One phrase I said a lot as a Middlebury student, in response to questions about my wellbeing: “This week is pretty rough.” Usually, I said this in passing, walking down College Street or waiting by the Proc panini machines. Often, I would throw in a self-deprecating joke or an eye roll. You know how it goes. It’s no secret that the academic culture at Middlebury rewards overwork. It seems expected for students to take on as much as they can — plus a little more than that. From coursework to jobs to clubs and sports, free moments are few and far between. So often, it feels like the focus is just getting through. Get through the week so you can blow off some steam this weekend. Get through midterms so you can relax over Spring Break. Get through this semester with that one class that’s really putting you through it. Get through your four years of college and be sure you are doing something every single second because the price tag is high and if you’re relaxing, then you’re missing something. It’s only four years, after all. You can cram a little bit more into your schedule, can’t you? What we don’t talk about enough is how the cultural norms of stress and a too-heavy workload will follow you right into your professional life, if you let them. Because college may just be four years, but the habit of doing too much and accepting poor work-life balance has stuck around, at least for me. And it’s gotten much harder to take now that I have to admit there is no end in sight unless I make some changes for myself. Middlebury, like many of its peer institutions, does not teach healthy boundaries between work and personal time. After spending an upside-down pandemic year in the workforce since graduation, I have realized that if I don’t learn how to create those boundaries, I am going to spend a lot of time being miserable. And I don’t want to live my entire life just waiting for the next break from work. I work in an (at-home for now) office job as a journalist in Austin, Texas, and the news industry is not renowned for work life boundaries even in the best of times. I know my work experience is different from many of my fellow grads, but learning how to navigate whatever workspace you are in is a big part of post-college life. Naming this problem is not in and of itself a solution. As one of my favorite pandemic think pieces recently put it, “You can’t heal a sick culture with personal bandages.” And to be honest, I am not sure I would do my Middlebury experience all that differently, if I could go back and pack my schedule again. I wish there had been more quiet space in between the noise, but I also loved the organizations I was a part of and the classes I took. This might be the graduation goggles talking, but I have a hard time imagining what I would have wanted to forgo in order to have more free time. However, it is also clear to me that if Middlebury claims to want to teach us the life skills we need to succeed in whatever we do next, the skill of work-life balancing is sorely missing from that list. Without it, the risk of burnout and suffering mental health abound. I wish I could offer better advice for soon-to-be graduates about how to tackle this problem, but I am still learning myself. It can be a challenge for me to set boundaries at work, to say no when I can’t take on any more projects and to ask for the help I need. What I will say is this: When you transition to life after Middlebury, remember that you are allowed to take time for things you enjoy. Pick up a novel. Plant a vegetable garden. Hit the craft store. Learn to cook that thing your mom used to make. Nobody is going to make you take that time for yourself, but do not let anxiety and imposter syndrome get in the way. If living over a year in a pandemic has reminded us of anything, it’s that life is too short to wait for some undefined future before you make time for the small passions that bring you joy. Sarah Asch is a member of the class of 2019.5.
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‘It’s a slippery slope’: From dining halls to athletic fields, students open up about eating disorders at Middlebury
When Courtenay Roche arrived on campus as a first-year in the spring of 2017, she began to develop an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. The problem worsened throughout her first two years of college, and Roche recalled having less and less energy to devote to friends and extracurricular activities. “Because I wasn’t at home, I was more easily able to engage in bad behaviors that my parents would not have let happen,” she said. “Middlebury is a very isolating place. It was very easy to suffer in silence.” Roche withdrew from school in the fall of 2018 and sought treatment. Once her recovery process was underway, she decided not to return to Middlebury at all. While her decision to transfer was driven by a number of factors, Roche said that Middlebury’s culture around dieting and exercise contributed to her desire to leave. Middlebury can be a difficult place for students who struggle with body image and eating issues. Some students enter college with a history of disordered eating while others develop new unhealthy habits on campus, but many who need help often find on campus expectations about exercise and body types harmful and the college’s mental health resources insufficient. While students spend a lot of time focusing on often-skewed ideas about “healthy” eating and the importance of exercise, there is very little conversation around what happens when those norms go unchecked. Despite the fact that students every year must leave to seek intensive treatment, there is not a common understanding of eating disorders on campus. Eating disorders can impact people of all genders, races, socio-economic backgrounds and ages. In addition to those with formal diagnoses, many students experience “disordered eating,” a term used to describe a range of irregular eating behaviors that may or may not warrant a specific diagnosis. For many students, the way peers talk about food and beauty standards creates unhealthy expectations regarding body appearance. Abby Blyler ’19.5 began struggling with an eating disorder the summer before high school. She feels that Middlebury amplifies harmful standards about body size. “Our culture is so fatphobic and I think that’s hyperprevelant here,” she said. Blyler, who left campus to attend a residential treatment program last fall, said this can manifest in conversations between students about how much they eat and exercise, or comments that frame food as a reward for exercise rather than a daily necessity. Quinn Boyle ’21, who recently wrote a widely shared op-ed in The Campus about her experience, said that for her, coming to Middlebury exacerbated an issue with which she was already struggling. “Middlebury has a very perfectionist culture, and because society believes that skinny bodies are perfect and fit bodies are perfect, not only do we want to do 110% in our academics and extracurriculars but we want to do 110% when it comes to the way we look,” she said. “I got really sucked into that.” Many students said structural factors can make college challenging for students with eating disorders. This includes having to navigate dining halls, where the public nature of eating and food can be an issue, according to Boyle. “I was really socially isolated,” she said. “I couldn’t really do meals with people, I either ate in the dining hall alone or I ate in my room and I lost a lot of friends. It was really horrible.” A lack of resources for mental health The counseling staff at Parton Health and Wellness Center are generalists — they are able to help students who struggle with disordered eating until the issue has reached a certain level of severity, according to Gus Jordan, the executive director of health and counseling services. “We treat eating disorders very much like we do any serious medical or mental health issue,” he said. “Last summer, I had all our staff go through a day-long eating disorder training with two specialists from a clinic in Boston.” Jordan explained that part of the training was geared toward assessing whether students need more support than therapy every other week can provide. For students experiencing more severe symptoms, the college may not be able to offer sufficient care to help them start or continue recovery. The level of care the college is able to provide to students has been impacted by a surge in students seeking mental health services on campus, The Campus reported last spring. Jordan said that demand has risen drastically in just a few years, which reflects a larger national trend. “Five years ago we were capable of seeing every student who wanted care weekly,” he said. “We now have difficulty providing every other week therapy. My staff are carrying caseloads that are twice the size as they were five years ago in trying to manage all the people that are looking for care.” This shortage of counselors means students who need more regular therapy to treat an eating disorder might not be able to schedule appointments frequently enough to help them. In the long term, Jordan explained, this kind of under-treatment can do more harm than good for people struggling. “If you provide inadequate or too low a level of care relative to the severity of the condition, what you’re doing is you’re helping the student practice their eating disorder without it getting better,” he said. “In other words, if I’m providing once a week therapy, or every other week therapy, to a person who really needs intensive outpatient treatment, then they may be using the therapy to keep their head above water while they are practicing their eating disorder and so they are actually getting worse during that time.” The lack of resources on campus leads some students to seek solutions elsewhere. However, in a rural setting like Addison County, the options around the college are also limited. [pullquote speaker="Gus Jordan" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]Middlebury students say that the college’s culture contributes to unhealthy expectations around food and exercise, and that the resources for struggling students are lacking.[/pullquote] Amy Rice, a local dietician who frequently works with Middlebury students who have eating disorders, said that it can be challenging for patients to assemble the team they need, which usually includes a dietician, a therapist and a doctor. Rice explained that there are more options and more variation for those seeking care in the Burlington area, but traveling an hour each way for multiple appointments a week is often an unrealistic option for Middlebury students, especially for those without access to transportation. Receiving care from professionals in town can also come with a hefty price tag. “It was so hard to find people that would take my insurance,” Boyle said. “Being on the school’s insurance means that most people are not in-network with whatever health plan Middlebury provides. So then going through the process of talking to your insurance companies and then talking to your provider like your therapist or your dietician and coming up with a number you can actually meet is super difficult and stressful, and on top of that you still have to pay money out of pocket.” Boyle and other students interviewed for this article expressed a desire that the college hire more specialists, such as a nutritionist or specialized eating disorder counselor. Jordan said he also hopes to one day have a nutritionist at the Parton, either as a full time staff member or on a part-time basis. He explained that there was a part time nutritionist at Parton in the early 2000s, but very few students made appointments so the college decided to redirect funds used for the position elsewhere. “But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work now,” he said, pointing to the increase in the overall use of mental health services since then. Boyle said access to a nutritionist on campus would be a good first step. She also believes the college should hire or bring in a specialist to run a support group for students who are struggling with disordered eating. Eating disorders and athletics While eating disorders impact students across campus, being an athlete can present unique challenges for students trying to recover. This is especially true for students with teammates who struggle with similar issues. Blyler plays for the women’s soccer team, and said that in her experience, the environment on sports teams does not always facilitate healthy habits. “Every season I have overheard or witnessed teammates expressing the desire to lose weight, become more toned or go on a new fad diet. You have people eating a Proctor bowl worth of food for their whole dinner,” she said. “To me, that just shows how little education there is around health and wellness. We live in such an active community, we need to be properly fueling ourselves.” Part of the problem, Blyler said, is that teammates do not always talk openly about the issue. “People don’t want to say, ‘I had an eating disorder.’ Instead you see what they eat,” she said. “Teams have meals together all the time. So you’re just like, ‘Oh my god she’s eating just a salad, should I be eating that?’ Especially for people who may have a greater tendency to fall into that stuff it’s such a slippery slope.” Rory Kelly ’19, who ran for the cross country and track and field teams while in recovery from an eating disorder, said that being an athlete changed her relationship to her recovery process. “There were a lot of toxic things going on about food and body image on both the men’s and women’s teams,” she said. “I was in a lot of conversations about mental toughness and being kind to yourself and pushing yourself and where that line is.” For athletes struggling with eating, there is often little their coaches and trainers can do to help them. While many coaches are aware this issue exists for their athletes and want to help, there are few resources for coaches to learn how to approach this topic. Kelly said this problem goes beyond Middlebury and exists in sports at large. “There’s no good training out there for coaches on how to step in,” she said. “[Our team] did feel comfortable talking about how to get faster, but balancing taking care of ourselves and also doing that thing called school .... The area that’s still lacking is in the moment [when someone is struggling], you have to buck up and step in and have a difficult conversation.” Nicole Wilkerson, the head coach for both the men’s and women’s cross country teams, expressed frustration with the lack of information available to coaches about how to help an athlete struggling with an eating disorder. In the past, Wilkerson has brought speakers in to help educate her team on this issue and how to take care of themselves. But she said that when it comes to specific cases, it is hard to know what to do. “There’s not a clear avenue to say hey you need to do x, y and z in order to be able to compete, in order to return to practice,” she said. “It’s just trying to tackle this on our own.” According to Blyler, athletes often worry that if they tell their coaches about their eating disorder, they will be benched — or that if they start the recovery process in season, it will hinder their performance. “How do you navigate healing and navigate getting help when you don’t necessarily feel like you need to get treatment, and you’re in the middle of a season, and you’re trying to outcompete your peers? How do you do all that?” she said. The cost of leaving for help The help Parton can provide to struggling students includes weigh-ins — regular appointments to check if a student gaining or losing weight in relation to medical recommendations. However, Jordan said that the health center cannot guarantee the accuracy of the results, given that students are not monitored to ensure they are not tricking the scale like they may be at a facility that specializes in treating eating disorders. If a student appears to be at risk of serious health consequences from their eating disorder, counselors at Parton will start talking with students about taking a leave of absence. “We take action when there is imminent risk to a person,” he said. “That’s when we ask and say, ‘you might have to go home.’ We might involve parents or a dean.” Rice said that for students facing worsening symptoms, she believes it is often better to take time off and get more help than Middlebury and the surrounding area are able to provide. “If they need those bigger centers or that higher level of care the question becomes is it in their best interest, is it better for them to take a semester off versus struggle trying to manage college and their eating disorder for the duration of their college experience?” she said. For students, the decision to leave can be an incredibly difficult one. Many expressed that they reached rock bottom before they were willing to admit they needed to seek more intensive treatment. Blyler reached that point last November. “It got to the point where it was infringing on my everyday. I couldn’t do school work,” Blyler said. “I was sleeping through so many things and I was socially isolating and trying to hide it from everyone.” For Blyler, the decision to leave school came with significant financial implications, which is the case for many students contemplating a medical leave of absence for residential treatment. In addition to potential loss of tuition money for the semester a student withdraws, treatment programs for eating disorders can cost tens of thousands of dollars a month. Blyler was able to negotiate for her college insurance plan to pay for 90% of her treatment last fall, but that still left her with a $6,000 bill. “I was like, I don’t have that,” she said. “My parents aren’t financially involved – they don’t pay for anything and I have to pay for college, too.” Blyler ultimately received a grant from a foundation to cover the rest of her treatment. Boyle’s situation was also complicated. Her family cannot afford the cost of treatment, and Boyle said that she would not be able to recover living at home, leaving her with very limited options. Boyle said that she was ultimately able to access treatment because a friend’s family took her in and paid her medical expenses. “I’m really lucky that this family is giving me financial support right now, if they were not I would not be able to get any help whatsoever,” she said. “I could have died if they hadn’t been there. It was so bad.” Boyle also expressed frustration that she had not been able to access more regular therapy and appropriate medical treatment earlier, while she was still on campus, which she feels may have kept her disorder from worsening like it did. “It’s really shameful that Middlebury does not provide those resources,” she said. “Not only does it set kids back mentally but it sets you back financially and it makes it way harder for you to recover and it really does disproportionately affect kids from low incomes who can’t support themselves or don’t have family to support them.” After spending several months in treatment, Boyle recently re-applied to be allowed to come back to Middlebury for the spring, and last week she was given permission to return. “I’m not cured by any means but I’m better than I’ve been,” she said. “Middlebury provides routine, it provides stability, it provides a home where I feel like I belong, and I have an entire treatment team currently in Vermont.” She hopes that Middlebury will take steps to change the culture on campus and make more resources available to students. Jordan said one thing he believes the school can do to help combat the broader problem is institute more preventative measures. He feels that educational programming through the Health and Wellness Office will have a positive impact on campus culture. “To me that’s where the energy needs to go because I don’t think we can treat ourselves out of these situations,” he said. “We need to do much more preventative work.” Blyler said that one of the best things students can do is destigmatize eating disorders and learn how to talk about them responsibly. “It needs to be not so taboo because I know so many people who are so afraid to talk about it,” she said. “[But] if you pick five random people on this campus they will all say at one point in their life they have struggled with this to some extent.”
