specific benchmark for that number, Van Deusen said, but it would have to be a number with which the group would feel comfortable. Some staff said they see the slowing momentum as a sign the effort is doomed. But Van Deusen said authorization cards have not been circulating for long enough to determine whether the effort will succeed or not. He plans to continue to collect and tally cards. If he could gather enough, staff would then need to file paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an independent federal agency that protects the rights of private sector employees to better their working conditions and wages. The NLRB would then conduct a secret ballot election among facilities staff to decide whether a union would be formed. If a majority opted for the formation of a union, the new effort would hold internal union elections for a bargaining team. From there, it would bargain a binding contract with the administration. “This time next year, we would like to announce that a new union, with a contract, will be formed at Middlebury,” Van Deusen said. He hopes that contract would address staff concerns by forming a labor management committee, creating a binding grievance procedure and paying better for longevity and overtime, among other measures. Not every staff member is in favor of a union coming to campus. One custodial worker said she would not support the formation of a union because she is worried about losing her benefits in the negotiations, although she is unhappy with her current wages. She was offered a buyout last winter, but did not have to take it because another worker on her team did. “I enjoy my vacation time,” she said. “The health insurance isn’t what it used to be, but that’s changing in November, too. I enjoy my benefits.” According to Miller, the college will put in place a new healthcare system this November, to go into effect in January, that will introduce more choice into the current plan. Although some employees worry their benefits will be at risk if they unionize, McCallum said he finds it hard to believe that the college would target workers’ healthcare and benefits in negotiations. “If Middlebury were to threaten the good benefits that workers now receive if they decided to go union, it would be joining a long list of union-busting corporations,” he said. Besides, he said that employees would have to agree on any union contract with the college. “Workers vote on any contract a union signs, and they would only vote ‘yes’ on a contract when their benefits improved or stayed the same,” he said. McCallum said he sees collective bargaining as an “essential ingredient of a democratic workplace.” “We need a living wage here, where everyone can live and work with dignity, and that will mean paying workers what they deserve, not just what the market dictates,” he added. Middlebury’s “Black Tuesday”: A union effort three decades ago The servery employee, who has worked at the college for 31 years and supports a union, was freshly employed at Middlebury when a series of job cuts in May 1991 destroyed a long-held perception of the institution as a reliable place to work. She remembers the day those positions were terminated, which has since come to be known by some as “Black Tuesday,” as a day filled with tears and disbelief. The college administration has taken measures to avoid an event like Black Tuesday from recurring. Patton told two Campus reporters in an article published by VTDigger this fall that memories of 1991 have influenced how the college currently handles staff reductions, emphasizing its focus on giving people more of a choice and inviting them to think about the long-term trajectory of the institution. Miller emphasized a similar sentiment in her conversation with The Campus. “I can say that we were intentional to make this as humane as we could, to make sure that this was not a surprise to people and that they were engaged in conversations,” she said about this year’s workforce planning. “We really worked hard to do that. Were we 100% successful? I hope so, but maybe not.” As in 1991, this recent round of workforce planning eliminated specific job “titles” rather than “people,” and both years saw efforts to organize. In September of 1991, The Campus reported that staff across campus were “exploring ways to increase their input in administrative decisions.” This included attempts by some to form a union, organizing for which would last four years before ultimately breaking down in 1995 after failing to garner enough support. Those attempts were aimed at creating a wall-to-wall bargaining unit — a unit that would include all staff, unlike this year’s single-department effort in facilities. Bill Jaeger, director of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), an AFSCME affiliate, helped spearhead that effort. His team was contacted by Middlebury employees in 1991, two years after HUCTW negotiated their own first contract. Jaeger said attempts to unionize arose because of anger about the layoffs, but that at its core were more permanent longings for democratic change at the college. “People were feeling like their eyes had been opened to how consequential and important it can be to have some breadth and some inclusion in important policy matters and in decision making,” he said. HUCTW members visited staff in Middlebury to talk about the union, at times once per week. Most interest came from those in administrative and technical jobs, although there was some level of support and involvement in all staff departments, Jaeger remembered. In response, the administration called all-staff meetings to address the efforts. That union was not able to pique sufficient interest, but Jaeger said staff who were involved were united around a shared sense of excitement for what they were building. “Most people are driven in the most steadfast way if they’re really building toward something that’s going to make a positive difference in the long term,” he said. By 1995, when the effort fell, the college seemed to be undertaking corrective policies that gave employees some reason for hope. College looks forward, staff still waiting for change The college has reiterated time and time again that workforce planning is not a one-time process. This means that administrators are still assessing its successes, as well as where it’s fallen short. Administrators are hopeful that the workforce planning process will allow the institution to run more efficiently and proactively in the future. Some of the new jobs, for example — including some of the positions offered to staff whose positions were cut, requiring college degrees — are more specialized, and were intended to take into account potential demographic shifts in Vermont so that the college can be an “employer of choice for the next generation,” Miller said. “The whole purpose of the workforce planning is we’ve got to be prepared for our future,” she said. “I know it was a difficult process for many, but for some, I think it really helped us to transform and leap into that future state,” she added, citing the How Will We Live Together review as a concurrent, future-oriented process. Miller said that the administration is committed to revisiting any “pain points” among staff and addressing them accordingly. At an Oct. 24 staff meeting, Patton announced that Special Assistant to the President Sue Ritter will do a listening tour throughout staff departments to hear employees’ concerns. The administration laid out its plan for the compensation review at that meeting, as well as several other measures, like a restatement that Senior Leadership Group would attend the holiday party this December, that suggest an effort to reinforce commitment to community-building. The custodial worker and nearly every staff member interviewed for this article spoke about an intangible change that has made the working environment feel more corporate, and less warm and community-centered. “When I first came here, it was different,” the custodial worker said. “It was more family-oriented, and everybody looked out for each other. It’s not like that anymore. It’s more sterile.” Parsons, the staff council president, said Middlebury used to be a small institution with a real family feel. “As we have grown and expanded both our physical footprint here and our global footprint, we have somewhat lost touch with that,” he said. “It would be a real challenge to bring that back,” he added. Staff also overwhelmingly expressed large amounts of pride in Middlebury as an institution, a collective sentiment that is backed up by data in the 2017 ModernThink survey. “It’s a great place,” the first facilities worker said. “And the benefits are great. We’re just underpaid for what we’re doing.” This pride seems to leave many staff members feeling hopeful. But they’re also worried that the college will continue to disappoint them. Some left initial workforce planning meetings a year ago with the impression that “everything was going to be open and that communication was going to flow.” “But it never did,” one staff member said. “With workforce planning, there were so many unanswered questions,” he added. “The administration wouldn’t have been able to do that without talking to the union first.” As the dust settles on the consequences of workforce planning, staff are still waiting to see tangible changes.
SPECS (Sex Positive Education for College Students), a student organization focused on sex positive peer education, initiated new programming for this semester’s first-year orientation week on Sept. 4. The group hosted an information table in Axinn with boxes of condoms, lubricant, dental dams, and different contraceptive devices and safe sex devices, according to MiddView Orientation Intern Niki Kowsar ’21.5. “You generally see condoms and know what they are but for other products you might not know much about it,” Kowsar said. “It was really interesting to learn more about them.” The event was one of 13 optional activities for incoming students, and was aimed at spreading the word about what resources SPECS has to offer, Peer Sex Educator Emma Brown ’21 said. The impetus for SPECS came out of a class project and first became a club in 2017, said Peer Sex Educator Anna Durning ’19.5. The group underwent several iterations before becoming a group under the supervision of Barbara McCall, Director of Health and Wellness Education. “Sex positivity is a counter approach to mainstream shaming and abstinence-only sexual health education curricula,” McCall wrote in an email to the Campus. “It means acknowledging that sexuality and sexual expression can be a normal, healthy part of people’s lives.” SPECS delves into subjects, like pleasure, that may have been ignored or brushed aside in high school or previous sex-ed experiences, Brown said. She also emphasized the group’s focus on consent and sex education beyond the traditional, heternormative curriculum. However, the discretionary, drop-in format of the orientation event did not allow for substantial programming, and only four new students visited the table, Durning said. “I was really excited to learn that SPECS was given permission to participate in orientation, but disappointed when I found out that our event had to be during the optional, drop-in activity time,” Durning said SPECS members felt that orientation would have been an opportune time to institute a mandatory sex ed workshop and reach more new students. Said Durning, “Given the nature of the workshops, students can find it embarrassing to choose to attend them so making them mandatory would erase the social pressure that keeps people from turning up.” But the group was still able to have productive conversations with students and put together a “build-your-own safer sex kit” activity at the event, Durning said. Ella Houlihan ’21, another Peer Sex Educator, was also disappointed that SPECS did not receive mandatory slots for this year’s first-year events but remains optimistic about the (sex) positive influence the group can have moving forward. McCall did not comment on the details of how SPECS was designated an optional rather than mandatory activity for orientation, but said she would like to see the group continue to participate in the coming years. “It’s important for every student to have medically accurate, non-judgmental and age-appropriate information about their bodies and safer sex practices,” McCall said. Students go to each other with questions first, she said, so SPECS gives peer educators a chance to address those concerns and provide resources. Kowsar and SPECS Peer Sex Educators said they’re hopeful the student organization will take on a more significant role during future first-year orientation weeks. SPECS plans to keep collaborating with ResLife and with the Student Government Associations’s Sexual and Relationship Respect Committee to make sure that all students can receive consent workshops, Durning said. Students can expect to see other programming in the coming months, including pleasure and communication workshops and trivia nights in Atwater Dining Hall. SPECS will also conduct first-year dorm workshops and is accepting requests from sports teams, social houses and other groups on campus to facilitate workshops.
If you thought you and your friends kept up a lively group chat this summer, you should have seen ours. The flurries of texts we exchanged from the desks of our respective Vermont internships were filled with high-intensity punctuation (!), lots of CAPS and the occasional weird YouTube video. Out of those electronic brainstorms came some of the ideas we so enthusiastically curated for this first issue, from Emma Brown’s map project on the front cover to our new classifieds page. (There were also plenty of ideas we scrapped before getting to campus, too, but we don’t have to talk about those.) All three of us came to the Campus at a time when the paper was coming into its own. Cumulatively, we’ve worked for a total of five sections, under three editors in chief and four managing editors. We’ve hashed out our collective mission numerous times, and spent what can only be described as an ungodly amount of hours in our little basement office. This paper matters a lot to us. As does the practice of ethical journalism, to which we have dedicated our time off campus as well. We’ve spent summers reporting in newsrooms across the state, all the while taking lessons from Vermont’s professional journalists and exposing ourselves to pockets of the local community that we could hardly probe as students. Many others on our board have done the same. Past Campus leadership teams have set us up for success in important ways — establishing greater community trust, taking on projects that matter and focusing on quality of content. For those efforts, we’re grateful. Now, we hope to bring new direction and creative energy to the work we do here, which is why we’re thinking of new ways to engage our readership across our digital and print platforms. The editors of this newspaper have built close, human relationships with faculty, administrators and other students. We value those relationships immensely hope to leave our successors with these same levels of trust, long after we’ve had our last bite of layout-night Green Peppers pizza. In brief, we want you to want to pick up this paper. We think it’s pretty cool and we hope you do, too.
