The administration sent an email titled “Inclusive Admissions and Incoming Class Update” to the Middlebury community on Feb. 7, which contained preliminary information about the demographics of the incoming classes of 2028 and 2028.5, and reaffirmed the college’s admissions approach after receiving its first round of applications since the Supreme Court barred colleges and universities from employing affirmative action last June.
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Following a fall semester spent beset by email after email from the college administration recognizing personal and international tragedies, we have begun to reevaluate the importance of Middlebury’s administrative statements to the goals of the college as an academic institution. As we’ve watched other universities come under fire for various controversies in recent months, there is an imminent need to address the possibility of such attention returning to Middlebury — and what we can do to anticipate that.
Middlebury’s first student- created anthem came in 2010, when Charlie Taft ’11, of The Allen Jokers — a Middlebury-founded music group — released the Midd Kid music video, which received a whopping 1.7 million views on YouTube. The Windward Entertainment team created original music, wrote original lyrics and filmed a video featuring Middlebury parties, college boys in sunglasses and the Davis Family Library. This past fall, wishing to recreate the 2010 video “to reflect the Middlebury [they’d] come to know and love,” directors and editors Jordan Saint-Louis ’24.5 and Malick Thiam ’24 spent their fall semester behind a video camera, filming a video for a new Middlebury-themed song, which was produced by Professor of the Practice McLean Macionis and written by a collection of friends and lyricists.
As the sun begins to set ever earlier in the afternoon, and the bitter chill creeps into students’ dorm rooms, the reality of winter in Vermont slowly but surely sets in across campus. These last two weeks of the fall semester and the looming reality of J-Term represent significant changes to student life on campus.
Ivan Valerio ’26 passed away last Tuesday. Evelyn Mae Sorensen ’25 passed away in mid-September. Yan Zhou ’23 passed away of apparent suicide on Oct. 20, 2021.
At Harvard University, the administration and student groups have been engulfed in controversy and doxxing after issuing statements on the Israel-Palestine conflict. At Dartmouth College, two students were recently arrested for camping out to protest the school’s approach to the war. And at Columbia University, student organizations have staged huge protests, while professors have come under national scrutiny and faced petitions calling for their removal.
With the Board of Trustees on campus and meeting throughout this week to discuss institutional priorities and planned spending, we want to take advantage of this opportunity to directly address the people who have a major role in deciding how the funds raised by “For Every Future: The Campaign for Middlebury,” will be used. As the first major fundraising campaign since 2015, aimed at raising $600 million, $383 million of which has already been received, this presents a unique opportunity to consider where Middlebury currently stands and what its future will look like.
With the Early Decision I deadline approaching on Nov. 1, we want to address this editorial to prospective students considering applying to make Middlebury as their home for the next four years. It is both an advantage and a privilege to apply early. Students are more likely to be accepted in the Early Decision rounds than in the Regular Decision round, but the contractual commitment to attend when applying this way often privileges those who can afford to visit campus or pay the $83,880 sticker price.
It has been two years since Middlebury removed the name of John A. Mead from the Middlebury Chapel following a unanimous vote by the College’s Board of Trustees. In 1914, Mead and his wife made a donation — equivalent to more than two million in today’s dollars — to build a new chapel on the “highest point” of campus. Mead, however, was an advocate of eugenic theory both in policy and in legislation, speaking in favor of the potential benefits of marriage restrictions, sterilization and segregation. The chapel renaming followed the Vermont government’s efforts earlier in 2021 to “sincerely apologize and express sorrow and regret” for the state’s complicity in the eugenics movement, including the forced sterilization of over 250 Vermonters.
This week, our Editorial Board reflected on how Covid-19 continues to affect campus life. Trust us, we are just as tired of editorializing on this issue over three and a half years since the start of the pandemic as you are of hearing about it. Unfortunately, however, a recent surge in student cases indicates that the virus is still very much present on campus and retains the power to substantially impact our lives. We call for the administration to share with the student body any information they have on Covid-19 cases, make test kits and masks more accessible and establish clearer guidelines to how professors and students should deal with the virus.
The student body is now very familiar with Middlebury’s pandemic-related over-enrollment issues. We have previously editorialized and reported on how the consistently larger-than-usual student body over the past three years has affected class size, dining hall lines, parking spaces and housing. Middlebury has taken numerous steps to manage over-enrollment, including purchasing the Inn on the Green and using the Breadloaf campus for upperclassmen housing.