The Student Government Association (SGA) Senate voted unanimously in favor of President Varsha Vijayakumar’s interpretation of the constitution at today’s SGA Senate meeting, ensuring that she will not be impeached over her upcoming winter term absence. Over 30 students attended the meeting, which was open to the public. Vijayakumar, who will be off campus for winter term as part of the BOLD Women’s Leadership Initiative scholarship, explained during the senate meeting that her interpretation of the constitution does not require her to be physically present during winter term in order to fulfill her full term as president. The constitution is unclear on the matter, but gives the president the ability to interpret ambiguous clauses that are not related to senate proceedings. By voting to uphold Vijayakumar’s interpretation, the senate determined that there are no grounds to impeach her over her winter term absence. Atwater Senator Jack Brady ’20 and Junior Senator Sam Lyons ’21 were not present for the vote. The senate also appointed new members to the impeachment committee in case the committee needs to address any future concerns. Two seats were left open after Brady resigned from the committee on Saturday and senior Senator Anthony Salas ’20 recused himself from the committee on Friday, due to his past romantic involvement with Vijayakumar. Impeachment Committee Chair Paul Flores-Clavel ’22 proposed appointing Kaitlyn Velazquez ’23 and Miguel Sanchez ’23, the two first-year senators, to the committee. “I think that there’s a level of impartiality that comes with the fact that they’re first year senators,” he said. “I appreciate their sincerity when it comes to anything surrounding SGA, and I would hope that they are able to balance their personal feelings with the fact that they sit on this committee, which is a big deal as we’ve clearly seen.” Flores-Clavel also clarified the intended message of the email the committee sent to Vijayakumar on Tuesday, Dec. 3 during the meeting. “I want to apologize to Varsha and take responsibility for the tone of the initial email that was sent, as it made it seem that impeachment proceedings would be occurring today. That was not the intended message,” he said. “The initial email was sent out as a notice that members of this senate have concerns regarding the specific clause outlined in that email.” Several senators also spoke in support of Vijayakumar at the meeting, highlighting her leadership skills and expressing their desire to find a solution. “I think this points to a larger issue at Middlebury and the way that students approach things,” said Mistaya Smith ’21.5, who noted that she received a lot of feedback today from constituents against impeachment. “We tend to be very focused on what we’re supposed to do rule-wise, rather than what we should do as people and friends and students with real lives outside of everything that we’re doing here.” Elissa Asch ’22.5, who serves in the presidential cabinet as the director of the Sexual and Relationship Respect Committee, also spoke during the meeting. She was among several members of the cabinet who stayed after their own meeting to sit in on the senate meeting. “In talking to the members of the SGA cabinet, it seems very clear to us that to spend time talking about or moving forward with any kind of impeachment proceeding or discussion is taking away from good SGA work that Varsha and other people are trying to do to better the student life here,” she said. “It would be disingenuous and a clear indication that people are operating off personal reasons and not to represent their constituencies.” Before the senate voted to approve Vijayakumar’s constitutional interpretation of her term, she spoke about the lesson she hopes people take away from the events of this week. “I really want this to be a teachable moment,” she said. “This has been the worst week of my life. I want you to know that I have cried every single day this week. I want you to know that I did not touch any school work, I want you to know that I now have two incompletes in classes that now over my holiday break I am going to be finishing ... No student, regardless of their position at this institution, even if they chose to run to be the SGA President, should have to go through that.” She also expressed her desire to refocus the government’s attention on its work, rather than on her. “I was really frustrated this week that it seemed like most of our productive time as a senate was spent talking about me and my personal situation,” she said. “The big point is this detracts from us as a body being cohesive and collaborating and communicating with each other.” Note: Sarah Asch is the sister of Elissa Asch. The editors of this article decided to include her quotes because Elissa was the only member of cabinet to speak at the meeting.
Some members of the Student Government Association (SGA) have spent the last two weeks discussing the possibility of impeaching President Varsha Vijayakumar ’20. However, whether or not Vijayakumar will face an impeachment inquiry has yet to be determined. The SGA’s three-member impeachment committee, which was formed in September along with every other senate committee, notified Vijayakumar in an email on Tuesday, Dec. 3 that her plan to leave campus during the upcoming winter term may be a violation of the SGA’s constitution and is thus potentially an impeachable offense. “President Vijayakumar, you have expressed the intent on several occasions to leave campus during the 2020 Winter Term,” the email read. “If you follow through with these intentions, then the impeachment committee will begin impeachment proceedings against you.” Vijayakumar said that when she read the email, her understanding was that impeachment proceedings would begin at the next senate meeting on Dec. 8. However, despite the tone and immediacy of the email, opening an impeachment inquiry into the SGA President requires a multi-step process that has not yet been initiated. The process must start with either a petition signed by 25% of the student body, or a written statement submitted by a senator or cabinet member. No such petition existed, nor had any SGA members submitted a statement, at the time of publication of this article. According to Drew Platt ’20, one of Vijayakumar’s chiefs of staff, the impeachment process also cannot start until the offense at hand has already been committed — in this case, until after Vijayakumar left for winter term. If impeachment proceedings are initiated in the future, the impeachment committee would hold a hearing, and two out of the three members of the committee would need to vote the process forward. Then, the entire senate would hold a subsequent impeachment hearing, after which the senate would vote. Impeachment requires a two-thirds majority in the senate to pass. If the president were to be impeached, Community Council Co-Chair Roni Lezama ’22 would assume the role of interim president. There would then be a special election to fill the position. A constitutional debate Whether Vijayakumar’s upcoming winter term absence violates the constitution comes down to the interpretation of Article II, clause E.5. While the constitution allows for senators and cabinet members to leave campus over winter term, the clause regarding the presidency reads, “The President of SGA must be on campus for the duration of their term,” and does not specify if winter term is included. Vijayakumar said that, according to her interpretation, this clause does not include winter term. “I chose to interpret ‘term’ as not inclusive of J-Term,” she told The Campus in an email. “We do not pay a separate tuition fee for J-Term, we do not change our housing, and the college only requires Middlebury students to remain on campus for two of four J-Terms— one of which must be in the first year.” Others interpret the clause differently, including Wonnacott Senator Myles Maxie ’22. “For clauses where you can miss J-Term, it specifies,” he said. “By not specifying for two clauses — for community council co-chair and president, the only two all-student positions — it seems sort of clear that it is set up that way. It seems intentional.” When there is disagreement over the meaning of the constitution, the document states the president has the power to “resolve all questions of constitutional interpretation and interpretation of the Bylaws, except relating to procedures for Senate meetings.” However, the senate can overrule the president’s interpretation with a majority vote. The senate has yet to vote on this issue. While a constitutional violation is an impeachable offense, there has also been discussion among members of the SGA about the gravity of impeaching an elected official. Vijayakumar said she believes impeachment should be reserved for circumstances when a president is not acting in the best interest of the student body or is acting in ways that are intentionally malicious. She does not believe either is true in this case. Vijayakumar explained that she has offered to video chat into any meetings that she misses, and said she feels her winter term plans will not detract from her ability to fulfill her presidential duties. Paul Flores-Clavel ’22, the chair of the impeachment committee and a sophomore senator, expressed a similar sentiment about the nature of impeachment. “The purpose of impeachment should really be about someone who is maliciously trying to not create a functioning SGA or is somebody who is clearly violating the expectations of the community,” he said. “Varsha is doing neither of those things.” Several members of SGA noted that the climate of uncertainty surrounding the potential for future impeachment proceedings is due in part to the fact that the SGA’s constitution has a lot of vague language. The SGA is currently undergoing a constitutional review process, which was spurred by the impending dissolution of the commons system. The removal of the commons requires the SGA to restructure the senate to remove — or at least adjust — the five commons-specific positions. Several senators expressed the hope that any confusing or vague language might be remedied as part of the current review process. However, any constitutional changes that are made in the future will not go into effect in time to remove the ambiguity from Vijayakumar’s case. Questions of access Vijayakumar is going to India for winter term as part the BOLD Women’s Leadership Initiative, a program that offers young women mentorship and networking opportunities, in addition to scholarship funds. “Going on this trip is a requirement of the BOLD program, and my funding is contingent upon successful completion of all program requirements,” she said. Vijayakumar explained that she did not know that BOLD would require her to be away for winter term when she ran for president last spring. The fact that Vijayakumar’s winter term absence is related to the terms of her scholarship has raised questions, both for her and some members of the senate, about the nature of equitable access to leadership roles on campus. “Without BOLD, I probably would have had to transfer out of Middlebury two years ago or face the reality of crippling debt,” she said. “I find it inherently inequitable to be removed from office due to my commitment to BOLD. Are we implying that a student on financial aid must choose between a scholarship— funding that is crucial to my ability to be on campus— or being the SGA president? I find this to be directly against the college’s core mission and values.” Platt emphasized that Vijayakumar and the rest of her leadership team has been preparing for her departure for months. “It’s not like she’s leaving us out in the cold. This is something we’ve known about for a really long time,” he said. “This is something that quite frankly the rest of her executive team and the chair of the community council are ready to take on for this brief period of time that she’s not on campus.” The personal becomes political While the focus has largely been on the differing interpretations of the constitution, several members of the SGA expressed their concerns that the true motivations behind the impeachment effort stem from certain members’ personal grudges against Vijayakumar, rather than a legitimate concern about her absence over winter term. “As a senator I understand that everybody has other things going on besides the senate, and I think people fail to realize that Varsha is no exception,” Flores-Clavel said. “People forget that she’s also a student.” Flores-Clavel cited the elimination of the commons and subsequent conversations about restructuring the senate as one cause of tension within the government. “People might have whatever feelings they might have for her, and I think what’s becoming apparent is that not every member of the government is able to separate their feelings for Varsha as a person from Varsha as the president,” he said. “Like it or not, she very much has been doing her job.” Platt said that, in his view, the constitutional clause in question is intended to ensure the president is committed to the job. “If this clause is about dedication to the position, it’s almost undeniable that Varsha has been dedicated to the position,” he said. “Anybody who wants to impeach her for this particular technicality is being disingenuous by saying her absence during J-Term represents any kind of argument against her dedication to the role.” [pullquote speaker="Paul Flores-Clavel" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]People might have whatever feelings they might have for her, and I think what’s becoming apparent is that not every member of the government is able to separate their feelings for Varsha as a person from Varsha as the president.[/pullquote] The impeachment process has also been complicated by last minute changes to the impeachment committee. Atwater Senator Jack Brady ’21 resigned from his position on the committee Saturday morning, leaving one seat unfilled. The constitution does not lay out specific steps as to how vacant committee seats should be filled mid-year, giving the president the ability to interpret the ambiguity in this area. The third committee member, Senior Senator Anthony Salas ’20, recused himself from this case on Friday because of his past romantic relationship with Vijayakumar. “If this process were to actually begin, the impeachment committee would have to make a recommendation to the senate,” Salas said over text. “I think it ethically and morally makes sense [for me to recuse myself], and I want to avoid a potential false portrayal of my intentions. I have a lot of pride in the work I’ve done in the SGA since sophomore year and I don’t want that possibly misconstrued because of this situation.” While the constitution does not address the issue of recusal due to a conflict of interest, it does say that “if a member of the Committee has brought the charges, said member must recuse themselves. In such a case, the Chair of the Impeachment Committee shall select another member of the Student Senate to replace said member.” A highly anticipated meeting Various members of the SGA have been communicating with each other and with administrators about the impeachment process this week, but the matter has yet to come up at an official senate meeting. Vijayakumar hopes the upcoming meeting on Sunday, Dec. 8 — the last meeting of the fall semester — will give everyone a chance to be heard. “I want all members of senate to be able to express their opinions, but to also take in the opinions of others. What I do not want is for this discussion of my abilities to splinter us as an organization,” she said. “It would be a shame if a conversation about me detracts from our credibility as an institution or reduces our ability to continue serving students’ best interests.” Platt expressed his desire to make sure everyone is on the same page after a week of rumors and confusion about the process. He also expressed his support for Vijayakumar on the basis of her work ethic, citing the progress she has made building relationships between SGA and administrators and her progress on forming a spring action plan. “I think her track record speaks for itself, and I can say with complete confidence that starting over this summer she’s worked unbelievably hard to dedicate herself to this position,” he said. “I think ideally we can use this as an opportunity to reset as a unit, to make sure that we acknowledge the work that Varsha has done, and also just to improve communications with the body.” Sunday’s SGA Senate meeting will occur in Axinn 220 at 3 p.m. and is open to the public. This is a developing story and will be updated as necessary.