“It ain’t feminism if it ain’t intersectional,” tweeted Ariana Grande this past March, garnering over 41 thousand retweets and 200,000 likes. Intersectionality, a term frequently promoted and used in hashtags across social media, has also become a buzzword in today’s political, academic and activist spheres. This year’s Gensler Family Symposium on Feminism in a Global Context, held last Friday, April 26, sought to understand and critique both the ubiquitous and celebratory nature of intersectionality’s widespread use in popular culture. Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies Professor Carly Thomsen and American Studies Professor J Finley are the architects behind the idea and organization of this year’s Gensler Symposium. The two, who also co-teach a class, entitled Beyond Intersectionality: Developing Anti-Racist Feminisms, had been looking forward to the date for around two years now. “Some things said today will resonate with you, will anger you, will confuse you, will empower you,” presaged Finley in introductory remarks as eager audience members settled into their seats for the all-day event. The symposium kicked off with an introductory video made by GSFS major, Tate Serletti ’20, showcasing myriad deployments of intersectionality that began to problematize pre-conceived understandings of the term. “What exactly is intersectionality?” Thomsen queried. She asked audience members to consider several questions including: “Is it a theory, an activist approach, a disposition? How do we do intersectionality and how do we make sense of competing definitions? How might intersectionality help us to create feminisms that operate in the service of racial and economic justice and how might it limit us? What do our affective attachments to intersectionality do? And what do they prevent us from doing?” These are just some of the inquiries that have also been guiding Thomsen and Finley’s work. Because not only was the Gensler Symposium an event with a lineup of famous scholarly names in feminist and queer theory, but it was also, for Thomsen and Finley, a chance to introduce their research project — the first quantitative analysis of intersectionality’s circulation. Nell Sather ’19 and Harper Baldwin ’19, research assistants who have been involved since the project’s genesis two years ago, presented the statistical findings from a survey of intersectionality’s use at Middlebury College at Friday’s symposium. “It has been a blast and an honor to work so closely with Professors Thomsen and Finley on this project,” Sather said several days later. “It was particularly gratifying to share our research at the symposium after working on it for so long as a small team. The symposium felt like a uniquely embodied and social way to engage with scholarship relevant to our project, which was an element I really appreciated.” 85% of people at Middlebury College are likely to think of intersectionality in positive terms and though all of the day’s speakers recognized the benefits of and work done in the name of the term, they also engaged with its critiques. Some of these criticism includes, as outlined by Finley, the “sloppiness with which intersectionality is deployed in service of post-raciality” and its transformation into a conversation on marginalized identities rather than the structures that marginalize. “Part of what has enabled us to ask the questions that we’re asking in this class, in our research, at the symposium, is that we do come from different disciplinary backgrounds but we have overlapping political commitments,” said Thomsen of her time working with Finley. “Also central to this work is really our friendship; we wouldn’t be able to ask the questions that we’re asking if we didn’t fundamentally trust each other.” Many of the students who filled the RAJ conference room on Friday were members of the Beyond Intersectionality course and came to the symposium with some familiarity of many of the speakers. However, for many others, last Friday’s symposium was a completely new foray into the complex and peculiar lives of intersectionality, as described by Erin Durban, the first invited speaker of the day. An assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, Durban discussed her experience of how the buzzword has been used in her own academic circles and questioned how the canon of intersectionality is policed and constructed. Next, Assistant Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University Keeanga Yamahtta Taylor delved into a project of understanding the political invocations of intersectionality and the material conditions of the oppression of black women in the U.S. Taylor underscored the importance of understanding the word’s particular historical and temporal construction. Following lunch, Miranda Joseph, Chair of the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota, presented concepts from Queer of Color Theorist José Muñoz’s work on the “commons” and her own on the role of accounting in describing gendered and raced social structures. Often hailed as the most prominent critic of intersectionality, Jasbir Puar, Professor and Graduate Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, offered both an exploration of the “intersectionality wars,” or the back-and-forth discourse, theory and politics surrounding the word and a discussion of her theory of assemblage. As the final speaker of the day, Jennifer C. Nash, Associate Professor of African American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies at Northwestern University, concluded with a presentation of her new book, Black Feminism Reimagined: After Intersectionality. Her work explores the affective relationships surrounding intersectionality and encourages as she writes, “a radical embrace” of criticism as a practice of love. The event wrapped up with a round-table discussion between speakers and audience members. “I think it was a really successful event because it brought together people on campus who, I think, consider themselves to really understand intersectionality and the work that it’s supposed to do especially in progressive terms,”said Finley. “Especially when it comes to how people who consider themselves to be liberal think about intersectionality. I think they came to the symposium and I think they had their ideas challenged.” Part of this work of having their ideas challenged, Finley explained, is to consider in concrete terms how intersectionality circulates on Middlebury’s campus, which is part of what her and Thomsen’s research project aimed to accomplish. “When we started this project two years ago, I imagined then that the symposium would be a kind of culmination of our work; now that the symposium is over, several new lines of inquiry have opened up that we’re having to grapple with. And that is really generative,” Thomsen told The Campus. Both Thomsen and Finley are excited to engage in these newly-inspired lines of inquiry. “I think it’s rare that you can bring together — especially at the end of the year, at the end of April on a Friday — an all-day event like this, that you can get people to come and really want to think,” added Finley. “Regardless of what people did think of the talks, they came because they were interested in thinking about these ideas. So I’m really proud of us; I feel proud of us.”
Town Rallies for a Bowling Alley: A Community’s Cry for Fun and One Man’s Plan to Revitalize Downtown Middlebury
MIDDLEBURY – “The idea is this: get the building. Gut the thing. Because it’s hot garbage inside,” said Scott Gemignani, owner of Tinker and Smithy Game Store. Gemignani explained his plan to bring new life to downtown Middlebury as he set up shop for the day, pausing to gesticulate excitedly. His plan includes the construction of a classic, all-ages source of fun – a bowling alley – in the previous home of the Ben Franklin store. Front Porch Forum (FPF), a free online platform aimed at building community within Vermont neighborhoods, has become home to the town’s growing bowling alley brainstorm. “Wondering if anyone is interested in opening a bowling alley in Middlebury?!” wrote Lerin Peters, one FPF “neighbor” in late February, sparking a flood of excited posts echoing this sentiment. “I’d welcome this or any space that, as my neighbor pointed out “appeals to all ages, professions, genders & skill sets/talents” - year round to boot,” said Erin Davis, producer and Middlebury College instructor, in a post on FPF on Feb. 24. Scott Gemignani has an action plan. He wants to be the one to bring a bowling alley to Middlebury – but not just any bowling alley. The owner of Tinker and Smithy Game store has much more ambitious goals to create a space where community members and families can gather recreationally, high schoolers can have their first jobs and where even college students can find some fun off the hill after 5 p.m. In a post on FPF responding to the community discussion, Gemignani wrote: “I’ve heard a number of times that folks would like to have a bowling alley, some night-life, something TO DO in Middlebury after the shops close. Well, I have a plan to accomplish all these wishes.” In keeping with the experiential and diversified business model he operates at Tinker and Smithy, Gemignani’s plan would include a retro arcade, a space for community classes and after-school programming – including an offer to partner with the local teen center, a few food options done right, and of course a one- or two-lane bowling alley. Not to be forgotten, if he is able to purchase the building, he hopes to move his current toy and game store operation to the other side of the street as well. Gemignani grew up in Bristol, Vermont, and returned to the state when he had finished “running around,” as well as receiving his college degree. During the 80s and 90s, he explained, Middlebury was the economic hub for his town and other surrounding communities. That was before the Internet. When Gemignani came home, he noticed things were beginning to change. “As I got involved in my kids and their community, their parents and their friends, and the schools, I noticed that we were having kind of this crisis of programming for kids,” he explained. “Being a daycare provider, I noticed that there were no options for people to bring their children in the local area.” According to Gemignani, services for families are “next to nothing.” Corey Hendrickson, photographer, videographer and longtime resident of Middlebury concurred. “When you have kids you kind of get silo-ed,” Hendrickson explained. “To have a place where kids can be loud and physical would be great. There’s crossover appeal too because it’s not just fun for that age group but I think I could see students there.” “I’m also a dad,” Hendrickson elaborated. “I’ve got two small kids. The Town Hall Theater is amazing, the Marquis is amazing, however there’s still a pretty big need for family friendly activities during, like, the 11 months of winter every year.” Hendrickson, like many other parents in town, is eager to see spaces where intergenerational gatherings can take place, where kids can let loose and people can be social after the sun goes down. “I’m an enthusiastic advocate,” he said, and is more than willing to do what he can to propel a project to create a bowling alley along. As of now, he explained, there is a void that needs to be filled – one that can’t be sustained in the long term by what he terms “guerilla parenting spots” for congregating. “If everyone kind of contributes a little bit of time and their own skill set, I feel optimistic that we could figure something out,” Hendrickson continued, encouraged by the momentum he sees building on FPF. Admittedly, the renovations and construction at Ben Franklin would take a serious financial contribution. According to Gemignani, the building hasn’t been updated in years; to gut and remodel the basement and first floor represents a considerable undertaking. “I would eventually hope that the community would help to support the building because the amount of money that the building requires is substantial,” he said. But for Gemignani and many residents, the stakes are high enough to make this endeavor an exciting prospect. “[In] this town, like a lot of America right now, there’s wealth disparity,” said Gemignani, bringing up the importance of an affordable and public gathering place in rural communities. “There are kids at the grade school where their parents are not actually washing their clothes because the water bill is too high. You have single parents, single mothers, single fathers or even couples that are making tough decisions– like do we eat tonight or do we pay heat.” So, the official mission, Gemignani said, is “to build community and celebrate diversity and ensure that everyone can come in here and that this is a community space.” Gemignani is looking for investors, donors and community support to secure the funding for what he believes to be a “site with guaranteed income built-in.” For more information or to contact Gemignani, email firstname.lastname@example.org or make a visit to the local game store.