Most current Middlebury students are familiar with a college that is understaffed. In addition to some academic departments being low on faculty, Facilities Services, Custodial Services and Dining Services have battled persistent understaffing since 2020. The degree of this staff shortage has fluctuated over the past few years, in part due to large-scale forces such as the pandemic and the state of the national economy. However, local factors like Middlebury’s remote location, the lack of affordable housing in Addison County, non-competitive wages and the new skill matrix and disrespectful student behavior have likewise continually threatened the size of the college’s workforce. These past couple of weeks have brought new urgency to the understaffing issue as dining operations, including the Grille, Crossroads and MiddXpress, Davis Family Library, and the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) office have had to reduce their hours or the availability of certain services, leading to frustration among the student body.
This summer, Middlebury implemented a new compensation system for staff that seeks to promote “ownership and impact” for employees. The plan centers on a “skill matrix” which places staff in one of four categories — ‘learning,’ ‘growing,’ ‘thriving’ and ‘leading’— which then is used to determine their pay grade.
The recently reported admission statistics for the class of 2026 and 2026.5 illustrate a significant increase in the prevalence of first-generation students: 21% of these incoming students are the first in their family to attend college, compared to 11% of the class of 2023 and 2023.5. The percentage of domestic students of color is also the highest in the college’s history at 38%.
As a residential college in which 95% of students supposedly live on campus, Middlebury states that their “residential system embodies that culture of living, learning, and growing together.” The close-knit, intimate housing community on campus is widely touted as one of the hallmarks of student life on our liberal arts campus. Yet, after the last two housing draws, students have found themselves in singles far away from their friends, forced to live off campus at places like the Inn on the Green, or placed en masse in August draw. Over-enrollment coupled with a lack of housing availability continues to jeopardize the residential student experience that our college professes to hold so dear.
Around the midway point of the 2022 Zeitgeist survey, our 1,134 respondents encountered a rather blunt question: “Are you happy?”, with only “yes” or “no” answer options. While we acknowledge how this binary greatly oversimplifies this inquiry, we were curious as to how Middlebury students would opt to characterize their happiness when confronted with only two choices.
Middkids encounter many tough decisions throughout their time at the college: which courses to take, when to study, when to party, what career to pursue after graduation, etc. However, perhaps the most divisive and controversial decision students must make boils down to one simple question, asked daily between 4:30 and 8:30 p.m., Proctor or Ross? As an editorial board, we are here to tell you that Proctor is the better dining hall. (We are definitely not biased by the fact that it’s like a hundred feet from our office.) Proc has got it all, so if you’re a Ross-er, go ahead and check your Ross privilege at the door and listen up. First up: lines. Proctor conveniently has two lines serving the same dinner food while Ross’s single line is so long that you need a new haircut and have to make another tuition payment by the time you finally get your food. The lengthy Ross queues also create an epidemic of line-cutting. Don’t be one of those people. You aren’t sneaky. We all see you. Ross’s layout feels more like a high school cafeteria than Proctor’s. The long tables, the drab color scheme, the panini machines all the way at the back. It’s just sad. Proctor has cozier — albeit stuffy — feel. (No joke, one of our editors has to bring her inhaler just to breathe there.) When you’re in Proc and decide to go for a panini, it’s easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. In Ross? Difficult-difficult-lemon-difficult. Only once you assemble your materials and then walk the runway in between all of the sports teams, friend groups, classmates, and people you’d rather never see again do you finally make it to the panini press (and only two out of the four are EVER turned on?! What’s up with that?). That’s if you make it there without tragically stumbling and falling, causing a dish to crash to the floor and receiving thundering applause from your merciless peers. “Ross is treacherous,” said one member of the editorial board. We have confirmed reports of pizza-slips and coffee tumbles, of ice-water-dispenser-overflows and awkward run-ins. One of our own editors got physically squished between two varsity basketball players hugging on her very first day of college four years ago. That would never happen in Proctor. Proctor has a versatility of seating arrangements that Ross just can’t match. Because of its multiple seating options (circle tables, long tables, the booth room, the lounge if you’re a Feb), Proctor is much more conducive to eating alone than Ross. When we want to get away from our friends for just a few minutes of solace over a meal or a coffee, Proc is the place to go. Does upper Proc occasionally feel like you’re inside one of those croissants you put in the toaster even though it says not to and is about to catch on fire? Yes. Does the women’s soccer team have a permanent stranglehold on one of the circle tables? It appears so. (If you have any insight as to how we can get that setup as well, let us know.) Do you have to sleep there overnight to get a booth? Potentially. You may say all of this is a bunch of baloney, but we actually have the data to back it up. According to Zeitgeist findings, students prefer Proctor (39.2%) compared to Ross (26.6%) and Atwater (33.0%). To those students that haven’t hopped on the Proctor train yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. In the Proctor vs. Ross debate, there can only ever be one winner: Proc forever and always.