The college is launching a new workshop program for faculty and staff that will give employees tools to check their biases and create an inclusive campus environment. Called the Inclusive Practitioners Program, this new initiative comes in the wake of several high profile bias incidents in classrooms last spring. Renee Wells, director of education for equity and inclusion, has designed 14 workshops this fall. She explained that the workshops fall under three different tracks: inclusive design for learning, engaging and supporting diverse communities, and climate and dynamics in learning environments. The workshops are open to faculty and staff, and participants can either choose to register for individual sessions or to enroll in the program. Program participants commit to attending three workshops this year, as well as brown bag lunch sessions where faculty and staff meet to discuss workshop material further. Wells said the program is designed to offer faculty and staff the choice to engage in the kind of learning they want surrounding how to create a more inclusive campus community. “People can self-select whatever sessions they want,” she said. “If you’re enrolled in the program, you’ve agreed to do three workshops but all three could be in inclusive design. It doesn’t direct faculty into any particular track.” While many students called for mandatory anti-bias training in the wake of offensive material being used in classrooms last spring, Wells said in her experience opt-in programs work better. “You can’t give someone a training that makes them not biased,” she said. “It’s a process of becoming critically more aware. All of these workshops collectively are meant to create ongoing opportunities for people to build capacity across all these areas.” Wells hopes to attract motivated faculty from the start, and encourages participants to discuss what they have learned with their colleagues to increase interest further. Many faculty and staff, Wells said, have preconceived ideas of what development workshops look like that might make them less interested in participating in these discussions. “We’ve all sat through really terrible workshops,” she said. “What I’ve found is once faculty start participating in them they realize very quickly, ‘wow this is really different than I thought it was going to be and I see where I’m benefiting from this.’ So it tends to lead to increased participation.” The first workshop, scheduled for Sept. 25, is titled “Turning tension into learning opportunities: responding to offensive comments in the classroom.” Wells has designed the work- shops as spaces of self reflection where participants can build new skills. She explained that some of the workshops will be in a presentation format, and others will involve group problem solving around common issues that come up in the classroom. Many faculty members and staff have expressed interest in both the workshops and the program. As of the print deadline, 26 faculty and 27 staff have enrolled in the pro- gram, and another eight faculty and staff members have registered for one or more individual work- shops. Assistant Professor of Economics Tanya Byker signed up for all the workshops that fit in her schedule. “When it comes to creating an inclusive classroom, I am pretty sure I don’t even know what I don’t know,” she said. “Ignorance is no excuse for screwing this up, especially when I am being offered an opportunity to learn.” Hector Vila, an associate professor of writing and rhetoric, hopes the five workshops he has signed up for will help guide dialogue about how professors engage on Middlebury’s changing campus. “As a teacher and professor, it’s my responsibility to keep learning, trying to always be better, more creative about what I do,” he said. “We have a changing student body, we have a changing culture, and so we have to address our teaching so that we can meet the needs of students, now and tomorrow.” Carol Wood, the college’s costume shop director, decided to participate in the full program. She said she’s looking forward to the workshops’ less-structured atmosphere, which she hopes will allow for participants to share ideas and hear other perspectives more openly. “It is so necessary to open our minds to other ways of thinking about how the world should work, how we can make sure everyone has a fair shake, how we can transcend our cultural bias,” she said. “I want to become more aware of my own biases, have fewer blind spots, and pass on that learning to others.” According to Wells, the work- shops will be offered more than once for faculty who could not at- tend the first time, and new sessions will be added. She hopes that, as the program continues, it will start to reach hesitant faculty and staff and start to create true cultural change. “Part of what we’re trying to do is build this as an expectation for part of the work at Middlebury,” she said. Part of that expectation will also come out of new hiring practices that ask prospective faculty about how they incorporate inclusivity into their work. “If you’re submitting something in your application, if you’re going to be asked about it in your interview, if when you get here you are invited to participate in this program, [the culture] shifts.” Wells has been pleased to see the interest in faculty and staff have already expressed for the program’s first steps. “A lot of people have already signed up for three or more work- shops already in the fall semester,” she said. “It’s funny because ever since the workshop line up came out ... people will start talking, and then I feel like I’m Elizabeth Warren because I’m like ‘I’ve got a workshop for that.’”
Two students started a new publication on campus, the Middlebury Independent, which they hope will promote free speech and encourage dialogue about controversial topics. The venture is being funded by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), an organization that hopes to cultivate conservativism in higher education. Joey Lyons ’21 and Quinn Boyle ’21, the Independent’s founders, are planning to publish their first issue online on Sept. 16, along with several more editions this fall. Lyons, the journal’s editor in chief, said the Independent will fulfill a different role at Middlebury than existing student publications, with long-form opinion pieces that respond to current events. “Ideally, it will become a place where somebody writes an article and somebody else responds with another and it builds from there,” he said. “It’s not as much fact-based reporting as it is people sharing their perspectives on political issues.” Lyons learned about the ISI this summer and applied for funding. ISI’s website promises to “fill the void” in higher education and invites students to “explore intellectual conservatism in a vibrant community of students and scholars.” The principles the organization hopes to promote include limited government, individual liberty, the free market economy and the “traditional values” of Judeo-Christianity. According to Ryan Wolfe, ISI’s collegiate network associate, promoting free speech and campus publications goes hand in hand with advocating for “individual liberty.” “We think that editorial independence is important for any publication and free speech and freedom of the press is important, so that’s why we have a clause in our grant contract that says we won’t tell students what to publish, it’s totally up to them,” he said. “As long as I’ve worked here I’ve never edited an article. I don’t think I’ve seen an article prior to publishing.” Wolfe emphasized that, in his view, ISI is not a political organization. “We’re non-profit, we’re nonpartisan. We do have principles and one of those principles is individual liberty and part of that is free speech,” he said. “We think by sponsoring independent student journalism, we can help the campus free speech climate and promote civil debate and civil discourse.” ISI has just over 50 student publications in their network, including the Claremont Independent, the Dartmouth Review and the UPenn Statesmen. Wolfe said that part of the goal at ISI is to provide places for young journalists to get experience. “I think that having good independent journalists in the media is really important and especially if you look at our long list of alumni most of them got their start on college campuses. It’s important to us to keep college journalism alive,” he said. “Some of our publications are the only ones printing on their campus.” Alumni of ISI’s collegiate programming include reporters and columnists at the New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC News and more. Other notable alumni include Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Paypal founder Peter Thiel and conservative commentator Ann Coulter. In addition to promoting student publications, ISI publishes books and think pieces, offers to help students invite speakers to their schools and hosts conferences. Lyons said he disagrees with much of what he characterized as ISI’s conservative ideology, but that he is not worried that the organization’s conservative bend will affect the Independent’s content. “They have that kind of libertarian angle where they’re just trying to promote as much free speech and open dialogue as possible,” he said. “They’re helping us put together our website … but in terms of the content they keep their hands off.” Boyle said that part of the decision to apply for ISI funding stemmed from her and Lyons’ experiences trying unsuccessfully to secure funding from the college in the past. “We decided to go through ISI because it was faster. It was a way to get connected with some really interesting people who are doing some really cool things,” she said. “We were hesitant in taking money from the school specifically because both Joey and I have applied for funding in the past and not gotten it so we decided to go through an alternative route.” Lyons wants the Independent to be a space for debate between different perspectives, which he feels can be difficult to find on campus. He and Boyle have already solicited opinion pieces from a variety of students and staff for their first issue. “I hope to see a place where people can engage with difficult issues without feeling like their voices aren’t being heard. Ideally, it can be a place where people can learn for themselves and see new ideas and maybe reconsider their preconceived notions,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a place where people can be constantly in discussion on Middlebury’s campus.” For her part, Boyle wants the Independent to function as a conversation starter. “The point of the journal is to show both sides of the issue,” she said. “I think that some people will hate it, probably, but I think that most people will think it’s valuable.”
Two Middlebury College students were among the 20 arrested at a protest against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Williston, Vt., last Sunday, July 28. Nico Plume ’19.5 and Alec Fleischer ’20.5 were cited for disorderly conduct during a demonstration in front of an ICE data center. Sunday’s march was part of the Never Again Action movement, which has inspired similar protests across the country. It began at Vermont Technical College and ended a mile away at the data center, where police estimated 1,000 protestors gathered for a rally. The data center receives tip calls and directs ICE officers nationwide. The event was organized in protest of the inhumane treatment of immigrants both at the Southern border of the U.S. and in Vermont. The protest was co-sponsored by 62 organizations statewide, including Middlebury’s Sunday Night Environmental Group (SNEG), Sunrise Middlebury and Middlebury RAISINS (Radical Asians). Despite bouts of heavy rain and thunder, the rally shut down Harvest Lane outside the data center for over an hour. Attendees heard from speakers representing groups including Migrant Justice and Raíces Resistentes. They emphasized the importance of spotlighting the struggle against ICE that happens in Vermont, which shares a border with Canada and is home to migrant farmworkers at risk of deportation. Fleischer and Plume were cited, and then released. They were part of a group of protesters, clad all in white shirts, who blocked the entrance to the data center after the main protest and rally had ended. Fleischer declined to speak to The Campus, citing an agreement with his summer employer. Plume said he made a spur of the moment decision to join the group risking arrest. “Two groups of us sat down and blocked the two driveways out of the ICE facility,” he said. “This had been pre-planned and thought out.” Plume estimates they blocked the driveways for about 45 minutes, singing and chanting, before law enforcement officials exited the data center and told protestors they would issue three warnings before making arrests. Since the center is on federal property, an arrest carries a federal charge. Protesters then moved out of the driveway. One group stood to block the road. Plume stood next to them, debating his next move. “I was on the sidewalk trying to figure out what I should do: enter the action and be arrested, or stay on the sidewalk and not face consequences,” he said. “I thought about what the arrest would result in, what it could cause.” Ultimately, he chose to step into the road to take the place of other activists who had been arrested by Williston Police. He does not regret that decision. “If my body, my privileged, cis, heterosexual white male body, could extend that action for even five more minutes … if it could potentially stop one more illegal detainment or horror from occurring, it was worth it, no matter the consequences to me,” he said. Leif Taranta ’20.5 also participated in the demonstration as a coordinator for the group that blocked Harvest Lane. They said their role was to help make decisions about the trajectory of the action, support those risking arrest and liaising with police. “It was an enormous honor to play this role and feel the trust of those putting their bodies on the line. I was so inspired by their bravery,” they said. “This action was incredibly important to me because I’m horrified by the treatment of immigrants and refugees and terrified by growing U.S. fascism. I wanted to do what I could to support a movement to abolish ICE and move towards migrant justice.” Many other Middlebury students attended the march and rally, including Lucy Weiss ’20.5, who said she wanted to participate as an act of solidarity against racism in the U.S. immigration system. “Vermont is far from insulated from this national crisis of human rights abuses, and we must show up together to end it,” Weiss said. She mentioned the three farm workers who were recently arrested and detained in Newport, Vt., and now face deportation: Ismael Mendez-Lopez, Mario Diaz-Aguilar and Ubertoni Aguilar-Montero. Among the protestors’ list of demands, which included shutting down border detention camps and reuniting families, they called for the workers’ release. Weiss also spoke about the importance of the Never Again Action movement, which was started earlier this summer by young Jews to highlight what they see as similarities between current immigration policies and the practices of Nazi Germany. “The Never Again Action movement reinforces the ideals that I've grown up with as a Jew that we must never let anything like the Holocaust happen again,” Weiss said. She added that, as a white Jew, she feels a responsibility to use her privilege to stand up to the injustice she is witnessing. “My ancestors were persecuted for their identity, and today many people in this country I call home are being persecuted for theirs.” Weiss called on other students to get involved with the protest movement. “This is only the beginning unless we all get involved,” Weiss said. “This is a very scary time, but if we all show up, we can enact tangible change.” Plume expressed a similar sentiment. “The big issue is to get more people involved, and I think also to get everyone to collectively step out of their comfort zone,” he said. “Staying silent is being complicit. There’s a proverb that sticks in my mind: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is today. “The best time to get involved was years ago; the second-best time is today.”