For those Vermonters advocating for a tax-and-regulate cannabis market, new legislation moving through both the House and the Senate could herald welcome changes. A bill proposed by Representative Sam Young (D-Greensboro) on Friday, Feb. 8, would progressively implement a commercial marijuana market in the state of Vermont. H.196, an act relating to the regulation of cannabis and cannabis products for commercial and medical purposes, would permit adults to buy marijuana starting Jan. 1, 2020. “It seems like there’s a lot more support of this bill than there has been in the past,” Rep. Young said. With 52 sponsors, many of whom are newly elected Democratic and Progressive representatives, Young is hopeful that H.196 will make it through the House. Though legislation to establish a tax-and-regulate weed market has previously seen significant support in the Senate, according to Young this has not been the case in the House. He attributes much of the recent outpouring of support for H.196 to a “new generation” of members, referring to the majority Vermont Democrats in the Statehouse gained in last year’s midterm elections. The relatively robust support for a tax-and-regulate market in the Senate is evident in the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee’s recent support of S.54, another act relating to the regulation of cannabis. On Friday, Feb. 15, the Judiciary Committee gave approval to the bill, which must now make its way through additional committees before becoming eligible for deliberation before the whole Senate. “We think this bill is fundamentally what it should be: consumer protection legislation that will not only keep cannabis consumers safer but will also improve the public health and public safety of the state as a whole,” said Laura Subin, Director of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana (VCRM), in testimony on Jan 30. H.196 differs from the Senate bill because it would allow existing dispensaries to begin selling commercially under specific regulations before new companies can open while S.54 would not. In order to sell to get a foot in the market early and begin selling to the general public in advance of Jan. 1, 2020, current dispensaries would have to pay a $75,000 fee under the House measure. Some hold, like Rep. Young, that establishing a commercial industry is important for Vermont’s economic health as well as its public safety. “Massachusetts has it [a tax & regulate market] up and running,” he said. “So why should we send all of our tax dollars out of state when we have real needs here?” The burgeoning retail marijuana industry is comprised of a relatively young workforce that could potentially bolster Vermont’s population, Young commented. According to the World Population Review, the current population of the Green Mountain State is declining at .12 percent per year. “But my primary thinking behind sponsoring the bill,” Young clarified, “is to have a safe market because it [marijuana] is legal now. We need to have a safe and legal means for people to acquire it.” Though Governor Scott has previously expressed that he does not believe Vermont is ready for tax-and-regulate market, Young is hopeful that H.196 could be successful with the negotiation of certain terms. “I signed the legalization of marijuana. So it’s not as though I’m philosophically opposed,” Gov. Scott said in an interview with The Campus in October, 2018. “I just think we need to do this right and we have an opportunity and an obligation to do it right.” According to Scott, doing it right would require adequate education and prevention in schools as well as developing public safety infrastructure. “I think [Gov. Scott] has laid out a clear plan for why he hasn’t supported a tax-and-regulate market in the past,” said Rep. Young. “He has been unwilling to support a bill without traffic safety and regulation so we’ll have to negotiate with him to make sure those things are in the final bill.” Both recently introduced House and Senate measures have been met with some criticism based on similar criteria. Commissioner of Health Mark Levine testified before the Senate Committees on Health and Welfare regarding the Regulation of Cannabis in Vermont on Jan. 31, offering his perspective on S.54. “As a physician and as a commissioner of the department charged with protecting and promoting the health of Vermonters, I have previously voiced my concerns about the use of marijuana and the potential increase in use as a result of a legalized and regulated market,” Levine said. Citing lessons learned from other states’ experience with the process, he made an example of the importance of establishing comprehensive prevention programming and funding in advance “It is not only unacceptable but unconscionable to develop a legal marketplace for marijuana without establishing a dedicated revenue stream for education and prevention to protect public health and public safety,” Levine said. The VCRM holds, however, that S.54 is aimed at improving the public health and safety of the whole state and could, Subin testified on Jan. 30, provide “a framework that will enable the emerging cannabis industry to be shaped in ways that reflect Vermont values.” Rep. Young believes that leaving the market in its current state presents risks to the public health and safety of Vermonters that should not be ignored. “The way we legalized it [marijuana] last year was to have people grow up to two plants – besides going to Massachusetts [to buy it] – and then we just left the black market intact,” he explained. “So, it’s this kind of grey area and it’s like no; we want the retailers of it [cannabis] to have a store whose products are tested and safe.” According to Seven Days VT, in late January, federal, state and local law enforcement officers busted a Burlington business that had been illegally selling weed at its Church Street storefront. This is the kind of “grey area” Rep. Young believes the current laws around the legalization of marijuana create. “Taxing and regulating marijuana is important for consumer safety so that people aren’t going out and buying product that has pesticides and mold,” Young explained. On another note, a bill such as S.54, Subin explained in her Jan. 30 testimony, can contribute to criminal justice reform and other social justice goals. “It also offers an opportunity to continue to address what is, to me, personally, the most important priority: the racial, social, and economic injustices that have been perpetuated during the prohibition era,” she said. For the moment though, both H.196 and S.54 have some time in the House and the Senate respectively, before any final determinations are made.
MIDDLEBURY — Residents of Middlebury and the area will have a final chance to voice their opinions on the proposed overhauls of the Triangle Park section of the Village Green and Printer’s Alley Park. On Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. the Town of Middlebury and the Vermont Agency of Transportation will hold a public input meeting to review the conceptual landscape designs. The meeting will take place at the Town Offices at 77 Main St. The transformation of the town’s green spaces is part of the larger effort to revamp the downtown area with the Middlebury Rail & Bridge project. The Planning Committee (PC) and the Design Advisory Council (DAC) will meet with Landscape Architect Mark Hamelin of VHB/Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., which offers integrated services in sustainable design, energy and site engineering, at noon today — Thursday, Nov. 29 — to discuss the two proposed concepts. The two concepts, mapped out by Hamelin, offer varying amounts of paved and green space and attempt to reflect community feedback from previous meetings. Such feedback, according to Jim Gish, Middlebury’s community liaison for the downtown Rail & Bridge Project, demonstrated a desire to incorporate changes to Triangle Park into a push for increased economic development. “Two or three themes have emerged,” Gish said, regarding the community input. “I think the most interesting one is that there’s been a lot of focus on rather than restoring Triangle Park to more of a traditional New England town green, thinking of how it might drive economic development by becoming more of a plaza where public events could be held.” [gallery ids="42068,42069"] Discussions of changes to the green started three years ago, according to Brian Carpenter, Chair of the Middlebury Selectboard. A public hearing held last June kicked the project into gear with some initial designs by a local landscape architect. Since then, the project has been through multiple iterations and changes, finding its way to Hamelin who, according to Gish, has previously designed sites such as the Burlington Waterfront and the Waterbury State Office Complex. “What’s interesting is that that has changed a lot in those three years as people think more about it,” said Carpenter. “Now that we’ve decided we’re going to have Merchant’s Row be one-way, that changes the way people feel about Triangle Park and what it could potentially bring to the downtown.” Many Middlebury-area residents have expressed interest in seeing a space where people can congregate that can be used for events such as the Farmer’s Market and even protests, explained Carpenter. Ultimately, he said, people are thinking about a central space that will attract people into the downtown. “I think the general feedback that I have received as Selectboard chair,” said Carpenter, “is that we’re generally heading in the right direction but still wanting some additional change.” The discussions of the proposed designs have taken on new meaning in light of a changing and modernizing consumer market. The Selectboard, Carpenter added, is looking to “townships that are more progressive” for inspiration on keeping downtown areas “vibrant and full of life.” Following the public input meeting on Dec. 5, the VHB will review and update the designs further based on feedback in preparation for the Selectboard’s final decision. “We are providing plenty of opportunity for input,” said Carpenter. “I’m confident that we’re going to come up with something that we’re all pretty happy with.” The public input meeting is open to Middlebury-area residents as well as Middlebury College students, Gish emphasized. “I think it would be fabulous if Middlebury College students came down, even if it’s just to listen to how these processes work,” he said, adding that students could bring a new and different perspective. “It’s your home for four years too. And plus, you guys have good ideas.” If all goes as planned, the Selectboard hopes to wrap up the design process and make their final decision on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
MIDDLEBURY – Nearly one year to the day after The Rough Cut arrived at 51 Main St. in downtown Middlebury, the BBQ joint announced its closure. The Rough Cut bid Main Street farewell with a goodbye party last Friday, Nov. 2 to celebrate its last plate of St. Louis Pork Ribs and its final heaping of fried pickles, serving drinks at sharply discounted prices throughout the evening. The self-described “neighborhood bar,” which prides itself on a large beer selection, live music and food with soul, revealed the send off on its Facebook page last week. “We have some hard news. We’ve made the difficult decision to close,” the post read, continuing to express gratitude to patrons, employees, and the Middlebury community for their support. Ben Wells, owner of the Marquis Theatre and now former owner of The Rough Cut told the Campus last year that he hoped to create a “positive, warm, energetic environment” for people to enjoy. An outpouring of support and words of regret at the restaurant’s closing via social media stand testament to The Rough Cut’s popularity amongst staff members and the community. “I’ve never been more heartbroken to leave a place. Thank you Rough Cut for one of the best years of my restaurant life,” said Rebecca Hanleigh, one former employee, commenting on the Facebook farewell. The team at the BBQ restaurant joins a growing list of small businesses and entrepreneurs in downtown Middlebury that have been forced to shutter their doors within the past year in the face of economic hardship. The restaurant’s closing date coincides with the lease renewal date for the college-owned property at 51 Main. According to former employee Wynne Ebner ’19, the college let the space at a half-lease. Wells made the tough decision to close after realizing that he would not be able to afford the full lease and also “take care of everybody,” including employees and colleagues. [pullquote speaker="BEN WELLS" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]The Rough Cut was a lot of fun. It was a lot of hard work ... We did the best we could.[/pullquote] “I don’t really know what’s happening in Middlebury right now,” Ebner said. “There’ve been definitely days or weeks where it’s been busier — like parents weekend for example. But for the most part … it’s just slow,” she said, describing her experience at The Rough Cut the past couple of months. “If I knew the answer to why [The Rough Cut] didn’t work out then I’d like to think I would’ve changed it,” Wells said. However, of his working relationship with the college, Wells had only good things to say: “The administration has been incredibly supportive and really went above and beyond in terms of putting us in the best possible position to succeed.” The college and the town, Wells believes, are inextricably linked, each supporting the other. For that reason he is concerned, like many others, about the “vitality and vibrancy of Main Street.” This is why, he explained, he invested in bringing new and fresh energy to town with the mechanical bull, music stage and other efforts at The Rough Cut. While succeeding may appear increasingly challenging in light of the turnover of shops and restaurants, Wells believes that not all of the economic hardship can be attributed to contemporary issues, explaining that Middlebury has been “dealing with an awkward downtown layout since time immemorial.” Despite the challenges residents, students, the administration and business owners will face during Middlebury’s current period of economic hardship, Wells remains optimistic and heartened by the community’s strength. “Middlebury is still going to be here. We’re all going to be here next year and in five years,” he said, adding that the detrimental effect of the rail bridge construction project is temporary. “And that’s one area that is such a positive relationship with the college and the town: neither of us are going anywhere.” College students and residents in search of the Southern comfort food, live performances from local musicians and a casual place to watch the game that The Rough Cut offered will now have to turn elsewhere. However, these closures do not mean that Downtown has to become obsolete. Wells believes we all can and should make an effort to revive it. “The Rough Cut was a lot of fun. It was a lot of hard work. The restaurant industry in general is pretty tough, pretty challenging [and] pretty relentless,” Wells reflected. “Our experience was all of that. We did the best we could.” If Wells and his team at The Rough Cut did the best they could, he encourages students to do the best that they can do as well. “I think everybody who lives here — and students are one segment of the community — needs to support local business and support the downtown,” he said. “It makes a real difference in how we all can create the world we want to live in.”
