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%.
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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?
Last week, news broke that the Justice Department is charging dozens of wealthy parents with trying to cheat the college admissions system. Parents allegedly paid to have athletic and academic records fabricated, including SAT scores, and bribed college officials to help get their children into elite universities. This multi-million dollar scandal is disheartening but not entirely surprising, and it sheds light on the deep flaws within the American educational system. It is frustrating that it took a large admissions scandal to unveil the fact of inequitable educational opportunities to the public. We hope the absurdity of the scandal will encourage admissions counselors, school administrators, athletic coaches, parents and students to think more critically about how educational institutions are not meritocratic systems and to work to increase access, diversity and equity. The families involved in the scandal are wealthy: some parents work as CEOs of large companies, others as executives of real estate firms, and some are Hollywood actors. These families have the money for good private schools, SAT/ACT prep, summer enrichment programs and private college counselors. They already have a leg up in the admissions process — why resort to bribes and cheating? [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]They already have a leg up in the admissions process — why resort to bribes and cheating?[/pullquote] In some cases, it seems as if the students implicated in the scandal didn’t have a strong desire to go to college. But parents seemed to ignore this, encouraging their children to attend university. Perhaps this is because, in the age of helicopter parenting, parents view the name of their child’s college as a direct reflection of their parenting skills. Instead of encouraging their children to find schools with programs that reflect their interests and values, these parents decided they would send their children to elite schools, where prestige, parties and social networking are abound. If you’re not interested in school or if money isn’t a concern for you, then really all that matters is you get into a “good” school and just have fun for four years. Parents and students took advantage of testing accommodations on standardized tests meant for students with disabilities. These accommodations are meant to level the playing field, giving students with diagnoses like dyslexia or ADHD extra time on tests. But, by encouraging students to claim they had a disability, families cheated the system meant to protect individuals with learning disabilities. We are angry this happened because it will likely make it difficult for those who really need accomodations to receive them in the future. Many of the students involved in the scandal got into schools like Yale and the University of Souther California as “athletes.” Sometimes parents would take staged photographs of their children playing a sport or even photoshop their child’s head onto an athlete. These parents were taking advantage of the often privileged admissions process for athletes and exploiting it to its utmost. They knew that passing off their children as athletes could prove advantageous. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]The underlying problem of inequitable educational access is evident on our campus.[/pullquote] It’s true that this would not have been possible without coaches and admissions officers accepting bribes or looking the other way, but it should also prompt reflection on the privileged admissions process that exists for different types of students, including athletes. Middlebury College is not implicated in this scandal, and we believe that our coaches and admissions counselors operate with integrity. But the underlying problem of inequitable educational access is evident on our campus. Although we are one of thirty-six “need-blind” schools in the country that meet demonstrated financial need (for domestic, non-transfer students only), it is clear that we, either inadvertently or purposefully, select for wealthier students. Even if nothing about our admissions system is illegal, that does not make it perfectly moral. Middlebury’s athlete recruitment system deserves some renewed scrutiny. Though our Division III system works differently from the Division I schools implicated in “Operation Varsity Blues,” we’re troubled by the underlying idea that some students are privileged in the admissions process because they are good at a sport that often requires large amounts of money in order to practice. Athletes at prestigious schools, Middlebury included, are usually hardworking, dedicated and smart students who balance schoolwork with travel, games, practice and other team activities. This doesn’t take away from the fact that their athleticism may have helped them get in. In 2018, The Atlantic published a report on the relationship between admissions and college sports. 79 percent of Division III NESCAC student athletes were white last year, and athletes have an overall higher acceptance rate than non-athletes. The college can do more to attract poor and middle class students by actively recruiting in neighborhood public schools across the country and not just at elite preparatory high schools. The college’s affiliation with the POSSE Foundation brings diverse public school students to Middlebury who may not have even applied otherwise, but this is a leadership scholarship and is not based on financial need. We would like to see the college broaden its recruiting practices to inform more students about Middlebury and its options for financial aid. Overall, this scandal is forcing people to talk about issues that have always been present in college admissions. We want to have a legitimate and fair admissions process because we want classrooms full of motivated, intelligent and thoughtful students with whom we can learn. We hope the colleges use this scandal as an opportunity to rethink the admission process and address educational inequality.