The college approved a Curricular Practical Training (CPT) option for international students last week after major delays from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) left international students around the country unable to begin their summer jobs in the States. CPT, which Middlebury only previously offered to students completing winter term internships, will allow international students to complete summer internships for credit in the States. The credit will not transfer to students’ transcripts, but the option will permit participants to start work despite restricting federal delays. International students have always needed special permission to stay and work in the U.S. outside the academic school year. Usually, they can do so once they receive approval from the federal government to complete Optional Practical Training (OPT) through their student visas. Previously, this process was guaranteed to take fewer than 90 days, and students were allowed to apply for OPT 90 days or fewer before beginning their internships. But this year there are delays on the national level, which Citizenship and Immigration Services is attributing to, “a surge in employment authorization requests.” The federal government has also removed the guarantee that processing would take fewer than 90 days. As a result, many international students with internships in the U.S. have not yet been granted legal permission to live or work here, leaving these students in limbo. “For more or less the past month, this problem has been constantly on my mind, and I was getting increasingly anxious,” said Roger Dai ’20, an international student who was worried he wouldn’t be able to start his job at Bloomberg in New York City until the college announced the CPT option. Earlier this month, Dai and Elisa Gan ’20, another international student interning in the U.S. this summer, created an online petition that garnered over 1,000 signatures, lobbying for Middlebury to circumvent the federal delays by guaranteeing students’ authorizations to work through CPT. Solving the problem at Middlebury proved tricky given the college’s policy that summer internships cannot be completed for credit. In order to create a path forward for international students this summer, administrators designed a way for students to apply for CPT through an existing one credit-hour course at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey (MIIS). According to Dean of Faculty Andi Lloyd, this option will provide students who are approved a quarter credit for the summer so that they can continue with their internships without OPT approval. “That credit will not be transferable to the college, and so students will not earn college graduation credit,” Lloyd said in an email to the Campus. “The solution is thus fully consistent with the college’s current policy on credit for summer internships.” Vice President of Academic Affairs Jeff Cason clarified that the college also decided to waive their normal practice of not allowing paid internships to count for credit under their new CPT solution because these internships will not count for graduation credit. Cason also said that the college has not yet decided if this will be a permanent option for students or not. “We haven’t decided whether this will be the long-term solution going forward; we expect to have a much broader conversation about internships in the coming year,” he said. “This was a solution we could accommodate within our current structures and courses, but we imagine that there might be other solutions as well, and welcome that conversation.” In the online petition, Gan and Dai laid out some of the benefits of CPT over OPT. “CPT does not have to be processed by USCIS, and instead can be approved directly by the school in a matter of days,” they wrote. “CPT also does not have a steep fee like OPT, which costs $410.” According to Gan, CPT also offers international students the chance to work in the U.S. without using up any of the limited 12 months of work that their F-1 visa allows. Through a for-credit program, students can save more of their 12 months of U.S. working time until after they graduate if they chose to stay and work in the states. Gan, like many other international students, felt the impact of the OPT delay before the college announced a solution. “I am living without income flow every week during the wait,” she said in an interview before the announcement about CPT. Gan said that she started her internship this week and has extended her end date to make up for lost time. Dai also started his job this week. Before good news came from the college, Dai was scrambling to figure out his housing situation. His summer housing in New York was guaranteed through his internship, which meant he could not move in until he started work. A History of Debate Debate over CPT is nothing new at Middlebury. In 2014, the faculty discussed and voted on a proposal that would have allowed summer courses, mostly taken off campus, as well as internships that met certain criteria to count for college credit. The proposal ultimately passed after the credit for internships section was removed. “While there was widespread agreement that internships have educational value, there were differing opinions about whether or not an internship should be treated as equivalent to a course,” Lloyd said, remembering the discussion coming down to a very close vote. Lloyd added that faculty were not involved in the decision to create a CPT option through MIIS, as the new option does not conflict with existing policy. “The discussion of credit for internships more broadly, however, is likely to continue in the years to come, as the landscape around the issue has changed somewhat since the faculty last discussed,” she said. The Student Government Association (SGA) also unanimously passed a resolution supporting a CPT option in the spring of 2018. Kailash Raj ’19, an international student who sponsored the resolution as a junior senator, said he believes CPT makes Middlebury more accessible to all students. “If Middlebury's goal is to become inclusive for students of different levels of social economic background, allowing CPT would help achieve that goal,” he said. “It is already hard for international students to receive summer internships compared to those that do not require significant paperwork.” As a recent graduate, Raj is not eligible for the college’s new CPT program and is instead still waiting to hear back on his OPT request. He hopes to start work in Boston in mid-July. Gan said she is happy that the college found a solution for this summer, but she stressed that recent USCIS delays represent the many ways it is harder for international students to enter the U.S. job market should they choose to. “International students do not enter the job market on an equal footing with domestic students. ” she said. “To miss any deadline and link in the process may significantly change one’s future paths. Therefore, the college’s support in lowering any barrier for international students is extremely valuable and necessary.”
While their classmates from the class of 2019 walked across the stage at commencement last Sunday, Chloe Ferrone ’19 and Sam Boudreau ’19 decided to celebrate their graduation a little differently. Ferrone and Boudreau both ran in the Vermont City Marathon on May 26, skipping out on the festivities that took place on campus that day. Ferrone, who has run several half marathons and the 19-mile TAM trek, said she made up her mind to run this race, despite the scheduling conflict with her graduation ceremony, over Christmas break. “When I found out they were on the same day, I decided the marathon sounded like more fun,” she said, explaining that she had wanted to run the race for a long time. Ferrone is pleased with her performance, which she completed in just over four hours. Her family traveled to Vermont from Nebraska, and instead of watching her cross a stage at commencement, they watched her cross a finish line. “I was absolutely blown away,” Ferrone’s mother, Susan, said of watching her daughter run the marathon. “I watched her struggle and wanted to help, just like any parent does when they see their child struggling. I watched her persevere and then, because of her own strength, talent, hard work, tenacity and willpower, she ran by and was gone. It was a powerful visual image of the work she had invested in her college career.” While Ferrone’s family showed up to support her during her race, they were not as enthusiastic about the idea when she first brought it up over the holidays. But, Ferrone said, she soon convinced them that they would rather spend a few hours in downtown Burlington than at a commencement ceremony. Ferrone’s mother said it took her some time to wrap her head around the idea before she got on board. “This idea challenged conventional paradigms I had about the way you finish a college career,” she said. “I took some time to think about what was important to me about my child’s graduation from college, and what was important to her. Closure and celebration were main themes for me.... And, wow, doesn’t a marathon sort of epitomizes closure and celebration?” For Boudreau, a St. Albans local, the race held a different significance. “I decided to run because my mom is the operations manager for the marathon, therefore, she was unable to attend the day of graduation,” he said. “I thought it would be best if my entire family could be together.” Boudreau was also happy with his performance at the race, completed in around three hours and forty minutes, and said his entire family supported his decision to choose the marathon over commencement. “They were very supportive, especially my mom,” he said, “She was there to put the finishing medal around me at the end of the marathon when I finished. It was the best first-marathon experience I could have ever have wanted.” As a Vermonter, Boudreau felt a special connection to the race. “The Burlington marathon is an extremely important event in Vermont,” he said. “It brings people from all of the US and, during some years, all over the world to Burlington and our little state.” Both Boudreau and Ferrone said they do not regret choosing the marathon over Sunday’s graduation festivities. “Everyone tells me I didn’t miss much anyway, and the sense of accomplishment is totally worth it,” Ferrone said. Boudreau, who plans to attend an MFA program in Montana, said he will walk at that graduation in a few years. For her part, Ferrone is sticking around Vermont and working at the WhistlePig distillery. With her first marathon behind her, she feels up to the next challenge. “Who knows what I’ll do next,” she said.
After a two-week period in which an offensive chemistry exam question came to light and a problematic cartoon was shown in a geology class, increased attention has been focused from students, parents and faculty on the sciences — specifically on the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry — to address how classes in those departments could be more inclusive. Many students said that in the midst of this renewed focus, they did not want the discussion to start and stop with specific incidents. Rather, students hope the conversation will shift toward the deeper-seeded issues within both the chemistry department and the STEM program that make certain students feel unwelcome, especially women and students of color. The Curriculum: An Ethos of Erasure Many students said that the way knowledge is framed in science classes does not do enough to address the harmful history that often accompanies scientific research, which can leave women and students of color feeling ignored or unseen in the classroom. While several students framed their experience in the context of the Chemistry Department in light of recent events, they also spoke about a wider culture that spans multiple academic departments. “There is an overwhelming sense in STEM classes that what we do is scientific and logical and based in reason, and so it has nothing to do with diversity, inclusivity and what people view as more social issues,” said Vee Duong ’19, a comparative literature major who also completed the pre-med track. “There’s very little sense that we as students and professors in STEM have some sort of stake in creating more inclusive environments. And there’s very little conversation about what that inclusive environment might look like.” Duong said that some professors highlight women and people of color who have contributed to scientific advancement, but not every professor takes the time to acknowledge the work of those who are often overlooked. She also pointed out that in her experience this problem is not unique to science classes but rather occurs in all academic programs. According to Duong, the decontextualized environment in the sciences puts pressure on students of color to achieve at high levels and defy stereotypes. “There’s this sense that in the classroom I need to prove myself and perform well and be different,” she said. “When you feel like you need to meet objective standards that are really not objective because they have been created to marginalize certain communities it becomes a really tough mental personal battle to assert yourself and build a space for yourself in that classroom.” Another student, who asked to be referred to as Kayla, said that this struggle to assert yourself can cause students to drop out of the sciences, which perpetuates a larger issue of underrepresentation. Kayla spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from faculty. “There’s already a lot of widely documented evidence and studies showing that students of color from low income backgrounds who come from underfunded public high schools have higher rates of getting out of STEM, even if they come in studying STEM,” she said. Rachel Hemond ’19.5, a molecular biology and biochemistry major, pointed out that these concerns relate to the student-led movement to decolonize the curriculum, which has gained momentum this spring. That initiative asks professors to change which perspectives are actively taught in their classes. “We never talk about where our knowledge comes from in STEM, and in other disciplines, that is so unacceptable pedagogically and epistemologically,” she said, adding that she believes many professors have this knowledge but may be unsure of how to integrate it effectively in their curriculum. “There’s this idea you can separate the subjectivity of history from the objectivity of scientific knowledge and that’s not the case. Everything is situated,” Hemond said. “It doesn’t surprise me that BiHall has issues with prevalent and systemic sexism and racism and classism because the very disciplines of science that they are professing to teach us are filled with those things and fundamentally built on them.” Kayla agreed that in STEM classes professors do not always incorporate discussion that puts knowledge in context. “There’s a history in science of people from more privileged backgrounds claiming and taking credit for other people’s work,” Kayla said. “And we never talk about that in class because we’re always focused on the hard science and getting through what you need to to get into medical school and PhD programs and the next thing you’re going to do in lab.” Bob Cluss, the chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, said that the 12-week semesters make it hard to incorporate social issues into the curriculum to the extent that some professors would like to. “If we had a 14-week semester and we were still covering the same topics, we would be able to integrate social issues better, we would be able to use contemplative practices, we would be able to do a lot things we’re not doing now,” Cluss said. Cluss, who has been chair of the department for two years, said he believes it is deeply important to make space for discussions that contextualize scientific knowledge, but that it has to be done correctly, which requires both time and proper training for professors. “If we’re talking about something that is difficult then we all need to have the time to look at all the nuances that connect to it,” he said. “But I think that’s what we should do. Science is a part of society and we really should be connecting these things, not pulling them apart.” Problems With Professors Many students also reported that one professor — Steve Oster, who teaches the organic chemistry lab sessions — creates an environment that favors some students over others and often makes women and students of color feel uncomfortable. Oster is the only lab professor for those courses, which are required or recommended for many STEM majors and the pre-med track. “He’s someone who shamelessly makes it obvious to the class who his favorites are, which is usually a very predictable demographic, and he always directs his attention to validate them in the classroom,” Kayla said. “This can imply that some students’ educations are valued over others in a classroom and that can get internalized by students who are being ignored, making them think that they don’t matter and that they don’t belong in STEM.” Kayla, who identifies as a student of color, said that Oster’s behavior often goes beyond favoritism. “It is very intimidating being in a classroom where the professor is a white male joking about things that are often racist or sexist and expecting you to laugh along, and if you don’t laugh along he just walks past you and doesn’t bother to have a conversation with you,” she said. “I have particularly had experiences where he has called me by another brown girl’s name and doesn’t bother to get to know who I am but does get to know everyone around me who is not a person of color.” Duong had a similar experience of feeling marginalized in Oster’s class. “He never engaged with the students of color in the same way that he engaged with white students,” she said. “When he was going around to introduce himself to everyone in the class, he would go to everyone’s laboratory hood but he completely skipped over mine. I could tell, I could see him looking at my name, and he didn’t know how to go about saying my name, I guess, so he just skipped over mine and went on to the next person.” For many students, especially women, Oster’s reputation preceded him because older female students warned them about his behavior before they took his class. This was the case for Charlotte Cahillane ’19.5, who said that she went into Oster’s class on alert because of what she had been told. Still, Cahillane said she believed she would have been uncomfortable in Oster’s class regardless of any preconceived notions she brought with her. “I’ve heard he might not have this anymore, but he used to just carry around this golf club and just stand behind students with it over his shoulders, waving it around, sort of wielding it in a way that made you feel moderately threatened at the same time that you felt confused. Why would you have a