Nearly one year to the day after The Rough Cut arrived to 51 Main St. in downtown Middlebury, the BBQ restaurant has announced it will be closing its doors for good after one last hurrah this Friday, Nov. 9. The self-described “neighborhood bar,” which prides itself on a large beer selection, live music and food with soul, revealed the coming closure on its Facebook page on Tuesday afternoon. “We have some hard news. We’ve made the difficult decision to close,” the post read, continuing to express gratitude to patrons, employees, and the Middlebury community for their support. Ben Wells, the owner of The Rough Cut, told The Campus last year that he hoped to create a “positive, warm, energetic environment” for people to enjoy. An outpouring of support and words of regret at the restaurant’s closing via social media stand testament to The Rough Cut’s popularity amongst staff members and the community. “I’ve never been more heartbroken to leave a place. Thank you Rough Cut for one of the best years of my restaurant life,” said Rebecca Hanleigh, a former employee, commenting on the Facebook farewell. The team at the BBQ joint has yet to publicly announce the reasons for the abrupt end of service. However, they join a seemingly ever-growing list of small businesses and entrepreneurs in downtown Middlebury that have been forced to shutter their doors within the past year. College students and residents in search of Southern comfort food, live performances from local musicians and a casual place to watch a sports game will have to turn elsewhere. Starting at 3 p.m. on Friday and lasting “until the beer is gone,” The Rough Cut will host a goodbye party to celebrate its last plate of St. Louis Pork Ribs and its final heaping of fried pickles, serving drinks at sharply discounted prices throughout the evening. “We’re not crying, you’re crying,” the Rough Cut team lamented in their Facebook goodbye. Look for an updated version of this story in next week’s print issue, on stands Thursday, Nov. 15.
Surrounded by machine parts and agricultural equipment at a promotional event for state Senate candidates, incumbent Governor Phil Scott sat down with The Campus to discuss his platform for re-election on a rainy October evening. The smell of Porky’s BBQ & Smokehouse’s well-loved brisket and mac n’ cheese wafted in from outside as Scott spoke to his desire to do what he can to “forward Vermont.” While most other states across the country are gearing up for gubernatorial midterms, Vermont is one of only two states where the term for governor lasts for just two years. Next week, on Election Day, Nov. 6, the state will vote to elect either the Republican Scott or — in what would be a major upset — his challenger, the Democrat and political newcomer Christine Hallquist. Republican governors historically tend to be popular in liberal Northeastern states, and Scott is no exception. Last year, a Morning Consult poll showed Scott’s approval rating at 60 percent, ranking him as the seventh most popular governor in the country. But, according to another survey released in July of 2018, Scott suffered a net drop of 38 points in approval — driven mostly by Republicans. Conservative disapproval stemmed largely from Scott’s shifting position towards stricter gun control in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. and the foiled shooting plot in Fair Haven, Vermont. Scott currently retains a relatively solid 45 percent approval rating, according to a VPR - Vermont PBS Poll. Combined with the natural advantage of incumbency, this base of support may be enough to indicate a likely victory. The national election tracking website FiveThirtyEight gives him a 95 percent chance of winning as Election Day draws near. Poised for gubernatorial reelection, Scott, a racecar driver turned long-term politician, sits at the wheel of what could be a rocky second term in office. With a state legislature heavily dominated by Democrats, Republican nominees falling behind in many other states and much work to do in Vermont, Scott is up against significant challenges. Scott would have a lot left to accomplish in a brief second term to realize even his 2016 campaign promise: “grow the economy, make it more affordable, and protect the most vulnerable.” So, what does it mean for this moderate Republican to uphold these principles? ADDRESSING THE “AFFORDABILITY CRISIS” “From my perspective, everything we do is about the economy and changing the demographics of our state,” Scott said. “That’s where our challenge is: We’re an aging state, the second oldest in the country and I believe that we’ll be number one if we don’t change our ways.” The struggle to retain young people and fill job opportunities is a concern many Vermonters share. With a low unemployment rate of 2.8 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Scott’s focus is on workforce challenges and addressing what he terms Vermont’s “affordability crisis.” [pullquote speaker="Phil Scott" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]That’s where our challenge is: We’re an aging state, the second oldest in the country and I believe that we’ll be number one if we don’t change our ways.[/pullquote] He emphasized figuring out what it takes to keep college-age students — like those at Middlebury College — in state, in order to “to take advantage of our great quality of life but also the opportunities that are here.” The students that Scott has spoken with, he said, described being drawn out of state by career opportunities, less expensive housing and general affordability. “The good news,” Scott said, “is that we have … about 10,000 graduating every year so we have opportunity and we have jobs available and open — but we have to connect the two.” In his first term as governor, the legislature passed Scott’s $35 million housing bond proposal, which was the largest investment Vermont has made toward affordable housing for the state’s workforce. The sale of these “sustainability bonds” by the Vermont Housing Finance agency aimed to create more available and affordable homes for working families, according to a February 2018 press release. Given time, Scott believes, this sale will help to positively impact the state’s economy. MICHAEL BORENSTEIN MINIMUM WAGE Unlike his opponent Hallquist, Scott does not believe in increasing the minimum wage. Scott has maintained throughout both of his campaigns, and his time in office, that the way to make Vermont more affordable is through keeping taxes and fees where they are. “I would say you should travel from Brattleboro to Springfield to Bradford, to St. Johnsbury up in the Northeast Kingdom because that’s all along the Connecticut River,” Scott said, tracing an imaginary map of the state. “Right across from the Connecticut River is another state called New Hampshire that has a minimum wage of $7.25, that has no sales tax, that has no income tax, and no corporate tax.” Raising the minimum wage, Scott believes, would be placing Vermont companies along the border at the risk of not being able to compete with out-of-state business. “I want people to make more money. I believe in supply and demand and capitalism,” he said. “If they want to change the minimum wage so that we are on an even keel, and even playing field with everyone else, do it nationally.” TAXES AND FEES Following his 2016 gubernatorial campaign, Scott made a pledge to not increase taxes or fees, including property tax rates. In his first term he worked to eliminate the social security income tax for low and middle-class households and avoided increasing fees for residential property owners. His logic: live within the state’s means. He believes the 2018 budget surplus of $55 million made it “counterintuitive to raise taxes.” “I waited until after [the 2016 campaign], built the budget and then determined that we could live within our means,” he said. Scott held the line on taxes and fees with just one exception, as the threat of a government shutdown this past summer forced his hand. He vetoed two proposed budgets that included increases in certain tax rates before eventually allowing the Fiscal Year 2019 budget to be adopted into law without his signature. Though Scott backed much of the package’s other initiatives, some of which were his own proposals, he could not sign on to the increase in non-residential property tax-rates. [pullquote speaker="Phil Scott" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]I cannot support the Legislature’s decision to increase the statewide non-residential tax rate by 4.5-cents in a year we have a large, and growing, surplus.[/pullquote] “I’m letting this bill become law without my signature because, ultimately,” Scott wrote in a letter addressed to the legislature. “I cannot support the Legislature’s decision to increase the statewide non-residential tax rate by 4.5-cents in a year we have a large, and growing, surplus. “I wasn’t going to shut down the government in order to prove my point,” Scott said about his decision not to continue the budget standoff. “Sometimes people take advantage of your good naturedness, but at the same time we accomplished a lot over the last two years — we didn’t raise a single tax or fee for the general fund.” While he has yet to make the same pledge so far, Scott said his administration will continue to build this year’s budget with the hope that a sufficient surplus will allow him to keep taxes and fees steady. “To make Vermont more affordable we have to have economic activity. We’re focusing in those areas that obtain that,” he said. TAX AND REGULATE MARIJUANA Adults at least 21 years of age are legally allowed to possess and grow marijuana in Vermont, thanks to a new law that went into effect in July of this year. The law, which received Scott’s approval in January, permits individual use and possession with restrictions but does not allow for the purchase or sale of marijuana. The institution of a tax and regulated marijuana market is another area where Scott and Hallquist disagree. Though ultimately Scott did not disagree with the possible value in implementing a commercial marijuana market, he does not believe Vermont is ready. “I signed the legalization of marijuana. So it’s not as though I’m philosophically opposed,” he said. “I just think we need to do this right and we have an opportunity and an obligation to do it right.” Doing it right, he said, means first designing better ways to test impairment on highways and doing the work of more education and prevention in schools. “Public safety from my standpoint is the highest obligation of any government,” he said. “So let’s do that, let’s work together on that and then bring the tax and regulation system in.” HEALTH CARE Following in former Gov. Peter Shumlin’s footsteps, Scott aims to expand and improve health care options in the state through an all-payer model. Unlike the universal healthcare route supported by Hallquist, the all-payer system is designed to equalize prices so patients pay the same fee at a given hospital. With this model, he said, “we’re looking to pay providers for the care of the patient holistically instead of the fee for service program.” He remains skeptical about the idea of a state single-payer approach, arguing that Vermont is not ready for such a system at the present moment. It took Shumlin five years after taking office to come up with a proposal for a single-payer model that, in the end, Scott recalled, was “not going to work for Vermont.” [pullquote speaker="Phil Scott" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]Just prove to me it [universal healthcare] can work, show me the plan, tell me who’s going to pay for it, how much is it going to cost, basic things of that nature.[/pullquote] “I said I’m open minded. Just prove to me it can work, show me the plan, tell me who’s going to pay for it, how much is it going to cost, basic things of that nature,” Scott said. Ultimately, though he professed keeping an open-mind, Scott posited that the single-payer method is too expensive and would put Vermont at risk in comparison to other states. “We’re not an island,” he said. He plans to continue to expand and improve the all-payer pilot program if re-elected, focusing investments on prevention, quality of care and long-term benefits for Vermonters. OPIOIDS Addressing the opioid epidemic falls under Scott’s third principle of “protecting the vulnerable,” and represents one of his priority initiatives. In a state where obituaries of those who lost their lives to addiction go viral nationwide, addressing this epidemic must be a priority for any governorship. “We’re taking action on a number of different fronts,” Scott confirmed, underlining his Opioid Coordination Council (OCC) and initiatives to continue expanding and improving prevention, treatment facilities, transitional housing, recovery and enforcement. He highlighted the opening of another treatment facility in St. Albans, as well as the reduction of the treatment waiting list in Chittenden County from 700 to zero. Scott offered praise for the Hub and Spoke model, which is the state’s current framework for providing opioid addiction treatment with 9 large regional “hub” facilities and 75 “spoke” care settings focused on more long-term recovery. He described Vermont as “a leader in the country in regards to treatment and recovery,” acknowledging the work left to be done. PRISONS For a governor who places utmost importance on protecting public safety, the issue of Vermont’s overpopulated prisons has presented some strife for the Scott administration. “We put forward a prison,corrections plan last year to the legislature and it wasn’t well received,” said Scott, referencing his proposal to increase Vermont’s prison capacity. His plan entailed employing CoreCivic, a private prison company, to construct and lease a prison in Franklin County. Critics faulted Scott’s proposal to work with a private prison corporation. The facility, which would be run by state employees, would create space for inmates who have been forced to out-of-state prisons. Former Democratic Governor Howard Dean began the practice of exporting inmates, Scott said. Responding to criticism, Scott said his proposal was no more than a “mechanism for building the facility in a manner that we could afford.” “I left [the proposal] open when we developed it — we put it out there — but you know this is politics 101, D.C. type politics,” Scott said. “I said from the beginning this is just a concept, a plan. If you want to build it with state resources, draw your own facility up, engage us!” He underlined the fact, however, that his administration has reduced prison populations by about 50 people and pledged to go back to work on his plan if re-elected. Bottom line, Scott said: “I would like to see us have an opportunity to have all of our offenders within state borders.” MERCHANTS’ ROW RAIL BRIDGE CONSTRUCTION On a local note, Scott is sympathetic to the concerns held by Middlebury residents in the face of the economic hardship posed by the rail bridge infrastructure project. While he offered words of support, he clarified that financial aid for the town was more complicated. “There is a limited amount of money. A lot of our dollars are leveraged with federal funds and they don’t allow for us to use their dollars to supplement,” Scott said. What’s more, he said, when resources are used to supplement losses in one community, “it takes infrastructure projects away from other communities.” FOLLOW THROUGH “We haven’t followed through with everything we needed to follow through with initially,” Scott said, underscoring the brevity of his first term. “So I’m going to continue to be the person I am and do what I can to forward VT in a much different way.” Scott’s open-mindedness, willingness to, as he describes, “work across the aisle” and “treat others with respect and civility” even when they disagree may set him apart favorably from many candidates nationwide in the era of party politics. Now, more than ever, an inclination to work outside of party lines and compromise can be hard to come by. However, Scott’s oft-repeated claims to bipartisanship hinge first on the ability of others - namely his opponents - to generate legislation and then prove to him that such proposals could work. “Show me the plan, tell me who’s going to pay for it, how much is it going to cost, basic things of that nature,” he said. Given the state of his party support, if re-elected, it might require more than just a passive, though welcoming attitude — but some active creativity on the part of this moderate Republican to see his platform goals accomplished.