Last week, the administration canceled a talk by conservative Polish scholar and politician Ryszard Legutko due to safety concerns. Prior to the cancellation, students had planned a non-disruptive protest in conjunction with a queer pride celebration to challenge Legutko’s homophobia and misogyny. The administration took two days to specify that student protesters were not the cause of their security concerns. Regardless of the administration’s good intentions, the lack of specificity about the threat subjected Middlebury and its student protesters to an unjust swarm of national criticism which understood protesters to be the cause of the security threat. Many student organizers devoted hours to carefully planning the protest in accordance with Middlebury’s new protest policies. The protest had been meticulously set up to be non-disruptive and strictly non-violent; the student protesters did their part to adhere to college policy. Middlebury, however, did not uphold its end of the bargain. The institution failed to provide an adequate space for free expression. Any vetting that took place was obviously not thorough enough to prepare the college to accommodate Legutko’s visit. Had the administration been more prepared, they could have hired additional security to enable both the talk and the protest to proceed as planned. Although the public talk at the Kirk Alumni center did not take place, Legutko did speak on campus, to Political Science Professor Matthew Dickinson’s “American Presidency” seminar in the Robert A. Jones House conference room. While Legutko’s appearance there was initially private and restricted to the seminar’s nine registered students, the talk became somewhat public as word spread throughout campus and more students began to arrive. At the talk, asked about his views on homosexuality, Legutko replied, “Same-sex marriage is against the fundamental law of the human race.” His comment is disgusting, and would most likely lead to disciplinary action if said by a student in the classroom. Because student protesters were not informed of this semi-private talk in advance, they had no adequate opportunity to protest or challenge Legutko’s ideas. This was partly due to their concern for their own safety. After the office of the provost cited unnamed “potential security and safety risks” in the email canceling the event, some students who had dressed for the pride event did not know whether they were safe on campus. Although the cancellations of both the protest and the talk are regrettable, we disagree with the choice to give Legutko a private platform after student protesters had been denied a chance for public expression. Students have the right not only to hear and debate ideas with which they disagree, but also to protest them. The college’s handbook specifically states that students may express ideological opposition so long as their protests are non-disruptive and non-violent. Professor Dickinson has said it was a shame that the student protest did not take place, but the decision to invite Legutko to speak in R.A.J. showed disrespect and disregard for the students who had spent hours planning the protest. Middlebury was deeply divided after the Charles Murray protests in 2017, but the college community is now largely in agreement that the Legutko protest ought to have happened. Student organizers deliberately planned their protest to accommodate college policy, but were robbed of their platform. The community could have benefited from the protest as well as the talk. The two events together would also have been a perfect opportunity to test the new protest policy. In the future, Middlebury must seriously consider how it can simultaneously support both protesters and speakers in its quest for a robust public sphere; these two goals do not have to be at odds.
We are proud to endorse Varsha Vijayakumar for SGA President. We believe that Varsha’s past experience on SGA and her extracurricular involvements will enable her to run an effective government while remaining in touch with the student body. We were especially impressed with the way she created her platform: through conversations and collaboration with many students. We think this community-oriented strategy indicates how she would gather information and set priorities as president, pairing smaller, practical goals with big ideas and long-term proposals. Varsha has shown that she has learned from her previous experience on SGA and from past presidents. We know she will act thoughtfully and respectfully with all students and administrators. We also trust her to hold herself and all SGA members accountable to the student body by remaining transparent. We would also like to recognize and commend John Gosselin for his committed work with SGA and Community Council. John shares Varsha’s thoughtfulness, and we believe that his dedication and attention to detail make him a strong candidate for many top cabinet positions. We appreciate all the enthusiasm for student government demonstrated by first-year students who care about campus issues. While there are many invested students, there are also races that are uncontested and at least one position that will be vacant for one semester next year. We challenge more students to get involved in elections so that our student government can have vibrant debate and healthy competition.