golf club in a chemistry lab? There’s so many breakable objects, people break objects without golf clubs, you don’t need a golf club in there,” she said. “In general, he doesn’t make me feel comfortable as a professor. I wouldn’t want to be alone with him in a room talking about chemistry. Especially with the door closed. Not because I think he’s going to do something, but because I know I would not feel 100 percent in control.” Other students cited their frustration that Oster’s bias also seemed to extend into his grading as well. “You could take two lab reports that basically have the same things written on them, almost always the guy will get a higher score than the girl,” Maggie Phillips ’19 said. “It feels like he’s always standing over the women to make sure they know what they’re doing but lets the guys do their own thing.” Phillips said she worries about the impact that Oster’s attitude toward women has on her fellow students. “I think that a lot of people know that he’s outrageous and don’t take him seriously, but when you’re watching women and students of color be treated differently, you’re subconsciously going to think that they’re dumber or more inept,” she said. “I’ve noticed in my upper level classes that I’ve been talked down to by my male classmates and I wonder how much of that has been learned by seeing faculty members treat women and people of color differently. And I would almost argue that’s more damaging.” Cluss said that he cannot speak to specific personnel issues, and he pointed out that different students have different experiences in the same classes. He also reiterated the department’s commitment to making their classes welcoming spaces for all students. “There are a range of student opinions about faculty. That said, we want all students to feel that they’re welcome in a class and that they’re treated fairly. That’s really critical. We’re more committed to that than ever,” he said. “If there are students that feel that certain students were favored or certain students were marginalized, that’s never a good thing. And that needs to be attended to.” Oster did not respond to the The Campus’ request for comment. All of the students interviewed for this article who mentioned they had issues with Oster said that they left comments in their course response forms at the end of the semester that reflected their negative experiences with Oster, but that nothing seemed to change. Course response forms can be viewed by the professor who taught the course, the chair of the department, and the dean of faculty, as well as by the the Promotions and Re-appointments Committees for any faculty member under review. “Course response forms are intended to provide students with an opportunity to give feedback — positive and negative — on their experience in a course,” Dean of Faculty Andi Lloyd told The Campus, adding that the forms did not originate as a way for students to report serious concerns or problematic behavior, nor are they used that way now. “That’s not to say that there would not be follow up on something reported in a course response form, but, depending on the situation, there might be better or more effective ways for someone to raise a concern,” she said. Lloyd recommended department chairs, program directors, advisors, Commons faculty heads and Commons deans as good options for students to report a specific concern. However, many students said they did not have a clear idea of who they should approach with these concerns while they were in Oster’s class. Several also mentioned their complaints to other professors, but were unsure what other options were open to them. “I talked to faculty members about him but I didn’t know I could do more than that other than complain about him on my course response forms and talk to my advisor,” Phillips said. “When I would bring it up to faculty they would say I know, this is a problem, we’re addressing it. But then nothing would really happen.” Kayla echoed this, saying that the faculty she spoke with also seemed aware of the issue. “All of them said that this was a known problem in this department and that they also did not like the way this professor carried himself around, but it didn’t seem like there was any foreseeable way to have him do something to change,” she said. Despite the negative experiences that students have with aspects of the STEM program, they cautioned against the assumption that STEM classes are the only academic spaces on campus with a bias problem. “I actually don’t think that BiHall is the worst on this campus by any means. I think that it gets a lot of publicity because people expect to see it there and I think that’s also problematic,” Hemond said. “I think that BiHall is a microcosm of this campus as a whole.” Kayla agreed. “There’s always micro-aggressions everywhere,” she said. “That’s not unique to STEM, that happens everywhere.” Upcoming Changes, Ongoing Conversations In light of recent events, Cluss said his department has been engaged in a lot of conversations about how to respond to recent issues. “There’s a lot that’s been happening in a very short period of time at a very busy time of the year,” he said. “I feel like we’re doing everything we can right now, and we need to. This is a very important issue.” The week after the all-school email about the offensive chemistry test question, the faculty held a meeting to gather feedback from their majors. Phillips, who is a Chemistry and Dance double major, was one of the students at that meeting, and decided to organize a sensitivity training for chemistry professors through her connections in the dance department. “I went to talk to dance professors Lida Winfield and Crystal Brown to ask if they could potentially do a training with all the science faculty and students who would be interested and they said yes, and that they had actually been doing a bias training with all of the Addison County elementary school students and we could do the same thing for the science faculty,” she said. “I think a lot of faculty are open and wanting to make a difference but they just don’t know how. And I think a lot of faculty are busy and it doesn’t seem important.” The training was set to occur on Wednesday, May 1, after the print deadline for this article. The STEM Pedagogy Group, a group of about 60 STEM faculty and staff who want to implement better and more inclusive teaching practices, also recently sent out a survey, which they had been working on for about a year and which they hope will help them get feedback from students. Associate Laboratory Professor in Biology Susan DeSimone, a founder of the STEM Pedagogy Group, said that the goal of the survey is to collect accurate data about how students in STEM feel about their classes. “Our conversation over the semester last spring made us realize that one of the things we really needed was to understand how our students perceive our environments,” she said. DeSimone said the survey was sent to the roughly 1,800 students who took a STEM class during this academic year on April 24. “The goal is to collect data to address the question and not presume that we know what is or isn’t happening in our students’ experiences,” she said. “One of the things the group really wants to do is to create more inclusive pedagogies and more inclusive spaces, and so this survey could be used for us to develop practices to potentially look for grant funding to do that.” Cluss said these new discussion come in a long line of cultural shifts he has observed in the community since he has been here. “This is a very different place than it was even five years ago,” he said. “I think our community throughout is more diverse. I think everyone’s voice really needs to be heard and in some instances it almost takes a critical mass of people for that to happen and I think we’re there in our community. And that’s good, that’s important.” “We have a heightened awareness of this now,” he said. “Sometimes you need to shine a very bright light on things but we’re learning from it. This has been really, really hard for our community, but these are the times where we learn and grow, too.”
In the wake of the canceled lecture by — and protest of — Ryszard Legutko last week, conservative and mainstream media outlets alike took a renewed interest in free speech at Middlebury. While some journalists wrote articles that explored nuanced perspectives about what happened, many right-wing outlets spun the issue into another on-campus meltdown over a controversial speaker. Right-leaning website The College Fix, for example, insinuated that the protesters may have been responsible for the safety risk — administrators have since clarified that protesters did not cause the unspecified “safety concern” that caused the cancelation. The writer also drew a direct connection between this protest and the Charles Murray protest two years ago, characterizing both as violent and mob-like. The College Fix article described the student protesters as being in “a fevered pitch of outrage” and suggested that the protest would include a “shuttling-in of protest participants.” An article in The American Conservative went as far as to declare in its headline “Middlebury is No Longer a College,” and went on to criticize the “left-wing mobs” that the writer claims rule campus. While many right-leaning outlets were openly critical of the planned protest and its organizers, others, such as Reason, a libertarian magazine, focused their criticism on the administration for canceling the talk, rather than on the protesters. “Preemptively shutting down difficult conversations out of an abundance of caution is really no different from shutting them down due to mob pressure,” the article read, arguing that both the talk and the protest should have occurred as scheduled. Taite Shomo ’20.5, one of the protest organizers, said that reading through press coverage of the event has been a disheartening experience. “There are a few articles that are more generous to student organizers, and those are diamonds in the rough, but the seemingly enormous amount of negative coverage is disheartening and overwhelming to me,” she said. “This warped story has been very frustrating and difficult to deal with, especially considering how much time and effort and energy I personally put into the planning process and the effort to make the protest something that Middlebury students and faculty could be proud of.” Shomo reiterated that, despite the negative coverage suggesting otherwise, the protest was going to be peaceful and non-disruptive. “We were never violent, we never planned to be violent and we never planned to prevent Legutko from speaking,” she said. “Our goal was to educate the community about Legutko’s views, and then to celebrate our marginalized identities together as a community.” Conservative media outlets often pay special attention to free speech issues on college campuses. Paul Johnson, an assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Pittsburgh who studies rhetoric and American politics, said that conservative media outlets have both an ideological and economic incentive to cover free speech issues the way that they do. “The idea that elite, liberal institutions — and in these stories, there’s a disproportionate focus on elite institutions like Yale, Harvard, Middlebury, Oberlin — are generally intolerant of conservatism offers one pathway for conservatives and right-wingers to burnish their populist credibility,” he said. Johnson explained that this positioning helps provide the conservative movement with a certain kind of ideological unity. “Patting yourself on the back for being more tolerant than a bunch of campus leftists — or, to go further, imagining that you’re quite tolerant and they are the hypocrites — does a lot of important cognitive work for the movement,” he said. “Information consumers can go from campus outrage to campus outrage without stopping to think about what one’s own investments are.” Financially, he said that right-wing news organizations like Breitbart and Campus Reform want to write articles about free speech issues because they generate clicks. “They have an audience hovering their mouse arrow over various social media feeds waiting to hear about the most recent campus excesses,” he said. For readers that want to engage such coverage critically, Johnson said that one red flag to look out for is when a reporter uses the phrase “free speech” frequently in an article without providing a clear definition of the term. “When pundits or outlets talk about ‘free speech’ as an absolute social value, it really stands in for a demand that they think people should be able to say anything they want. That, of course, could be the basis for its own kind of anarchistic, violent society, but it is in no way the basis for anything resembling a shared, democratic life,” he said. “Our social structure is not built on the idea that all ideas have an equal right to be expressed.” Johnson added that another bad sign is when an article is short, which probably indicates that it is not delving into the full nuance of the issue. “Deliberations over bringing speakers to campus are complicated, different campuses have different rules and regulations, and so it’s almost never cut and dry,” he said. The impact of these news stories is often felt by student protesters and vulnerable student groups. Shomo, who has received a lot of online exposure in the coverage of the event, said that she did not expect this event to receive such widespread media attention. Many of the articles quote Shomo’s posts in the Facebook event for the protest, which were taken without her knowledge. “I take ownership of the fact that I made the Facebook event and posted on it, thus putting my name out into the world, but I also really never thought it would blow up as much as it did,” she said. Shomo said that, although she feels her quotes have been used accurately for the most part, she is uncomfortable with the level of online exposure she has received. She recently decided to change her name on Facebook after a stranger tagged her in a post about the incident and an account that appeared to belong to a Polish scientist tried to add her as a friend. Shomo believes, especially with an issue as divisive as this one, that right-wing press coverage that demonizes protest only contributes to the frustration and the divide. “I think that no matter what I or the other organizers or our supporters say, people will see what they want to see in this situation,” she said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think they’re interested in my side of the story.”
Professor of Geology Pat Manley included a cartoon on the introductory slide of a slideshow in her Ocean Floor class on Tuesday that joked about the slave trade. The cartoon, which appeared on a slide titled “Humor for Today,” depicted a slave ship crossing the ocean with a person strapped to the back, with text reading, “the better-equipped slave ships, of course, always carried a spare.” This incident occurred less than two weeks after a Holocaust-related chemistry midterm exam question caused widespread controversy on campus. Charlie Caldwell ’22, a student in the class, said that people immediately noticed that the comic was in poor taste. “There was one of those awkward tensions in the room when someone says or shows something that people are uncomfortable with,” he said. Caldwell said that Manley always shows a comic at the beginning of class, and that the comics are often unrelated to the content of the course. “Generally they are pretty cheesy humor and sometimes they get a giggle or two,” he said, explaining that this cartoon felt much different from the norm. “The objectification of a human is supposed to be the humor of it, which is not funny.” Caldwell decided to address the situation in the moment. He raised his hand and told Manley that she should not show the comic in the future. He said she was receptive to that feedback. In response to an email from The Campus, Manley apologized for her decision to show the cartoon in class. “I am deeply sorry for including a cartoon that makes light of historical atrocities,” she said. “I will be apologizing to the class during our next meeting and expressing my deepest regret that I made anyone in the class uncomfortable, and am working with the administration on the possibility of holding a restorative practices circle with my class.” Aaron Bode ’22, another student in the class, feels that students should communicate directly with Manley about their concerns as next steps develop, although he also acknowledged that not all students feel comfortable addressing incidents like this with their professors directly. “I think it’s important to remember that she’s a human being, we all are, and I think it’s important to be in contact with her. I think it’s important that there is a lot of communication with her about this,” he said. Bode, who is also in the Chemistry 103 class where the offensive midterm question was posed, also expressed his desire for all professors to undergo mandatory bias training. “Coming to Middlebury, I didn’t think this sort of thing would happen here, but now seeing that it can I think that it’s incredibly important that professors realize these things have big impacts on people,” he said. According to Andi Lloyd, the dean of faculty, the administration is currently discussing the best way to proceed regarding the potential of mandatory training given recent events. “Early next week, we will be holding a facilitated dialogue on classroom climate for faculty who have already asked for a chance to participate in such an opportunity,” she said. Renee Wells, the college’s director of education for equity and inclusion who will pilot an anti-bias training program in the fall, has mixed feelings about requiring mandatory training. “In theory, making training mandatory means everyone participates, but what that ‘participation’ looks like can vary widely depending on whether people actually want to be there, which can impact the experience and effectiveness of the space for all the participants in the room,” she said. “We need to be intentional about determining the best way to meaningfully engage our faculty and staff in these conversations so those conversations can benefit the entire campus community.” Wells explained that her pilot program is not currently designed to be mandatory, but rather to further ongoing conversations that will help reduce bias and change the culture around such incidents on campus. “The ongoing education program for faculty and staff is designed to create space for those conversations to happen and to strategically focus on concrete ways we can adapt our practices to better achieve those goals,” she said. Correction: an earlier version of this article stated that the cartoon depicted the transatlantic slave trade. In fact, the cartoon did not specify which slave trade was being depicted.