After Dr. Christine Blasey Ford made public her allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party in 1982, more than 1,200 alumnae of the all-girls Holton-Arms School signed an online letter of support. One of the catalysts behind the letter is Nahid Markosian, PhD., who graduated from the school two years after Ford in 1986 and is the parent of current Middlebury College student Leila Markosian ’21. Kavanaugh attended the all-boys Georgetown Preparatory School. Both are located in Bethesda, MD. The letter, which garnered national attention as Ford prepared to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, can be found at www.standwithblaseyford.com. In a phone interview with The Campus, Markosian discussed the letter, Dr. Ford and prep school culture. Middlebury Campus (MC): What made you decide to try and organize support for Ford? Nahid Markosian (NM): I graduated from Holton-Arms in 1986, so I didn’t know Christine Blasey Ford but I had heard on the news that she had wanted to remain anonymous. One thing led to another and then she came out publicly. I was just thinking about how brave she is to do something like that and how much courage it takes. I felt for her and her family and really wanted her not to feel alone going through all of this. I wanted her to feel support from people who knew her way back then or were familiar with the culture of the school. It all kind of started with me putting a post on our alumni page after asking, “how can we support our peer who has been so brave and courageous in sharing her story of the sexual assault?” It really was the alumni group that picked it up and ran with it. They’re the ones who drafted the letter and it really sort of activated this solidarity among women. When I was at Holton-Arms I don’t remember any conversations about date rape or sexual assault or anything. So I decided I didn’t want to keep the silence going. The petition started off with 15 people and it grew to 200 and I think now we’re at 1,100. It’s so important to remove the shame – to help people remove the shame from the experience. One woman said so eloquently, when she saw that we were all trying to help Dr. Blasey Ford not feel alone in this — she said “it gave me courage to know that I could say something and not be alone either.” This is about showing support for Dr. Blasey Ford, but also changing the norms around this [culture] in doing so. MC: Could you speak to the atmosphere and the culture at Holton-Arms and how, in your opinion, it has changed (or not) since your time there? NM: I had super protective parents and wasn’t allowed to do a lot of things so I feel like I can’t really speak too much about that particular social scene because I wasn’t part of it. I do know that there’s a lot of affluence and entitlement so in retrospect I think my parents were probably smart; what they were doing made sense. One thing I will say is that I don’t think it was just Georgetown Prep — I think that was the dynamic among a lot of those schools. MC: In light of all the retroactive support the alumnae of Holton-Arms have given Ford, what advice would you give to current high school and college students to better have these sorts of conversations now? What can young people do now to help? NM: I think that trying to have a community where it’s safe to share stories about what happened to you and share experiences and raise questions is crucial. Letting people know that they’re not going to be alone and that there’s support and help for them. Be vocal, be verbal. If you are getting close to somebody and things are moving along, it’s always a good idea to ask are you okay with this, are you comfortable with this? MC: How might you respond to somebody who defends Kavanaugh by saying that his actions are excusable given how much time has passed and because he was a drunk high school student/college student? Essentially, how would you respond to the “boys will be boys” argument? NM: I think actions matter. I think that kind of behavior was not normal then and it’s not normal now. It dismays me when people can’t look at what they’ve done and realize that maybe it wasn’t a big deal for them, but it really affected somebody else’s life. It’s troubling that adults now looking back at what they did during their teenage years are so quick to just brush it aside. MC: Are there things that you think we, as college students, and more broadly, that the world should be paying particular attention to in all of this national drama? Are there things that we should be remembering? NM: For centuries, women have not been believed. Women have very, very little to gain from disclosing these experiences in a public forum. And I think that when they do it’s really important to listen and take it seriously and understand what happened. I want to say that and I want to tell people who are going through this: talk to your friends, talk to your counselors, talk to police, and we need to listen and we need to hear. It’s not easy — it takes a lot of courage, and we need to respect people who speak up. MC: Do you know at all what Ford’s response to the petition has been or if she’s made any sort of a response? NM: I don’t know, I don’t believe she’s responded. MC: I definitely imagine it would make her feel less alone. NM: I really, really hope so. We want her to feel that we have her back. And I know that some people are trying to make this into a political issue, but I don’t think it is. I think she is speaking out about an atrocity that was done to her, and she wants people to know about this person’s character.
The Lobby, a family weekend go-to and popular date night restaurant at 7 Bakery Lane, closed last month. Stepping up to the plate with a new culinary undertaking are Matt Corrente ’06, previous head chef of Two Brothers Tavern, and Caroline Corrente, current owner of Haymaker Bun Co., located in Middlebury. Amidst a buzz of construction and activity, Matt and Caroline confirmed plans to take over the riverside property and open a shared restaurant and café – The Arcadian and Haymaker Bun Co. The building is currently being revamped to make way for the combined Italian restaurant, pastry and espresso shop, which will open in early November. “I think it’s going to be interesting because we’re basically running two separate businesses out of the same location,” Caroline said. “So I will be running a bakery and café in the morning and Matt will be running a restaurant at night,” she said. “It’s a unique concept and we’re really focused on creating a comfortable space.” Matt and Caroline both have a grounding and significant knowledge of Vermont, Middlebury and the food industry in general. Matt is a Middlebury College alumnus and Caroline graduated from the University of Vermont. The two were employed in various roles at restaurants throughout their time in college and even met while working at Pistou, a now-closed restaurant in Burlington. Most recently, Matt worked as the head chef at Two Brothers Tavern while Caroline worked as a pastry chef at Otter Creek Bakery before opening her own business, Haymaker Bun Co., a little over a year ago. “I really liked the version of this place that was around when I was a student,” said Matt, reminiscing about the restaurant that filled 7 Bakery Lane during his days at the college. “It was like the place to go; it was where I’d take my parents if they came up for a visit.” So when the couple saw that The Lobby was on the market, they leapt at the chance to create a restaurant and a space of their own. “It’s a big project but we’re really excited to be bringing something new and exciting to the community,” Matt said about the coming restaurants. “We’re happy to be a part of the upswing. It’s a lot of work and it’s daunting at times but we’re pretty optimistic about the end result.” Caroline, who went to pastry school in Paris at Le Cordon Bleu, will employ her baking expertise to serve a daily rotation of buns and other sweet and savory treats in the mornings. “Pastry-wise, I’ll always have a couple different rotating sweet, chocolate, savory brioche buns that I’ve been doing, as well as some gluten free options,” she said. The savory buns will have the option of an egg served on top, she said, making a delicious breakfast sandwich. Additionally, Haymaker Bun provides free delivery within Middlebury, with a minimum of six buns per order. The couple will work with Brio Coffeeworks, a coffee company based out of Burlington, to craft specialty espresso drinks. “It’ll be fun to just come in here and always be able to get something new and something different with some classics in there as well,” she said. Matt and Caroline hope to cater to various needs of college students and community members — whether that means sitting by the river with a morning bun or sipping a latte while getting some work done. Matt will draw from his culinary background at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City as well as his years as a chef and sous-chef at multiple Vermont restaurants in order to construct The Arcadian’s menu. “For dinner the menu is going to follow a traditional Italian menu design,” Matt said. He plans to feature antipasti, a selection of nine handmade pasta dishes and five to six entrée plates emphasizing fresh seafood and Vermont ingredients. The Arcadian will also serve wine and cocktails at the bar in the evenings. “Part of the spirit of the place is to say that in Italy the cuisine is driven by tradition,” he elaborated. “There are a lot of [ingredients] that are hugely seasonal and are impacted by what’s available and what’s fresh at the moment and so our outlook is to really do that with Vermont. To say […] how do we highlight it in a simple way that’s going to let people really enjoy it.” “Arcadia, from antiquity, was a place where humans existed in harmony with nature,” Matt said, describing the name. During the renaissance period, the ancient region of Greece called Arcadia was celebrated for this peaceful relationship, he explained. “It was sort of like the step that preceded technology and big cities and it’s a metaphor for our life here in Middlebury.” Matt and Caroline are both hopeful and enthusiastic about the opening of the restaurants despite the abundance of downtown business closures in the past months. “I think that it’s going to look worse and get worse before it gets better,” said Matt, “but I’m more focused on the ‘it’s going to get better’ part.” Caroline echoed this optimism. “I think that with our location here—and we definitely thought about that a lot moving in—we feel like we’re going to be a little bit immune to [the rail bridge construction] just because even if Main St. closes all the way down we’ll still have the Cross St. entrance and traffic will have to be funneled that way,” she said. The couple, however, emphasized the importance of community and student-wide support of local businesses and restaurants, especially through the temporary period of construction. “I think that it’s important for us — even if you have to park a little bit further, walk a little bit further — to continue to visit downtown, to be patrons of the businesses here,” Caroline said. Matt said, of his time as a student at the college, that he recognizes how tough it can be to get off campus and take advantage of the town and surrounding areas. The couple highlighted a desire to help bridge the gap and facilitate more student crossover into town and involvement in the greater community. “It’d be wonderful to see a town -wide effort to support local businesses through the transition,” he said, “but also having a student aspect to that would be really cool. Just to feel like the support extended all the way out.” While some may be disappointed to say goodbye to The Lobby and half-priced burger nights, it seems The Arcadian and Haymaker Bun Co. have a lot to offer. “Although I was sad to see the The Lobby close, I’m excited to have a new restaurant in town,” Charlie Diprinzio ’21 said, of the coming changes. “Both of the new places sound really creative and interesting, and I can’t wait to try them.” Diprinzio, who is an executive manager of Dolci, the student run fine-dining service on campus, believes that having an Italian restaurant and a new coffee shop in town will make a great addition to the food scene. Matt and Caroline are welcoming everyone — students included — to apply for available positions. “I love working with Middlebury College students. I had awesome help at Two Bros from people on campus and a good attitude and a good work ethic is really all that gets you in the front door,” said Matt. The two are looking forward to spreading the joy of “simple life and simple food” with their food and drink in the coming months. Tuesday through Saturday, Haymaker Bun will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and The Arcadian will be open for dinner starting at 4:30 p.m.