With the Spring Student Symposium happening tomorrow, all of us here at The Campus cordially encourage you to embrace your inner nerd. This sort of academic initiative can take many forms. Maybe you attend a friend’s symposium presentation and discuss their work over dinner afterward. Maybe you go to a professor’s office hours and finally ask them about their independent research. Maybe you grab a meal with that one kid who always makes profound comments in class. At the end of the day, virtually any type of extracurricular academic engagement will be intellectually stimulating and provide you with unique perspectives on topics you may never have encountered. The symposium is one of the few occasions where we can directly observe our peers’ work. Symposium presentations are amazing opportunities to expand your intellectual horizons and learn about topics beyond your specific major or coursework. You may also come across other like-minded students who share your interests and would be more than happy to continue academic discussions beyond the symposium. So, rather than wasting the entire day off, why not attend a few presentations and learn something new? While we certainly encourage you to wholeheartedly embrace the Spring Symposium, we do not believe extracurricular intellectualism should stop there. Many of us on the editorial board have found that some of our most memorable and interesting discussions at the college have occurred in non-academic settings, and we encourage students to actively foster such discussions on campus as often as possible. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]Rather than wasting the entire day off, why not attend a few presentations and learn something new? [/pullquote] We would thus like to propose a series of recommendations that may promote the academic spirit of the symposium throughout the school year. First, we believe the administration should revitalize the college’s tradition of professor-student lunches by allowing professors to get a select amount of meals with students for free. Talking with professors in non-academic settings not only enables students to solidify their understanding of in-class material, but also provides an opportunity to explore tangential subject matter that may have been overlooked by the course syllabus. We also think more academic departments should hold additional coffee hours or lunches to foster scholarly discussions among students interested in similar topics. These events should be accessible to everyone regardless of individual majors to encourage a culture of academic curiosity where students willingly leave their intellectual comfort zones and engage with new material. The pilot computer science language table is a great example of an academic department taking initiative to foster extracurricular discussions among interested students, and should thus act as an example for other departments moving forward. These extracurricular events could encompass everything from coffee hours to meeting up at a professor’s house for dinner, so long as they provide students with adequate platforms to engage in intellectual discussions. Joining academic clubs on campus is yet another way to surround yourself with individuals who are more than willing to engage in intellectual discussion. These clubs are open to all students across all disciplines, and represent a perfect opportunity to embrace academic interests in low-stress extracurricular environments. We also encourage students to reach out to classmates whom they may not know but who make interesting comments in class. If a fellow student shares an idea that surprises or intrigues you, ask them to lunch! Take advantage of the fact that you both share a similar academic interest and discuss subject matter related to your class; you may even make a new friend. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]Tomorrow’s Spring Student Symposium represents an amazing opportunity for us all to engage our intellectualism beyond the classroom.[/pullquote] We also advocate for more professors to prioritize student participation in their classes over lectures. Many members of the editorial board believe in-class discussions provide more incentive to complete coursework and assigned readings ahead of time as a means to participate. When the professor simply regurgitates the contents of an assigned reading during class, students may feel less motivated to actually complete the readings themselves and may lack personal investment in the subject material as a result. As such, we think more discussion-based courses should be accessible to the general student body (rather than just upperclassmen) to encourage as much intellectual investment as possible throughout students’ academic careers. We would also like more students to pursue their own academic endeavors outside of class. Whether this means creating an independent short film with a few friends or conducting independent research based on a historical topic covered in class, we believe these projects present valuable opportunities for students to take more initiative in their academic development throughout college. The college’s Divestment Movement is a perfect example of students becoming inspired from their academic coursework and taking initiative outside of class to make a difference on campus. While not all extracurricular ventures need to have large institutional impacts on the college, we can all still appreciate the intellectualism that catalyzed the Divestment Movement and channel similar sentiments towards our own academic passions outside of class. Additionally, the college should host more opportunities for students to intellectually engage with members of the local community. While it’s great that much of the college’s extracurricular intellectualism coincides with the invitation of outside speakers to campus, we should maintain these conversations year-round with the dynamic people who reside here in Middlebury. The white supremacy teach-in last month was an excellent example of facilitating discussion among the members of our community that should be emulated through future events. Tomorrow’s Spring Student Symposium represents an amazing opportunity for us all to engage our intellectualism beyond the classroom, but why stop there? Why not make the most of these four years and meet new people, leave your comfort zone and learn something new?