Chemistry Test Question Invokes Nazi Gas Chambers; Controversy Ensues After Satirical Newspaper Makes it Public
UPDATE — Wednesday, April 10: Professor Jeff Byers will be taking an immediate leave of absence from his teaching duties, the Chemistry department announced in an email to Byers' students Wednesday afternoon. —— Monday, April 8, 2019 A question posed on a chemistry midterm last month asked students to calculate “a lethal dose” of the gas “Nazi Germany used to horrific ends in the gas chambers during The Holocaust.” The test question was brought to public attention last Friday through an article in the student-run satirical newspaper The Local Noodle. The question has garnered widespread condemnation while The Noodle’s article has sparked controversy over the use of satire to respond to such incidents. Chemistry Professor Jeff Byers, who has taught at Middlebury since 1986, posed the question in early March. Several students reported it to the administration the week before spring break. According to Dean of Faculty Andi Lloyd, the administration responded immediately by reaching out to Byers. “My reaction was that the question was completely inappropriate and deeply problematic, and that follow-up was needed,” Lloyd said. “We’ve been focusing on the situation within the class itself, and that culminated in an apology to the class by Professor Byers last week.” In an email to The Campus, Byers said he would not comment further on the incident, which he called an “unfortunate error on my part.” Several students in the class said they were disturbed by the way the question was framed. One Jewish first-year, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the question was distressing to read, especially in the middle of a test. “I was pretty rattled when I saw the question, as the Holocaust is not something to make light of, especially since I am Jewish and the problem involved us calculating how much poisonous gas you would need to kill people in a room,” she said. Most students outside of the class did not know about the incident until The Noodle’s article was published online on April 5. The article, which circulated widely on social media, prompted the Community Bias Response Team (CBRT) — a group that responds to bias incidents involving students on campus — to send an all-school email on Sunday, April 7. In its email, the CBRT condemned the test question, stating, “The use of this exam question failed to provide any critical engagement with the historical contexts and atrocities of the Holocaust. It asked students to engage in problem solving that mirrors calculations used to implement systematic genocide. Our students should never have been put in this position.” [pullquote speaker="The Local Noodle staff" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]If administrative bodies can publicly shame student publications who bring to light things they’ve kept quiet, that sets a dangerous precedent for our campus.[/pullquote] The email also criticized The Local Noodle article. “We are aware that The Local Noodle published a satirical article about this incident,” the email read. “While satire can be an effective form of social critique, the article’s light handed references to and engagement with the Holocaust have caused additional harm.” According to Renee Wells, the director of education for equity and inclusion and a member of the CBRT, the team was not planning to send out an email until The Local Noodle article elicited a campus-wide reaction to both the test question and the satire piece. “The incident occurred in a class, so the impact was on the students in the class. Thus, the focus of the response in this situation was to work to ensure the faculty member understood the harm done and addressed it with his students,” she said. “When we began receiving emails about the Noodle article and its impact, we realized that the scope of the incident had expanded to the entire campus community, so we sent out a campus-wide email.” The CBRT did not reach out to members of The Local Noodle before the email was sent. Some students and faculty expressed concern that the email equated the Noodle article with the original test question, including Maggie Clinton, an associate professor of History and a member of the Faculty for an Inclusive Middlebury working group. “Whether one found the Noodle’s article humorous or not, and I personally didn’t, student satire is hardly the same as exam questions given by a professor with a powerful gatekeeping role,” Clinton said, referring to Byers’s additional responsibilities as a member of the college’s Health Professions Committee, which evaluates students’ medical school applications. “It’s unfortunate that the CBRT didn’t acknowledge either the power differential or the political difference between highly unethical and frankly horrifying exam questions, and a satirical response intended to criticize the posing of such questions in the first place,” Clinton said. In a statement to The Campus, the staff of The Local Noodle wrote that the response from CBRT felt more like a public relations decision than an attempt to engage the issue. They also took issue with the fact that nobody from the CBRT contacted them in advance of the email. “To denounce a satirical publication in a school-wide email like this is a form of public shaming designed to close off a complex and sensitive issue to any meaningful discussion, which is what would actually be productive,” they said. “If administrative bodies can publicly shame student publications who bring to light things they’ve kept quiet, that sets a dangerous precedent for our campus.” The Local Noodle responded to the email in a second article titled “Community Bias Response Team Gets Mad at Noodle For Making Them Do Their Job.” Although The Local Noodle staff feel the CBRT mishandled the situation, many students found The Noodle’s article offensive. There has been active debate about the article in comments sections on Facebook, and several students have posted in the “Middlebury Memes for Crunchy Teens” Facebook page, both defending and criticizing The Noodle’s article and the CBRT’s response. At the Student Government Association (SGA) meeting on Sunday night, a senator expressed interest in exploring the possibility of pulling The Noodle’s funding next year, but the idea was not further discussed. Senators also discussed the possibility of requiring the editors of all student publications to participate in mandatory bias training. As of press time, no official action has been taken on either front. Senior Senator Travis Sanderson ’19 said that while he took issue with the article, he does not support revoking the club’s funding. “The Noodle is a satirical magazine attempting to do its job,” he said. “It is The Noodle's right to engage in the type of humor that relies on trivializations of seriously traumatic and genocidal terms, like ‘the final solution,’ but I am nonetheless disturbed by The Noodle’s apparent total lack of empathy for the legitimate concern about such jokes' effect on community members.” Talia Raisel, a Jewish first-year, was among those who found the Noodle piece hurtful. While she felt the original test question was “in bad taste,” her bigger concern was the headline of the Noodle article, which joked that the professor was “a real Nazi” about grading. “Calling people Nazis who aren't literal Nazis has really trivialized the term,” she said. “Satire can be wonderful and effective when used properly, but there's still a line where satire loses its efficacy and just becomes a series of inappropriate puns, and I feel that this line has been majorly crossed.” Jenny Moss ’20.5, the co-president of Middlebury Hillel, said that she was not offended by the Noodle article. Rather, she appreciated the way the piece highlighted the issue of bias and anti-Semitism in academic spaces and the lack of response from the school. She also feels the school should have addressed this issue publicly earlier, especially because in her experience many Jewish students heard about the incident before break. “If I were to have written the Noodle article, I think that I might have dialed the rhetoric back and focussed more on the lack of apology from the teacher and the school,” she said. In the wake of the controversy, Moss also invited students, faculty and staff to participate in upcoming events for Yom Hashoah, the Jewish day of Holocaust remembrance, to learn more about the history of oppression within the Jewish community. The events will take place in late April and early May. Looking forward, the CBRT email noted that this event has highlighted the need for more training for faculty and staff to promote inclusivity in the classroom. According to Wells, she will pilot this program starting in the fall and will offer workshops and facilitated dialogues to faculty and staff on a variety of topics. “The program will provide a framework for faculty and staff to access resources, engage in critical conversations, practice inclusive strategies, and be part of a community working to integrate what they learn in the context of their everyday work,” she said. “It is important to create space to engage in open and honest conversations about our campus climate and to be thoughtful and intentional about ways we can make Middlebury a community that everyone feels included in and wants to be a part of.” Wells invited faculty and staff to reach out if there are specific areas they would like to see addressed in the program.
For aspiring journalists, the news industry has been looking grim lately. The media has lost 2,400 jobs so far in 2019, and after months of flipping between cover letters and articles about layoffs, the New York Times Student Editors Conference was like a small, hopeful oasis in the middle of busy Manhattan. We arrived Friday morning along with 98 other student journalists from schools across the country, walked past the Times’ Pulitzer Wall and took our seats in a giant conference room. We spent the day learning from industry experts, including Sam Dolnick, the assistant managing editor of the Times who helped launch The Daily, and Meghan Louttit, who explained how the Times has stayed at the forefront of digital journalism and storytelling. Nicholas Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer prize winning columnist, also dropped in to visit and regaled us with tales about being chased through a jungle by a warlord after a plane crash. The conference included some useful workshops, such as a digital headline-writing session, during which Mark Bulik taught us how to grab readers attention on social media without falling into the category of clickbait. In discussing The Edit, a Times newsletter geared toward college students, Lindsey Underwood asked us to brainstorm ways the paper can better cover our generation. We also had the chance to meet our peers from institutions in Virginia, Oregon, Iowa, Missouri and Puerto Rico. We learned about the struggles they face in their newsrooms and the truly inspiring work they do as they strive to, as Kristof put it, “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” If nothing else, the conference impressed upon us that journalism is an ever-evolving medium full of possibility and change. Some stories are best told in good, old-fashioned, written format and some do best in audio or video, or through intentionally illustrated graphic design. This is an exciting prospect to apply to our own work at The Campus as we look for ways to branch out and represent the full breadth and depth of the student experience here with the complicated nuance it deserves. We left the conference full of hope that journalism has a bright future. This might sound silly but that is the first time we had felt that way in a while. The Times pitched us their brand — their best digital work, their plan to branch into television, their goal to more than double their subscription base by 2025 — and we are not going to lie it all sounded pretty amazing. Plus they gave us tote bags, so what do we have to complain about? It felt like we were encouraged to dream big about what the news can be, and we saw the mind-blowing work of those who came before us who had those same dreams. As we return to Middlebury, back to our newspaper that is somewhat protected from concerns about subscriptions and competitivity, we hope to harness the creative energy from that room and get back to work telling the stories that matter to our community, in whatever way those stories need to be told.