Stroll down Main Street this afternoon and you may find a vastly different landscape from the downtown of semesters past. The “For Sale,” “For Lease,” and “Markdowns up to 70% off” signs, as well as unfamiliar shop windows and the conspicuous rail bridge construction project are unavoidable. The tide of stores closing or changing hands became apparent to many last spring with the departure of The Diner on Memorial Day (purchased by The Town Hall Theater) and rumors of the now-closed Carol’s Hungry Mind Café going out of business. Over the following months this surge of changes seems to have begun flooding in full-force. On Aug. 7, owner John Melanson permanently closed Carol’s after an involved attempt on both his part and the part of many regular customers to save the business. “These are people’s livelihoods, these are people that have worked hard to be a part of the downtown and they’ve participated in things and they’ve given a lot of themselves,” said Karen Duguay, executive director of the Better Middlebury Partnership (BMP), an organization committed to supporting local businesses through various events and programming in order to maintain a vibrant downtown and strong community. Replenishing the caffeine market in Middlebury is Adam Shafer of Shafer’s Market & Deli, who launched The Daily Grind at Carol’s previous location at 24 Merchant’s Row. It will doubtless be difficult to say goodbye to some of these local fixtures and gathering places, and yet, at the same time Duguay said, she can’t help being encouraged by the businesses and individuals, like Shafer, who have stepped forward to fill in the voids left as storefronts close down. “That’s what we need right now,” she said. “We need people willing to take a shot and to fill some of those gaps and I want to support them as best we can.” The Daily Grind hopes to build a community hub similar to that fostered by Melanson at Carol’s Hungry Mind. Shafer will also continue to operate the popular Market & Deli on 54 College St. A staple of Middlebury’s downtown, Otter Creek Bakery, at 14 College St. is also facing changes. The owners of the bakery, Sarah and Ben Wood have been looking for a potential buyer for some time now said David Donahue ’91, who chairs the Addison County Chamber of Commerce. Donahue is also chief of staff to President Laurie Patton and the college’s director of community relations. “Ben and Sarah feel like they have had a good long run,” explained Donahue, adding that while they loved their business, they feel “it’s time for someone new, with new ideas and fresh energy to take over.” Another tough goodbye for residents and students alike will be Ben Franklin at 63 Main St. The general store has been an essential part of the downtown since 1943, and yet due to economic hardship, this favorite catchall store will be forced to shut down. Like many small business owners across Vermont and the country, Andy Li, the current owner of the store, cited Amazon and other online retailers as part of his decision to close the business. Middlebury Selectboard member Lindsey Fuentes-George echoed Li, saying that many businesses in Middlebury – like elsewhere – are struggling as people choose to purchase more online. In addition to these nationwide issues, Li elaborated on some economic challenges specific to downtown Middlebury. A lack of parking in the downtown area and the rail bridge construction near Merchant’s Row have put a damper on much of the area’s foot traffic, which, he said, is key to a small business owner’s success. The future of Ben Franklin after its sale remains unclear; however, Li hopes to see a similar retail or general store fill the storefront. Clay’s Clothing at 60 Main St. had its last day of business on June 24. The boutique, founded by Kurt and Laura Reichelt, faced strains of a period of diminishing sales and the looming rail bridge construction, as first reported by The Addison Independent. Green Mountain Shoe & Apparel in the Hannaford shopping center at 260 Court St. followed closely on the heels of Clay’s, officially closing its doors on August 31. Angie Wade and her husband Scott, who owned and operated the store for 21 years, moved to the Court Street location in order to increase customer-parking options, according to Donahue. Donahue also named online shopping as a cause of the decline in patronizing of local retail businesses such as Clay’s and Green Mountain Shoe & Apparel; the local stores struggle to match the lower prices and the free deliveries of Amazon Prime, Zappos and other larger chains. Other changes include the opening of Foundation Salon & Spa, owned and operated by Jennifer Stocker, replacing Curve Appeal, which was a sex positive store for women at 32 Merchant’s Row. The new spa is located right next to The Daily Grind. Shafer and Stocker are a husband and wife business team. Adding to the list of new ventures, Matt Corrente ’07, previously the head chef of Two Brothers Tavern, will be taking over The Lobby at 7 Bakery Lane. The new ownership could bring exciting transformations and Italian cuisine. The Campus will continue to report on this change as it develops. “I will say that I think that as a community Middlebury is as relevant, community focused, and driven as any I’ve ever seen,” Duguay said. “I think that if any community is going to withstand some of these challenges and really thrive and flourish it’s Middlebury.” Duguay is also the co-chair of Neighbors Together, a steering committee formed in 2014 by St. Stephen’s Church with the goal of identifying values important to the town’s community and creating action items to support those values. Some of those action items include: a revamp of the experiencemiddlebury.com website, various advertising campaigns like #middhiddengems on Instagram, movie and concert events and the Midd Money Match program, which is a local shopping rewards program. Additionally, Neighbors Together hopes to work towards long-term infrastructure projects like free WiFi in town and tax-free holidays during the heaviest parts of the rail bridge construction. “I have faith in our community that we’re not going to let our downtown go anywhere, that we will survive this and that we will come back with a very vibrant and healthy community,” said Duguay. She stressed, however, the importance of connecting with college students, encouraging the future addition of student positions to the BMP Board in order to receive their feedback. “The college has a huge impact on many levels,” Donahue agreed, “and we are thinking of new and different ways that we can strengthen the connection between the town and college. When students choose to shop downtown or when students and their families make a point to stay local, that can make a real difference.” “Because this is not just a downtown thing,” Duguay emphasized. “It affects everyone.” Neighbors Together will be hosting the last outdoor movie screening of the summer this coming Friday, Sept. 14 at 7pm. The organization will be playing the Greatest Showman at College Park, across from Shafer’s Market.
In the late 1980s and into the 1990s, dairying in New England was in crisis. Small farms were faced with a lack of demand for agricultural labor, according to Vermont Representative Peter Conlon, 53. Conlon, who was born and raised in Vermont, worked as a dairy labor specialist for ten years with Agri-Placement, a company that offers employee placement and support services for dairy farms. “Americans have, by and large, walked away from doing this kind of job,” Conlon said. This has played out on many farms throughout New England and into the twenty-first century. “It used to be that there was always somebody knockin’ on the door for a job — always, I mean constantly,” said Marie Audet, who owns Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport with her husband, Eugene. She manages the office side of the business — no small feat for a farm of over 700 mature dairy animals, categorized as a large farm operation in Vermont. Eugene, a “herdsman,” works daily with the cows. Other members of her family occupy many different roles of the operation. Her nephew is a mechanic and works with tractors, her sister-in-law runs a day care for the children on the farm, and her son works with the baby cows. “People just don’t stop in like they used to looking for work — it’s not happening,” Ms. Audet said. Her office walls are covered from floor to ceiling in framed photographs from years of cow show competitions. There are 29 employees in total at Blue Spruce Farm — nine of whom are part of the Audet family, although Marie tends to say that “it’s not a big farm; it’s a big family.” “I think that’s important to know because you probably come here and see a large farm,” Ms. Audet said. “This [operation] was two people — and now there are 20 of us. We’re four generations. We want to continue working together but we need the business to be big enough to support all of our families.” As domestic demand for farming jobs dwindled, small family farm owners — like the Audets — were left searching for help, says Conlon. Will Lambek, spokesperson and staff member of Migrant Justice (Justicia Migrante), a local human rights and food justice advocacy organization, contends that the dairy industry has been in severe distress for a long time now. U.S. dairy prices are tied to the global commodity market for dairy, which has meant wild fluctuations in prices that are based on world supply and demand. When milk prices drop below production costs, small businesses struggle to stay afloat and are often bought up by larger farms. Over the past 50 years, this consolidation has caused the number of dairy farms in Vermont to decline significantly, from 11,000 in 1947 to 858 in 2015, according to an article published on Dec. 8 in Vermont’s Seven Days. “Family farms have closed and larger, neighboring farms have had to buy them up,” Lambek said. “Because these larger farms can no longer sustain their business with just family employees. They need to look elsewhere to hire workers but they don’t have the capital to invest in dignified livable wages.” According to Lambek, at the same time that global market forces and lack of domestic demand for agricultural labor were putting pressure on dairying in the U.S., forces of neoliberalism opened up the Mexican economy. “Hundreds of thousands of rural Mexicans have been forced off of their land and then forced to emigrate to the U.S. to look for work,” Lambek said. Word began to spread informally through the immigrant community, bringing a population of people, largely from Mexico, but also from other Latin American countries, to the Northeast, who were willing to supply labor. Tim Howlett, owner of Champlainside Farm in Bridport, has experienced this sort of network within the migrant community. “These guys are really good,” Howlett said. “When they go home they usually give two months notice and they sometimes will say, ‘Hey, I know a guy looking for a job.’ If they can vouch for whoever is coming in, we say okay.” “I’m here por la necesidad — out of necessity,” said Fide, 29, who has worked on a dairy farm in Addison County for seven years. “There are few jobs in my town and you can’t make a lot of money.” At one point, Fide returned home to Oaxaca, México, to work a job that earned him less than 25 cents an hour. It was at this intersection of pressure and stress on dairying that the Audets began using Agri-Placement as an intermediary to find and vet workers. Supported and contracted through employment services, migrant laborers are crucial to the success of the entire dairy industry in Vermont. “I want to say that in Vermont, the average person probably does understand how important immigrant workers are to dairy,” Howlett said. “I think that in the greater world where people can go weeks without even seeing a cow, they might not think twice about it. The milk is just in the store and that’s the way it works.” Supply and demand for Vermont’s labor force still exists globally. The flow of migrant workers to the state does not seem to be slowing despite national xenophobia towards immigrants. But with increasing immigration enforcement at the federal level, the arrangement is being increasingly stressed. “At the moment there is still a workforce, but that’s really being put at risk and there’s no substitute right now. There’s no clear alternative,” Lambek said. Following the death of 18-year-old José Obeth Santiz Cruz, from Chiapas, México, on a farm in Franklin County in 2009, immigrant farmworkers organized to create Migrant Justice/Justicia Migrante. “His death was an unnecessary death that could have been prevented by proper training and acted as a catalyst for immigrant farmworkers to come together,” Lambek said. Surveys of more than 200 dairy workers across the state found systemic and abusive violations of human rights. Workers were almost entirely left out of the picture of Vermont’s dairy industry. “They wouldn’t leave their farms for months at a time because housing was on site,” Lambek said. Immigrants were working seven days a week with no days off, no sufficient breaks for meals or sleep, averaging 60 to 80 hours a week, and returning to unlivable, isolated and overcrowded housing. According to Fide, Migrant Justice has helped friends and coworkers get access to driver’s licenses, better pay, and housing despite their immigration status. “Here in this state, I know that there are organizations like Migrant Justice that can help many people,” Fide said. He wants people to know that there are ways to get help and improved working conditions. Although Ernesto and Jesús, two migrant farmworkers, may have the option to take occasional breaks during the workday or a full day off, they generally choose not to. And what would be the point? They are both here to earn money to support their families at home, not to build a permanent life in the U.S. “I can speak for every immigrant here,” Jesús said. “No one is here on vacation. No one is here for any reason other than to work.” And, Jesús reminds me, glancing down at his tall, mud-encrusted rubber boots, “Somebody has to do the dirty work so that milk cartons end up on grocery store shelves.” Will Lambek believes that an incident in Franklin County last August between local police, ICE, and the two Mexican farmworkers was a clear instance of discrimination and in violation of the Fair and Impartial Policing (FIP) policy in place at the time. Despite this violation, the policy as a whole was very strong. According to Lambek, new changes to the FIP proposed by the Trump administration may create new loopholes that will make it easier for local law enforcement to justify collaborating with federal law enforcement. In 2014, President Barack Obama ended the “Secure Communities” program, which upheld the random deportation of taxpaying, contributing community members who came to the U.S. illegally. Under the program, simple traffic violations were often catalysts for deportations. That same year, following the termination of “Secure Communities,” the Department of Homeland Security set guidelines intended to prioritize the deportation of people who are “threats to national security and public safety.” In Vermont, the FIP was put into place to prevent police discrimination and profiling. Proposed changes would remove many protections for undocumented immigrants from the 2016 policy. They would allow local police to inform federal immigration authority — particularly active in Vermont because it is a border state — if they discover that victims or witnesses of a crime do not have legal documentation. Additionally, the new policy would allow police officers operating near the Canadian border to contact federal immigration authorities if they suspect someone has crossed into the U.S. illegally. But Lambek and other activists returned from a hearing held on Jan. 24 feeling hopeful. The Committee on Governmental Operations said that it would consider legislation to push back the implementation date of the proposed changes to the FIP, saying that they would rather get it done right than get it done on time. The isolation of undocumented workers is only furthered by fear and worry about the possibility of detention or deportation. “I do get nervous when I go out, if I’m in a store or something and I see an ICE agent or something, I’ll try to leave pretty quickly and just come back here,” Fide said. “When I hear about people getting deported or arrested, I just hope it doesn’t happen to me. I think to myself, okay one more year and I’ll be able to finally go back home.” For Ernesto, though, these worries have not increased noticeably under the new administration. Life in Addison County is “igúal.” “It’s the same as it was before the new president,” he said. “I didn’t leave [the house] then and nothing has changed. Maybe it’s different for people who live in the cities. But not for me.” “It does feel different now,” Jesús said, disagreeing with his coworker. “Maybe Americans haven’t felt much of a difference or had a change of heart, but immigrants have.” Jesús continued: “There is more fear now. There has always been fear. We are illegals. We were illegals before and we still are. Whether we have a racist president or not, the fear was always present. But now we are more scared.” In this state, losses of protection for undocumented immigrants, increased ICE activity, and collaboration with local law enforcement are changes that pose concrete threats to migrant workers, farm owners and Vermonters alike. “The threat to their workforce is causing farm owners stress. When you look at organizations like the Vermont Farm Bureau and other lobbies, immigration is something that people are paying close attention to,” Lambek said. But he qualifies that there are many different responses inside that framework. “Many farm owners voted for Trump,” he said. “They believe that undocumented immigrants should be sent out of the U.S. but they also want to protect their workforce. Political schizophrenia exists widely. People hold these contradictory opinions at the same time.” Though some farmer owners align with Migrant Justice’s stance that a pathway to citizenship is needed, there are others who, according to Lambek, are hoping for an expansion of the H-2A visa program — a temporary form of documentation for seasonal workers. But dairying is a year-round industry. “Temporary workers statuses tie people’s immigration status to them, which opens the door for abuse and exploitation. Migrant justice opposes any immigration bill that ties people’s specific employment to their immigration status,” Lambek said. “One thing I want to say is there are a lot of people who come here to work,” Fide said. “There aren’t many opportunities to work where I come from and the jobs that exist don’t pay enough. We come here to work but we respect the law. This is not our country, so we know to respect the law. I think that it is really important for people to be able to get permits or visas to be able to come here and work. It is so important. Those who come here to stay are few. We come here to work and make money to support our families and then we go home.” As turbulent as the situation for dairying and migrant workers appears to be, farmers and workers continue to wake up in the early hours of the morning to make the whole operation run. “The day we take a break is the day the cow stops making milk,” Jesús said. But early in the morning of Jan. 18, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement conducted a raid at a Days Inn Motel in Colchester, Vermont. This raid was the first of its kind in the state. Fourteen workers were detained and could be deported. The raid took place without any additions to immigration enforcement budgets. With an increase in funds and agents, such as what the Trump administration is proposing, ICE would have the power to undertake many more similar sweeps across the state.
MONTPELIER — The Vermont Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jack Sawyer on Wed. Apr. 11 on the question of bail. The decision means that the 18-year-old accused of planning a shooting at Fair Haven Union High School in Rutland, VT earlier this year cannot be held without bail on the basis that his actions do not meet the charges of felony against him under the legal definition of “attempt.” During the two days of hearings last month, Sawyer pleaded “not guilty” to charges of four felonies: three counts of attempted murder and one count of attempted aggravated assault with a weapon. Judge Thomas Zonay, who is presiding over the trial, sided with State prosecutors at the time, ruling that Sawyer could be held without bail until his trial date. However, in an unexpected move, a three-judge-panel reversed this decision last Wednesday at an appeal, which means that Sawyer could be released before his trial takes place. The panel, made up of Associate Justices Beth Robinson, Harold Eaton Jr., and Karen Carroll held in their published decision that “the weight of the evidence is not great that [the] defendant has committed any act or combination of acts that would satisfy Vermont’s definition of an attempt to commit any of the charged crimes.” From the beginning of this case, as reported by the Addison Independent, whether or not Sawyer’s actions constitute “attempt” under Vermont state law has been a main point of contention. Under current legislative precedent in Vermont, charges of “attempt” must contain action “towards the commission of the offense.” State prosecutors argued that Sawyer’s acquisition of a 12-gauge shotgun, among other alleged steps he took before the planned shooting, do fulfill the “attempt” statute. According to the same Addison Independent article, Sawyer also ostensibly chose the date of Mar. 14 based on the school’s calendar, procured $500 via Bitcoin with the intent of purchasing an AR-15 (an automatic rifle) and did target practice with the shotgun. During deliberations, defendants cited the State v. Hurley case, which, decided over one hundred years ago, set precedent for attempt charges in Vermont. In State v. Hurley, the question at hand was whether or not obtaining the tools necessary to carry out a crime constituted an attempt to commit the crime itself. The Court ruled in favor of Hurley, reversing his conviction for attempting to break out of prison. The Court held that an “attempt” is a preparatory act that would – except for outside interruption – end in the intended crime. Sawyer’s defense referenced State v. Hurley in an effort to show that his acts of preparation were not necessarily also acts of attempt. While Judge Zonay wrote that “absent the police interruption the Defendant’s acts were likely, if not assured, to end in the consummation of his crimes,” the Supreme Court justices said that his past actions were not enough to substantiate an attempt charge in Vermont law. “Each of [the defendant’s] actions was a preparatory act,” the justices wrote, “and not an act undertaken in the attempt to commit a crime. Therefore, as a matter of law, [the] defendant’s acts did not fall within the definition of an attempt.” Sawyer’s attorney, Kelly Green, believes that the Court’s decision indicates that the State’s prosecution may not be successful in this high-profile case, reported Seven Days VT. However, the justices seemed to offer an alternative, saying that while they had to uphold the over 100 years of consistent legislation, “the Legislature can, if it chooses, deviate from this long-established standard by passing a law revising the definition of attempt.” This decision came on the same Wednesday that Governor Phil Scott publicly signed three gun-control bills into law in a historic move for firearm legislation in Vermont. Following the Parkland shooting and the foiled shooting at Fair Haven, Gov. Scott, a longtime proponent of gun rights in his political career, changed his stance to support more stringent firearm legislation. Scott cited the “near miss” at Fair Haven as a large reason behind his shift in perspective, saying that Vermont has been given “the opportunity to think differently.” “I thought as the safest state in the nation, Vermont was immune to this type of violence,” Gov. Scott said at the public signing ceremony last Wednesday amid heckles and angry protests from gun rights supporters. “The reality of how close we came to a tragedy forced me to come full circle.” As of this historic moment, Vermont, previously known as one of the most gun-friendly states, has become one of the least. The bills signed into law include provisions that enable authorities to remove guns from people at “extreme-risk” of violence, expand background checks and place limits on magazine capacity. “It is incumbent upon the state to combat the epidemic of mass shootings that has swept the country in recent years,” said Gov. Scott in front of the State House. “Today we choose action over inaction, doing something over doing nothing, knowing there will always be more work to do.” On Thurs., Apr. 12 – the day following the Vermont Supreme Court’s decision to reverse the hold-without-bail ruling in Sawyer’s case - Green filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him. Though she was unwilling to comment for this piece, Green is quoted in Seven Days VT saying: “Jack didn’t attempt any crime, he hasn’t attempted the charged crimes, and they have to be dismissed. When there is not probable cause, the state’s involvement in someone’s life must end.” The same day, Rutland County State Attorney Rosemary Kennedy served Sawyer with an “extreme risk protection order,” which would not allow him to possess or purchase weapons following his possible release. The order was granted and Sawyer’s attorney does not intend to challenge it. Gov. Scott announced on Fri. April 13 that he was “appalled” at the Court’s reversal on the issue of bail. He detailed several steps that authorities would take to protect the Fair Haven Union high school community before Sawyer’s possible release, including the participation of nine law enforcement agencies, the obtainment of no-trespass orders against Sawyer and increased “security infrastructure” in the school district.