Two years ago, students protested and shut down a lecture by Charles Murray, a controversial sociologist whose attempts to link race with intelligence have led many to consider his work racist. The day after the March 2 protest, President Laurie Patton sent an all-school email expressing her disappointment. “We will be responding in the very near future to the clear violations of Middlebury College policy that occurred inside and outside Wilson Hall,” Patton wrote. Specifically, the protesters violated section C.4 of the Student Handbook, which prohibits “disruptive behavior at community events or on campus.” Despite this email, few of the students who protested anticipated the extent to which the college would pursue sanctions against them. The investigation and judicial process for students who were identified as having attended the event lasted until late May. The college punished 74 students with sanctions ranging from probation, which functions as a warning and a “first strike,” to official college discipline, which goes on a student’s permanent record. During the first round of sanctions in March, 48 students were called in to meet with judicial affairs officers and put on probation for the remainder of the semester. The remaining 26 students, who were originally charged with official college discipline, did not receive notice of their punishment until early April. Many decided to appeal the college’s decision to sanction them with official college discipline, which triggered a longer and more complicated judicial process that culminated in hearings before the college’s Community Judicial Board. Nineteen of those 26 students faced official college discipline for the same charge: remaining in Wilson Hall to protest after the event had been moved to a live stream. These students requested a group hearing to appeal the finding, and were granted permission to go through the process together. Ultimately, all 19 had their punishment reduced and were put on probation for the remainder of the spring and, for those not about to graduate, for two additional semesters. The students involved, who are now more willing to discuss the judicial process than they were two years ago, recently agreed to speak about their experiences. They reported that going through the judicial process after the protest negatively impacted their mental health, made it more challenging to focus on their studies and permanently changed the way they view the college and administration. The Impact Since the students who faced more serious sanctions did not receive notice until the second round of disciplinary action began in early April, many of them spent March on edge. “The sense of waiting for punishment was hard,” said Matea Mills-Andruk ’18.5. “I felt really overwhelmed. I had friends who didn’t go to the dining hall for a few weeks or a month after the protest and they mostly stayed in their rooms. They missed a lot of class and just became very isolated and alone.” The waiting was made more stressful for some by the fact that the college used video footage of the protest, often submitted by students, to identify the protesters. Not everybody who protested was identified and called in. This made the process feel confusing and opaque. Associate Sociology Professor Linus Owens, one of the faculty members chosen by students to attend the hearing, remembered that the length of the judicial process was hard for the students, some of whom came to him for support. “I think that dragging it out, it really sort of had a terroristic effect on students,” Owens said. “Students were waiting to get called and then not everyone got called and then not everyone got punished the same way. It felt arbitrary and really problematic.” Associate Professor of Education Studies Tara Affolter, who helped students organize the protest, agreed that the lack of transparency during the judicial process was stressful for many of her students. “That sort of thing had a very chilling and detrimental effect on students. They weren’t present for their learning, they weren’t able to engage the ideas or grow from the experience,” she said. Owens recalls feeling as though the college was responding to national pressures when deciding next steps, a feeling shared by many of the student protesters. “I think the punishment was driven less by actual college rules than by the need to satisfy national audiences,” Owens said. “There was a huge concern that this was going to cost Middlebury.” Once the extended judicial process began, many students found it incredibly stressful. One student who was part of the group hearing, who asked to be referred to as Bailey, said that their mental health suffered while the process was underway. [pullquote speaker="Bailey" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]We were full-time students and we were full-time protesters at that point. I didn’t have any time to even cope with where my mental health was at.[/pullquote] “I didn’t have any time, was the biggest thing. We were full-time students and we were full-time protesters at that point,” they said. “I didn’t have any time to even cope with where my mental health was at.” Students were occupied drafting an opening statement, communicating with administrators, supporting one another and lining up character witnesses for the hearing. The pressures of the judicial process also impacted students’ ability to go about the rest of their lives. Mills-Andruk had to quit one of her jobs during that semester. Sarah Karerat ’18 said she found it difficult to focus on her academics. “My ability to participate in classes went down,” Karerat said. “It’s exhausting to be that anxious all the time. It definitely took a toll on my mental health, and it took a toll on my relationships.” According to Sarah Ray, the director of media relations at the college, the judicial process took so long because of the large amount of photo and video evidence that the college needed to review. “We understood that the student judicial process was a stressful one for many students, particularly since it came at the end of the semester,” she said. “Students were offered expedited paths through the process, which some accepted.” But accepting an expedited path through the process would have meant not challenging the finding of official college discipline, which many students felt was not a reasonable option. [pullquote speaker="Sarah Karerat ’18" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]I was 20 years old and I didn’t know what could happen and I was scared.[/pullquote] “Being low-income and needing to think about graduate school and scholarships and not having access to graduate school in the way that other folks do, it felt like this could really mess with my future,” Karerat said. “I was 20 years old and I didn’t know what could happen and I was scared.” On top of stress about potential sanctions, students wrestled with a deeper sense of loss. “The most jarring thing that happened that semester was I felt like I lost home, and that was so horrible,” Karerat said, explaining that during her time in college, Middlebury felt more like home to her than anywhere else. “I didn’t trust Middlebury anymore. I didn’t trust the space. I didn’t know if it was mine. To have that relationship change was really, really difficult.” Bailey recalled a similar feeling of rejection by the wider college community. “It really felt like the institution itself, that Laurie Patton, that anyone who was at all involved in the upper levels of the institution was saying, ‘These aren’t Middlebury students, these are thugs, these are radicals and they’re not part of our community,’” they said. “There were students on trial who were literally the heads of incredibly important organizations on campus, and for them to experience this disavowal from the college, and for the college to be like, ‘You’re not part of us anymore,’ it really felt like we were voted off the island. To feel like your home didn’t want you, that was one of the worst feelings.” The Hearing Students who went through the hearing recalled that it was also a taxing and emotional experience. Students arrived at the Service Building at 6 p.m. on May 4 along with faculty members, such as Owens, who they chose to attend the hearing for emotional support. They found the entrance lined with police barricades and security with a huge crowd of people gathered to cheer them on as they entered the building. The hearing lasted around four hours and as part of the process, each student was allowed a character witness to speak on their behalf. Many faculty members served in this role, including Associate Professor of Anthropology Michael Sheridan. Sheridan bought chocolates for the students facing sanctions because he said he figured that they might feel “encircled by dementors.” “After sitting down in front of the board, I made a point to remain facing directly ahead while holding out the packages of chocolate backwards for someone to take and pass on,” he said. “That was my way to both support the students and express my frustration at the very, very limited ways that our community was communicating with one another.” According to Karerat, the part of the hearing where the character witnesses read their statements was the most emotional for her. “There was a lot of crying. A lot of the character witnesses cried and a lot of us cried in response,” she said. “Listening to other people’s character witnesses, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is the most resilient, powerful group of people I know and I am so sad they had to go through this.’” Mills-Andruk also remembers the emotional impact of the character witness statements. [pullquote speaker="Sarah Karerat ’18" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]Listening to other people’s character witnesses, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is the most resilient, powerful group of people I know and I am so sad they had to go through this.’[/pullquote] “It was incredible to hear what everyone had done and everyone’s interests and lives and families and where they’re from,” she said. “It was like a song to all of us about our own humanness.” For many, the trial cemented relationships that had been forming throughout the process. “There was a strong community that came out of this,” Karerat said. “It was a strange but lovely silver lining. I think some of the strongest bonds come out of trauma or crisis, and we were all going through the same thing. Especially with all the ruptures over this in the wider community, it was really nice to have a group of people I didn’t have to explain myself to.” The Aftermath The judicial process culminated a few weeks before the end of the semester. Some of the 19 students who went through the group trial graduated, while others returned the following fall and continued serving their probation. [pullquote speaker="Associate Professor of Education Studies Tara Affolter" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]I think it’s going to continue to limit and create fear around student protests and protests in general.[/pullquote] Even though probation does not go on a student’s record, many students reported it impacted their lives on campus. According to Bailey, their probation made any kind of activism, like walkouts and rallies, feel like too big of a risk to take. “I know for me there were events and things going on that I didn’t feel comfortable going to because I was worried about how they could progress. I really have no trust in the administration or in the college anymore and so I didn’t want to take any risks,” they said. “It was a very effective silencing of any student that had it.” Affolter also worries about how the college’s handling of the judicial process will impact future student organizing efforts. “I think it’s going to continue to limit and create fear around student protests and protests in general,” she said. “I don’t think it’s pedagogically or developmentally appropriate to use fear and vague intimidation as a way to shore things up. That’s not really the best way to get the community that you want.” Despite everything that happened afterward, Mills-Andruk said that she does not regret protesting. “If we had not resisted, the message to the rest of the student body, the staff and faculty of the college, alumni, community members in the town of Middlebury, or anyone watching the news, would be of an apathetic campus who did not care about its community,” she said. “The protest was an act of kindness, care, defense, love, desperation and survival.” All of the students who spoke to The Campus about the judicial process reported wrestling with a complicated or outright negative view of the college in light of their experience. [pullquote speaker="Sarah Koch ’18.5" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]It felt so clear to me that Middlebury was concerned about their reputation above everything else, to the extent that they couldn’t take any sort of institutional action to care for students.[/pullquote] “It felt so obvious where loyalties lay and it was not with marginalized students during that process,” said Sarah Koch ’18.5. “It felt so clear to me that Middlebury was concerned about their reputation above everything else, to the extent that they couldn’t take any sort of institutional action to care for students.” According to Bailey, the aftermath of the protest did permanent damage to their view of the college and the administration. “It really was like this giant black rain cloud over my time at Middlebury,” they said. “Before this event I had always been like, ‘I love Middlebury, I’m so happy I went here.’ And I still love my life, but I give absolutely no credit to the institution.” Karerat also reported a shift in her feelings toward the college and the administration as a result of this process, although she felt that she was able to rebuild some of those relationships in her final year on campus. She added that, despite everything, she hopes that students will continue to organize and advocate to make Middlebury a better place. “Keep the radical organizing activist energy alive,” she said. “Organizing spaces are great spaces for community and friendship, and they are the best spaces to work to make change, and Middlebury needs to change. It is always going to have room to grow.”
Bill Burger, the college’s vice president for communications and chief marketing officer, will leave his position on April 30. President Laurie L. Patton announced Burger’s departure in an all-school email on Feb. 14. According to the email, Burger will remain as one of Patton’s senior advisors until June 30. Patton said the college will immediately begin the search for Burger’s successor and that she hopes to hire someone before the fall. Until then, Robin Gronlund, the current associate vice president of marketing and creative services, will serve as his interim replacement, beginning May 1. Burger leaves behind a complicated legacy, as many in the college community associate him closely with his role in the controversial Charles Murray protest and its aftermath in March 2017. While news of his departure came as a surprise to some, Burger said he told Patton over a year ago that he intended to leave the role. He said the demanding nature of jobs like his cause increased turnover, not just at Middlebury, but at similar institutions. Of the 11 NESCAC schools, Burger is currently the third-longest serving head of communications. “I think from an institutional perspective it makes sense for the transition to happen now,” he said. “Middlebury is embarking on several long-term projects, and continuity will be helpful.” Among these projects, Burger named the continued implementation of Envisioning Middlebury and an upcoming fundraising campaign. Patton did not return a request for comment on Burger’s departure. Leaving His Mark In her email, Patton detailed some of Burger’s contributions to Middlebury, including his role in increasing the college’s social media presence and his influence on the award-winning Middlebury Magazine. Patton also praised Burger’s work in integrating the various parts of the Middlebury institution under one identity. “He arrived at a point of critical transition as Middlebury began to fully embrace the complexity of its schools and programs and the need to think strategically about its identity and operations,” Patton said in the email. “He led the institution through the successful introduction of a new identity system that linked all our schools and programs” Patton also described Burger’s relationship with The Campus, writing, “Bill has regularly and effectively worked with individual students, coaching on ethics, reporting, and best practices, and with editors at The Campus, while always respecting the independence of student journalism.” Ellie Reinhardt ’17, a former editor in chief of The Campus, worked with Burger during the time of the Murray protest, and recalled having a productive relationship with Burger’s office. “He constantly challenged me and challenged the staff, pushing us to reflect and refine our processes and our content,” she said. “He held The Campus to the highest standard of journalism, gave candid feedback and demanded professionalism. I will always appreciate his candor.” Ethan Brady ’18, another former editor in chief, disagreed with Patton’s description of The Campus’ relationship with Burger. Brady said that he and Burger had different views of the role The Campus should play in the Middlebury community. He recalled a meeting with Burger and Patton in which both expressed they believed the paper was publishing too many negative stories. “He articulated this idea that The Campus is a morale booster or a community builder, and if we print negative coverage or bad coverage then we’re not doing our job,” Brady said. After this meeting, The Campus ran an editorial pushing back on the request for more positive coverage and affirming the paper’s independence from the Communications Office. “There’s no such thing as negative coverage if it’s accurate and factual,” Brady said. “The school should not be immune to any sort of scrutiny.” Brady acknowledged that Burger was simply doing his job in trying to protect the image of the school. Still, as editor in chief, Brady had a different view of the newspaper’s purpose. “The duty of The Campus is to provide a check on the institution,” he said. Role in the Murray Protests Outside the newsroom, many students associate Burger with the role he played in the Murray protest. As the protest played out, Burger planned to shuttle Murray and Political Science Professor Allison Stanger, the talk’s mediator, away from the event. The official college account, published by the college newsroom, said that Burger accelerated away from McCullough Student Center and that students jumped onto the hood of his car after it had begun to move. In the aftermath, many students disputed that account, alleging that Burger drove through the crowd and into protestors, at one point accelerating with a student on the hood of his car. Sarah Karerat ’18, who was among those put on probation for her involvement in the Murray protest, said that for her Burger represented the administration’s effort to punish her and her fellow students for their actions. “He became a figurehead of the anxiety and fear of the administration that we had about how the judicial process was going to affect our futures,” she said. “He was the voice of the protest policy that night, and one of the things that sticks out to me is in the whole free speech argument was that the protest policy and the judicial process eventually became censorship in its own right. And in a public manner he represents that censorship.” Throughout the judicial process and after, when Karerat had already received her two semesters of probation, she recalls feeling anxious often. This feeling was accentuated in the presence of administrators who she associated with the protest and the trial, including Burger. “Whenever I saw him in public spaces I was pretty immediately uncomfortable and afraid. At the beginning, that spring of 2017, I usually would leave spaces because of that discomfort,” she said. Life After Middlebury Burger intends to take some time to decide on his next move. He and his wife Susan Greenberg, who teaches writing and journalism at the college, plan to remain in Middlebury for the next year and a half. Greenberg will continue to teach in that time. “I’ve spent time in media, the corporate sector, and higher education,” Burger said. “I’ve enjoyed working in all of those fields and so I don’t rule out anything for the future.” He also noted that he is proud of the work his team has accomplished during his tenure. “Middlebury has become a more transparent place than ever before,” Burger said. “We are more willing to engage with the media in good times and challenging times. There’s not a lot of room for hiding in today’s media environment and the best institutions — and I’m proud to say Middlebury is one of them — must be accepting of being in the public eye more than was the case even a decade ago. That’s been a growing experience for some people, but there’s no going back.” GiGi Hogan contributed reporting.