MONTPELIER — On Thursday, Feb. 15, the Vermont Senate passed a bill during a procedural vote to increase the hourly minimum wage from its current level of 10.50 to 15 dollars by 2024. The proposed bill would increase the wage gradually over the next six years with the first increase scheduled to take place on Jan. 1, 2019. After passing the bill with a two-thirds majority on Feb. 15 (20 in favor and 10 opposed), lawmakers gave final approval to the bill in a voice-vote on Friday, Feb. 16. Senate President Pro Tempore, Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden), has been an enthusiastic ally of the bill and of Sen. Michael Sirotkin, who first introduced it. “Income inequality is the most pressing public policy issue in our time,” said Ashe, who believes that increasing the minimum wage is currently the best strategy to address the issue. According to Addison Independent, Vermonters are more likely to work minimum wage jobs than in most other New England states. However, some of those in opposition to it believe that the bill would harm small businesses in Vermont, which would have to adjust to paying higher wages. Senators who opposed the bill raised concerns that adjusting to these higher baseline wages would force small businesses to cut back on their number of employees, reduce their hours or struggle with a lower margin of profit. Some expressed a desire to see wage increases for Vermonters come from skill-set development rather than an increase in the state-enforced minimum. Other senators were concerned that raising household incomes could cause some families to lose eligibility for aid, or ‘push them off the benefits cliff.’ Yet Ashe explained that the minimum wage study committee, established by Vermont’s Joint Fiscal Office, had carefully considered the issues of the benefits cliff and the impact of the wage increase on businesses. “Those who are in support [of the bill] aren’t unmindful to those small businesses owners who could face challenges,” he said. Ashe illustrated the benefits of increasing the minimum wage, saying that Vermonters who earn, for example, around 20,000 dollars a year, are more likely to spend that extra dollar and put it back into supporting small businesses than, say a millionaire would be. “Members of the public have generally shown support for raising the minimum wage and understand the social justice issues behind [doing so],” said Ashe. “Although it’s not a guarantee that every dollar we increase minimum wage will go back into supporting small businesses, we believe that broader reduction costs will be enjoyed by all small businesses.” What is more, Ashe explained, is that minimum wage is scheduled to go up under current law anyway; the bill is simply increasing the suggested level for 2024. He explained that he also supports it because it would help reduce how much taxpayers “have to pick up the tab” and allow businesses to take care of their employees while still remaining competitive. Workers’ compensation and unemployment costs are scheduled to go down around the same time that these wages go up, so that should help in terms of the support that small businesses would see. Though Ashe says the bill would not reverse demographic trends of workforce decline, he believes it could offer an incentive for workforce participation and support for those who rely on minimum wage paying jobs. “I think, frankly, that people understand that the economy has been good to people at the top and not so good to the bottom and want to change that,” he said. Lawmakers considered and defeated several proposed amendments to the senate bill. They voted against the inclusion of an amendment, submitted by Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, that would limit the minimum wage hike to Vermont’s most densely populated region, Chittenden County. Another, proposed by Sen. Peg Flory, R-Rutland, which would let businesses pay less than minimum wage given they provided certain benefits, was also defeated, according to Addison County Independent. Though the bill passed definitively in the Senate, defeating several amendments, it may face several challenges and cutbacks in the house and when it eventually reaches Governor Phil Scott’s desk. “While Gov. Scott agrees with the goal to increase wages, and has supported economically responsible increases to the minimum wage in the past,” Rebecca Kelley, spokesperson to the governor, told Addison County Independent, “the approach currently proposed comes with a lot of risk to our economy, businesses and increased costs to consumers.” “I think that philosophically the governor is opposed to raising the minimum wage at all, but if this bill gets to his desk he will have to choose between a philosophical decision and what is best for Vermont,” said Ashe. “My hope is that the house will take action and that the governor will support the proposed bill as well.”
MIDDLEBURY – The Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center welcomed The Maker’s Faire for the first time to their annual Open House last Thursday, Feb. 15. Students and community members gathered at the Center at 51 Charles Ave. in Middlebury to learn about future career pathways from the visual arts, engineering and sustainable agriculture, to culinary arts and ‘making.’ The event, coordinated and organized by a committee of career center faculty and administrators, including Interim Superintendent Dana Peterson, educators, makers and community members, was part of an effort to encourage community engagement and access to the facility and its resources. The “maker movement” is a homegrown, DIY movement, encompassing a broad range of artistic, technical, and creative interests. “Being a maker is either for love of art, love of creation, or just wanting to change your own fortunes through making things and creating things to make your or someone else’s life better or more beautiful,” said Devon Karpak, a Career and Tech Ed instructor and a member of the organizational force behind the event last Thursday. “There’s so much cool stuff going on in people’s garages and their small businesses and their hobbies,” said Karpak. Though the Open House at the career center has been going on for years, he explained, making and technical education are not often emphasized as career pathways. “Bringing them out into the light at a Maker’s Faire is kind of what the impetus for this [event] was,” he said. “A lot of this is self-taught,” said Jim Randall, an animatronics artist hailing from Massachusetts and one of the makers at the fair. “This is the first time I’ve done a maker faire but I’ve been to other conventions in the past, which are really helpful for this line of work.” For Randall and many of the other makers at the fair, this was an opportunity to showcase their labors, network, and participate in an exchange of ideas and creativity. During his budget address on Jan. 23, Governor Phil Scott emphasized the need to retain Vermont’s workforce. “A shrinking workforce creates a downward spiral,” he said according to Seven Days VT. “With fewer workers we have less revenue and the state becomes less and less affordables.” With baby boomers reaching retirement age, one of the lowest birth rates in the country, and a low unemployment rate indicating low supply of labor, many fear that Vermont is set up for this ‘downward spiral.’ However, the Census Bureau reported in 2017 that Vermont saw its first population increase since 2013. “As an education and training organization we need to be giving the workforce what it needs,” said Kate LaRiviere, Instructional Coach at the career center, “so, I see us as very much a part of the workforce development.” LaRiviere contends that a large goal of the center is to maintain and develop this workforce locally by helping students make connections in Vermont. “I’ve got to figure that even if they go out of state for college they could come back and feel like they had a connection in the industry,” she said. The addition of the Maker’s Faire at the Open House is more inclusive to adult education; it acknowledges that a portion of the workforce is self-employed and self-taught. LaRiviere explains that the center hopes to make its resources and facilities available to a wider audience. “The Maker Movement is about democratizing creativity and giving anybody who wants to make something a spot to do it,” she said. “There was a point where woodshop and metal shop and all that stuff, that was just part of growing up in high school,” said Karpak. “It didn’t matter if you were going to college or if you were going right into the workforce or somewhere in between.” Over the years that vein of programming was cut, and Middlebury was not exempt from those cuts, Karpak explained. Woodshop, metalworking and making education in general transitioned elsewhere. “But people still have the desire and the need to create and be inventive,” he said. Another goal of the Maker Faire was to assess community support for the creation of a more permanent ‘maker’s space’ in the career center or another location in downtown Middlebury. The space would be accessible to residents and students of all ages in Addison County. “Maker’s Spaces are really cool,” said Jake Burnham, an Engineering and Architecture Instructor from Cornwall, Vt. and another member of the group working towards the creation of the maker’s space. “They are what our primary education should be based on. Maker’s Spaces are just little creative engines that provide the freedom to explore with materials and tools.” Burnham emphasized the importance of experiential learning in the success of education and maker’s spaces to facilitate that. “The idea is that if we found a way to open the career center to the community so that they could understand what resources are in this building, said LaRiviere, “there would be a greater appreciation and potentially greater access for people to this building.” Peterson reported in the Addison County Independent that the initiative has received a lot of support and is far ahead of schedule. Karpak is hopeful about the possibility of the establishment of a maker’s space. He believes that it would not only improve access to the resources that inventors and creators need to work but would also facilitate an exchange of ideas and innovative growth. “I think the community’s response has been and will continue to be largely positive,” he said. Karpak hopes to see a maker’s space either at the career center or somewhere else in town within the next ten months and possibly a space open temporarily once a week within the next couple of months. “Vermont has an immense entrepreneurial spirit that lives in barns and garages. My hope and the reason that I got involved in this is because I think Middlebury has the capacity to retain what makes it unique and amazing.” Learn more about the Hannaford Career Center and available programming and resources at http://www.hannafordcareercenter.org/.
Steve Willsey of Shaker Maple Farm in Addison County tapped his first tree in 1988. For Willsey and many other Vermonters, maple syrup production, or sugarmaking, now represents a primary source of income. Donna Hutchinson (Mt. Pleasant Sugarworks) explained that it was not always like this. “The industry has certainly changed. It has become more of a mainstay, commercial industry and less of a local, family business,” she said. The maple syrup industry in the U.S. has been growing steadily over the past two decades, according to UVM Extension maple specialist Mark Isselhardt. This iconic industry has always required a certain degree of flexibility because the production season is dependent on many variable weather conditions. However, a UVM study on the adaptability of maple production published in 2016 reports that climate change may require sugarmakers to make substantial changes to their operations in order to remain competitive. Though images of metal buckets hanging from trees, symbols of historical tapping technique, are often used for marketing purposes, the reality of modern production is very different. A variety of new technological advances, including networks of plastic tubing, reverse osmosis devices, and vacuum pressure pumps, have contributed to the growth and efficiency of sugarmaking. At Solar Sweet Maple Farm in South Lincoln, Vermont, Rhonda and Tom Gadhue maintain around 23,000 taps. When the correct balance of freezing nights and above-freezing days arrives, usually in the spring, maple sap will begin to flow and the Gadhues can begin to tap. “Our saps come to our sugar house and are pumped into three to four different tanks. Once the tanks are full the sap gets processed through a reverse osmosis machine, which takes the water out and decreases the boiling time,” Rhonda Gadhue said, describing the processing of maple sap. “Then it’s run through a wood fire evaporator and once it reaches a certain temperature, the syrup is ready to be filtered and packaged.” The Gadhues’ sugarhouse is built from reclaimed Vermont barns and powered by solar panels, a testament to their commitment to “preserve the environment, make the best use of [their] land, and foster sustainability”. Historically, the typical tapping season began on Town Meeting Day, a Vermont holiday on the first Tuesday in March. But Dr. Timothy Perkins, director of the UVM Proctor Maple Research Center, said that technology is allowing the season to begin earlier and run longer. The Gadhues hope to begin this week. “Usually we start tapping the day after new years but this year it was so cold that to tap would have done damage to the trees,” said Rhonda Gadhue. Steve Willsey has already begun tapping. “I never would have started so early before,” he said, “but because the tubes are so sterile, the trees won’t start healing over before I’m finished tapping.” Dr. Perkins explains that, at least for now, this improved sanitation and technology is allowing sugarmakers to offset any changes that might arise due to climate change. In recent years, warmer winters have benefitted production, bringing record crops to Shaker Maple Farm and many other sugarworks in the Northern Kingdom. “I had two record crops the last two winters,” said Willsey. “But long term I have no idea – down the road if it gets too warm that could be problematic because you need the freezes [to tap] as well.” The expansion of the maple industry in recent years brings more concerns for Willsey and many other sugarmakers: if growth continues and supply starts to outpace demand, prices of syrup could drop in the future. Vermont is the biggest maple producer in the United States, accounting for 42 percent of the country’s production, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. In a report published in 2015, the Center for Rural Studies at UVM put the value of maple production growth at 150 percent, from $19,755,594 in 1992 to $49,432,000, and ranked maple as the fourth most valued agricultural commodity in Vermont. Another Addison County sugarmaker, Dave Folino, who has been in the business since 1979, urges maple producers to focus more on marketing and selling syrup in The Maple News. “So far, maple has been one of the few reliable, steady, profitable sectors of agriculture in Vermont. I fear that could change,” he cautioned. Folino clarifies that he is not arguing against growth, rather for more “balanced growth.” Extreme weather fluctuations that accompany climate change will pose several problems for maple syrup producers. Folino has noticed more and larger wind storms since 2000 and though warmer temperatures may be beneficial for the moment, the Addison County Independent reports, these trends may make production more difficult in the long run. “My biggest enemy right now is the wind. The storm that came through in November knocked trees down and messed up tubing,” said Willsey. “I don’t know if I’m just more in tune [to weather changes] but I get really nervous now whenever I hear strong winds.” Despite concerns about climate change and the future economics of the iconic maple industry, sugarmakers in Vermont remain hopeful. “Every year is different,” Hutchinson said. “You adapt in the sugaring industry.” The technological improvements such as vacuum tubing are an example of the adaptability of researchers and producers to new challenges. “I love being my outside and making a product that everybody likes,” said Willsey. For many, sugaring represents both a source of livelihood, a community, and a passion. “The community that comes through and visits the farm when we’re boiling is amazing,” Rhonda Ghandue said. “Everybody can feel the excitement of getting what you’ve worked for year round – it’s a great feeling.”