Middlebury dining halls generally accommodate students’ desires to eat where they want. Whether that means taking plates of food outside when it is sunny, eating in Proctor Lounge or deciding to take food back to a dorm room, students have freedom to dine where they choose. College staff say that oftentimes students abuse this privilege, creating a nightmare scenario for custodians in the process. Many students opt to abandon dirty plates and silverware in dorm bathrooms, hallways and kitchens. Some students even throw dirty dishes in the trash. Missy Beckwith, the associate director of Facilities Services, said that this is a persistent problem that adds significant unpleasant work for staff who end up collecting dishes from residential spaces. “These dishes tend to attract bugs and rodents and begin to smell,” she said. “So, while it is not expected that custodial teams return the dishes or even pick them up, they do.” Cindy Webb, a custodian who works in Hadley Hall, said she leaves whatever dishes she may find for a few days to see if a student will pick them up before she does so herself. Webb also confirmed that she often finds dishes in the trash, even though she works in a dorm attached to Ross Dining Hall. [pullquote speaker="Cindy Webb" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]Just in my trash bin over in the middle of second floor Hadley, I pulled out 14 cups, two plates and a bowl in two days.[/pullquote] “Just in my trash bin over in the middle of second floor Hadley, I pulled out 14 cups, two plates and a bowl in two days,” she said. “The last few years I felt like it had tapered off and then for whatever reason this year it’s worse again.” Webb estimated that about 80 percent of the dishes she comes across while making her rounds in the dorms are in the garbage. Even when custodians see dishes in the trash, Beckwith said they are not supposed to remove them for health and safety reasons. “The contents of the average trash or recycling bin can be hazardous — broken glass, improperly disposed needles, pathogens,” she said. “While the custodial staff wears gloves when removing trash, it is unreasonable to ask them to suit up in the personal protective equipment required to rummage through a bag of trash.” While custodians like Webb who work in Ross are able to return recovered dishes directly to the dining hall, custodians in other dorms are not able to fit such trips into their already busy schedules. Instead, they typically place dorm dishes on the curb with the trash to be taken down to the Recycling Center. There, waste management workers set the dishes aside in storage bins. They also open up trash bags and sort through the garbage, pulling out any plates, cups or silverware they see and storing them alongside the dishes picked up from other locations. According to Waste Management Supervisor Kim Bickham, once the bins are full, they send the dishes back up the hill to the dining halls. Bickham said that on average half of the dishes they see are in the trash and half have been collected elsewhere. “We bring them back to the dining halls once a month, or more often if we have to,” Bickham said. “We return on average 600 to 700 pounds of dishes a month.” Executive Director of Food Service Operations Dan Detora said that at the end of Winter Term the dining hall received far more dishes than usual — a whopping 1,700 pounds. Detora said that big returns like that often happen before breaks. [pullquote speaker="Kim Bickham" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]We return on average 600 to 700 pounds of dishes a month.[/pullquote] When dishes arrive from the Recycling Center they are uniquely difficult to clean after having been stored with food on them for weeks. “They have to soak at least two days, at least, because they are filthy,” he said. “Then we run them through the dishwasher once or twice, typically twice because they are just nasty.” Randy Bushey works in the dishroom in Ross and helps when dishes arrive from the recycling center. “A lot of them come back with mold and stuff. They are really really disgusting and I don’t think people understand or know that,” Bushey said. “There’s times where the aroma just fills the room and I have to leave to go get my breath.” He said the hardest food to get off month-old plates is fried eggs. Some of the dishes are so dirty and moldy that they are unsalvageable and have to be thrown away. This, along with normal wear and tear, causes Dining Services to spend up to $20,000 a year on replacement dishes. Webb pointed out that this wastes both money and resources. “The dining hall has a budget. That’s what they have to work with,” she said. “Do you want to have quality food? Or do you want to just keep buying dishes? And to think about the impact on the environment too, how much ends up in the landfill, it’s kind of ridiculous.” Dining Services and Facilities have struggled to solve the problem. A few years ago, Detora said they added the dish racks outside of Ross and Proctor to make it easier for students to return dishes after hours. Detora also said they created the to-go box program in the hope that students would remove fewer plates from dining halls, but it has not made much of a difference. Webb said that the college used to impose fines on hallways that left dishes out, but she raised concerns about the fairness of that practice. [pullquote speaker="Cindy Webb" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]Do you want to have quality food? Or do you want to just keep buying dishes?[/pullquote] “I seriously objected to that because I felt that students that could not afford to pay their portion of the fine would be the ones that would end up picking the dishes up,” she said. Others, including Cook Commons Coordinator Francisca Drexel, think that students should be prevented from removing dishes from dining halls in the first place. Or, as Detora pointed out, students could fix this problem by returning their dishes. “I get it, students are busy. But I really wish they would just bring back their dishes,” he said. “It would be a tremendous help to a whole lot of people if they would just bring their dishes back on a regular basis. And if they want something to go, get a to-go container. That’s the whole idea of the program.”
As I reported the story on Page 1 about students throwing dining hall dishes in the trash, I was faced with a question that often arises in journalism: Can I speak out about this issue? Is it ethical for me to publicly state an opinion on the subject of a news article that I wrote? Often the answer is no, it is not ethical for a journalist to write both a news story and an opinion piece on the same subject. Our job almost always requires us to leave the public opinions to those without bylines. The exception comes when a story speaks to an objective truth. When a fact is universally understood as true, it does not reveal personal bias to state it, even if it relates to the subject being reported. Such is the case, I believe, with this story regarding unreturned dining hall dishes. I would like to state unequivocally that it is wrong to take dishes from our shared dining halls and abandon them around campus for staff members to collect, especially when it is not their job to do so. It is entitled, selfish and wasteful to throw away ceramic plates and mugs into the garbage because you are unwilling to carry them back to the dining hall when you return for your next meal. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]It is entitled, selfish and wasteful to throw away ceramic plates and mugs.[/pullquote] The first reason why this is wrong is quite obvious: trash is gross. It is full of biohazards like blood and vomit, not to mention rotten foods, infected snotty tissues and any number of other unpleasant things that I think we can all agree we would rather not have touching the dishes we eat off of, no matter how many chemical rinses they may go through before we see them again. Far more importantly, however, throwing dishes away — or leaving them out to be carted off to the recycling center — is enormously disrespectful of both staff and your fellow students. In our Staff Issue last month, The Campus wrote about the difficulties our staff face in their jobs, not least of which have to do with arrogant students who do not show them common decency. Filling residential buildings and garbage cans with dirty dishes is just one example of this disrespect. When you leave a dish out, somebody has to deal with it, whether that be staff or another student. If you throw it in the trash, somebody has to pull it out again. If you take a dish from the dining hall, you are responsible for getting it back. Period. Otherwise, somebody else has to do extra labor, and this is unacceptable. You cannot move through the world expecting other people to clean up your messes for you. And even if you have enough money that you can, you shouldn’t. That is a crappy way to treat other people. As students, we lead charmed lives in many ways. Staff members shovel our walkways and take out our garbage. We are not expected to clean toilets or even wash our own dishes. The least you can do is bring your plates back so that those who are responsible for washing them can do so without having to chemically remove mold and garbage from them. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]That is a crappy way to treat other people.[/pullquote] In addition to the obvious solution to this problem—just bring your dishes back to the dining hall, for the love of god—I would also like to posit another, secondary solution. The SGA just introduced a new program that would allow students to dine with a randomly-selected staff member at lunch or dinner on Thursdays (you can sign up at go/FSSTS). I would highly encourage students to participate in this program, and to get to know any staff members you regularly interact with in whatever way you can. Stop and chat with the custodian who cleans your hall (if you can do so in a way that doesn’t disrupt their work). Get to know them and their story. Ask after the well-being of the dining hall staff member who checks you in at the swipe counter. This may come as a shocker but staff are people — wonderfully funny and delightfully kind people. Getting to know them will not only improve your Middlebury experience, but may also help remind those who are inclined to throw their dishes in the trash that the person at the other end of that decision is a person, too. And that person, I would venture to guess, does not want to pull your plate out of a trash bag full of god knows what. Reporting this story made me really angry. I was angry that students at this school think it is okay to make extra work for our staff because they are too lazy to bring their dishes back. And I was angry that it didn’t surprise me to learn that there are people on this campus that would throw away ceramic plates rather than return them. My hope is that, at the very least, this story will shed light on this issue, and that people will come to their senses and start returning their dishes to dining services. As students, it is our responsibility to behave better than this.
Dwight Garner, a book critic at The New York Times, says the best part of his job is also the hardest: just keeping up. “There’s this fear of missing something,” he said, explaining that more than 20 books arrive at his apartment every day. His tries to keep as much on his radar as possible, from work by established authors to books out of smaller publishing houses. The latter he reads in the hopes of stumbling upon something fresh. “The best feeling a critic can have is discovering a new author,” he said. “A lot of my time is spent in my desk chair in my apartment reading through the books I get.” Garner, who graduated from Middlebury College in 1988, will return this Wednesday, Jan. 16, to discuss his career and how his college experience helped him hone his critical skills. The talk, which will take place in McCardell Bicentennial Hall Room 220 at 4:30 p.m., is part of the college’s Meet the Press lecture series. Garner looks back fondly on his time in college, where he studied the great critics in class and found his own voice at the Middlebury Campus newspaper. His career as a college critic was aided by then-owner of the Vermont Book Shop, Dike Blair, who allowed Garner to take books for free in order to review them. His reviews soon caught the attention of Vermont newspapers, and he started writing for the Vanguard Press in Burlington among other publications. Garner also worked at the Addison Independent while in college, which he recalled fondly as one of his formative journalistic experiences. After college he stayed in Vermont to freelance and work odd jobs. “Criticism,” he noted, “is no way to make a living, then or now, unless you’re very lucky.” When he moved to New York, Garner worked for “Harper’s Bazaar” and was among the founding editors of “Salon Magazine” before The New York Times hired him in 1998 to be the editor at the Times Book Review. Ten years later, he transitioned to writing reviews for the regular paper. Garner views critics as people who feel an innate need to participate in conversations about “all kinds of culture, high culture, low culture, everything.” “To be a critic, you have to read everything all the time,” he said, explaining that the profession requires one to value ideas and want to keep up with everything new. He pointed to two recent trends in literature, including a new generation of prolific female writers. “There’s this vanguard right now of really smart, idiosyncratic female writers who don’t sound like anyone else writing right now,” he said. “You have a sense of these young writers figuring things out in public, and it’s impossible to predict where they are going but I want to be along for the ride.” Garner also noted that he has already seen the early effects of the Trump presidency in new fiction. He predicted that, going forward, this administration would have a “seismic impact” on the literary world. “I’ll be more than curious to see how our best fiction writers respond to this era,” Garner said. When asked if he had any recommendations for Vermonters, he turned to an old favorite from college called “Total Loss Farm” by Raymond Mungo. Published in the 1970s, the book follows a hippie commune in Vermont founded by radical journalists. “There’s not enough weirdness in the world anymore and that’s true of writing and writers as well,” he said of the book, which he once called “the best and also the loopiest of the commune books.” “It’s a good Vermont book to have on your shelf,” he said, adding, “In fact, you’re not a true Vermonter unless you have this on your shelf. A version of this article originally appeared in The Addison Independent.
Following the announcement of proposed changes to Title IX regulations by the Department of Education, college officials expressed concern about how the new policies would change the college’s procedures, along with appreciation for the increased flexibility that the changes might allow. The proposed changes to Title IX regulations regarding how colleges handle complaints of sexual misconduct were released on Nov. 16, a little over a year after the Department rescinded Obama-era guidelines on the subject. Supporters of the proposed policy see it as correcting a system that unfairly favors survivors of sexual assault, while critics fear that the modifications may give even more leeway to perpetrators while reducing liability for colleges. The proposed adjustments have not yet been finalized and are available for public comment until Jan. 28, 2019. In a message scheduled to be sent to the community on Wednesday as of press time, President Laurie L. Patton said that the proposed policies as written “would require significant changes in how Middlebury handles reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment.” She noted that Middlebury intends to submit comments to the Department of Education both “directly and in collaboration with other organizations.” College spokesman Bill Burger expressed concern that when a new policy is enacted it may cause fewer students to report assault and harassment to the college. He reiterated that the college remains committed to a fair Title IX process that upholds the rights of all members of the community. Some parts of the proposed policy differ significantly from the way the college’s Title IX Office currently operates. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the new policy is the requirement that the advisors to both parties be allowed to cross-examine the other party and all witnesses. The college stopped offering live hearings a number of years ago, and many consider hearings to be an unnecessarily stressful way of adjudicating a complaint. “We believe a fair process should include gathering as much relevant, credible evidence as possible, while avoiding the creation of undue stress for the parties,” Burger said. “We believe our process already serves the primary purpose of cross-examination, but in a less stressful setting for the parties and witnesses.” Requiring hearings as part of the process may also limit the amount of information available in any given case because colleges cannot compel witnesses to testify. As Patton wrote, the new requirement to “ignore information provided by a party or witness who declines to be cross-examined would limit the evidence that may be considered and could impact the fairness of the adjudication.” Hearings could also pose an extra financial burden to colleges by forcing them to find and fund legal counsel for students who cannot afford it. The new guidelines also state that Title IX offices cannot instruct either party to not speak with the other about the facts of their case. Burger expressed concern about how this prohibition will impact investigations in a small college community. “This presents significant challenges for conducting fair and accurate investigations, not to mention assessing credibility if the people involved have all been talking to each other about the incident,” he said. “We believe there is also an increased risk for ostracizing, threatening and/or retaliatory behavior, which could adversely impact a complainant’s or respondent’s ability to participate in their educational programs.” The new policies would also open up additional avenues for colleges to resolve complaints informally. In her statement, Patton expressed interest in instituting an informal resolution option to resolve cases. “This flexibility may offer opportunities to deepen our engagement with Restorative Practices,” she wrote, noting that such methods would only be employed in “appropriate cases where the parties make fully informed and voluntary choices to participate.” Patton pointed out that not everything about the college’s current policy would have to change under the proposed guidelines. This is in part because the new policy would offer colleges and universities more freedom to craft their own procedures in several key areas. For example, Patton confirmed that the college will continue to use the same standard of proof: the preponderance of the evidence standard. Currently, Title IX mandates that all colleges use this standard, one of the lowest burdens of proof in the U.S. legal system, to adjudicate violations. The new policy would allow colleges to increase the burden of proof to “clear and convincing evidence” standard, which some fear would make it harder to find the respondents responsible. However, Patton’s statement made clear that the college will stay the course. The new policy would also permit colleges to stop adjudicating sexual assault and harassment claims when the incident in question occurred off campus. The college’s current practice, in compliance with current federal and state law, is to investigate all “conduct that takes place on or near Middlebury premises or property; occurs at or in connection with a Middlebury-related event; or occurs off-campus but may represent a threat to the safety of the Middlebury community or any of its members.” According to Burger, the college will maintain its current policy in this area and continue to investigate all complaints by students. As of now, no changes to the policy have been finalized. With the notice and comment period still open, individuals are welcome to send comments to the Department of Education with feedback about the proposed changes via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Chellis House will also be hosting an event where students can receive assistance in submitting their comments on Monday, Dec. 10, from 2-4 p.m.