We would like to commend the Map Project created by It Happens Here (IHH) as a crucial step toward increased awareness of sexual assault and harassment on our campus. While the number of incidents represented on the map may come as no surprise to some students, the map is nonetheless an important call to rally the Middlebury community against rape culture. It also demonstrates a clear need for additional preventative measures to protect students from assault and harassment. The concept for the Map Project is simple: an aerial view of Middlebury’s campus populated with a series of red dots, each one representing an instance of sexual assault or sexual harassment that has occurred on campus. To populate the map, students anonymously submitted data about instances of assault and harassment to IHH through a go-link posted last fall. By offering anonymity, IHH empowered survivors to share their experiences without losing their privacy or having to endure the process of formally reporting traumatic experiences. The largest concentrations of red dots on the map appear in notoriously problematic buildings on campus, including Battell and Atwater Halls A and B, where athletic teams often host open parties. Since many parties on Middlebury’s campus are closed, Atwater parties are often the default social space for first-years who don’t have alternatives on weekend nights. It seems likely that the combination of an upperclassman living space and first-year partygoers contributes to a predatory sexual environment. Notably, the space with the second-largest number of red dots is Battell, a first-year dorm. This suggests that the online training intended to teach incoming students about consent and discourage them from committing sexual assault and harassment is not as successful as it ought to be in protecting first-years from assault and harassment by their peers. Outside of residential and party spaces, even academic locations like Twilight and Axinn contain red dots, revealing just how pervasive sexual assault and harassment is at the college. If students are unable to occupy the spaces on campus that are explicitly devoted to education without fearing assault or harassment, then Middlebury is failing to fulfill its most basic purpose: to be an environment conducive to learning. Currently, the majority of on-campus resources available to assault survivors are student-led, such as SPECS, MiddSafe, the SGA’s Sexual and Relationship Respect Committee (SRR) and IHH. While we commend these organizations for their work, we also recognize a clear need for additional administrative support to more effectively address the issue of campus-wide sexual misconduct. We ask that the administration take the Map Project as evidence that the Green Dot sexual assault prevention program is limited in what it can accomplish. Although Green Dot’s bystander awareness training initiatives are an important first step, its organizers would likely be the first to admit that it does not change the culture at the heart of sexual assault and harassment. And the fact that the vast majority of the map’s dots appear in social spaces suggests that even when bystanders are present near instances of sexual assault, they do not reliably intervene. A real social shift needs to occur in order for cases of sexual assault and harassment to approach zero. Students may not always know which of their friends have sexually assaulted or harassed others, but many know which of their friends behave “badly” at parties or demonstrate unhealthy attitudes about sex and relationships behind closed doors. Those students are the ones most in need of productive conversations with their friends about consent and respect. Bystander intervention can help in potentially dangerous situations, but difficult conversations among friends — and the absolute social unacceptability of harassment and assault — will be required to end the minimization of consent and trivialization of assault and harassment that contribute to rape culture. We recommend that the college implement a new anti-sexual assault training program that requires students to learn the nuances of sexual harassment and assault in-person rather than online. The current electronic educational program students undergo prior to their first year is too easy for a student to click through without internalizing its message. As a more immediate measure, we also think the new program could place a greater emphasis on the punitive consequences of committing assault. Perhaps if more students understood and feared the disciplinary repercussions of sexual violations, the overall number of incidents would decrease, at least in the short term. Of course, emphasizing the consequences of committing sexual assault or harassment will be meaningless if the college does not make the process of reporting less difficult. Some students who report their experiences of sexual assault become so overwhelmed or distraught during the process that they simply leave Middlebury. While we know there are no easy ways of changing this system, we know that the more intimidating this system is, the more difficult it will be for students to come forward. We also recommend that the administration explore the option of updating the college’s weekend programming to provide students with additional options other than drinking. Middlebury’s isolated location means that weekend activities for students are quite limited, oftentimes encouraging a party culture based on binge drinking. Programs like the free Friday film are a good start, and we think additional programming on Friday and Saturday nights could give students alternatives to drinking heavily and heading to Atwater. We would also like first-years to have more opportunities to host their own parties rather than constantly being shuffled into upperclassman environments. First-year students should have more room to party among themselves to properly acclimate to college rather than immediately jumping into older, potentially more dangerous settings. The college has often prided itself on its relatively low number of sexual assault and harassment reports as documented in its annual safety reports. But these statistics are misleading — the majority of sexual assaults on this campus go entirely unreported, which means that even IHH’s Map Project is not a complete tally of on-campus sexual misconduct. We hope that IHH’s map has revealed the extent of on-campus misconduct to the Middlebury community, and that meaningful institutional and cultural progress follow as a result.
Each January and May, as hundreds of students shake President Patton’s hand and receive their own copy of Gamaliel Painter’s cane, we often think of the hard work each student put forth in their major coursework. But before students get their diplomas, they must complete another set of requirements: their distribution requirements. A cakewalk for some, a tightrope walk for others, it feels cloudy and arbitrary for all, at times. We see a lot of benefits to having distribution requirements, but we also acknowledge that there are improvements that could be made to this system. Distribution requirements oblige students to take classes in a variety of disciplines, pushing them beyond their comfort zone. Because we are a liberal arts institution, we believe it is valuable to encourage students to take classes they may otherwise not have taken. If students were able to take a class Pass/D/Fail and have it count for a distribution requirement, more students might have the courage to venture further into a new subject. Under the current system, this is not allowed. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]If students were able to take a class Pass/D/Fail and have it count for a distribution requirement, more students might have the courage to venture further into a new subject. [/pullquote] Although we recognize why some would be concerned about expanding the Pass/D/Fail program, we are skeptical that it would be abused. It seems that most Middlebury students hold themselves to a high enough academic standard to try reasonably hard in their classes, regardless of whether they are taking them for a grade. And if the college is worried students would take advantage of the system, they could impose a limit on the number of Pass/D/Fail classes which can count toward distribution requirements. We also believe including more cross-listed course options within the catalog could help students fulfill requirements, and cultivate analytical skills specific to interdisciplinary classes. Of course any class that focuses on theory and analysis will deepen critical thinking skills, but classes that use theory, theory applications and comparison analysis — often the components of interdisciplinary classes — will push students to think beyond the four walls of the classroom. We think including a “social justice” distribution option could push students’ critical thinking skills further and help them “address the world’s most challenging problems,” as the college’s mission statement states. This wouldn’t necessitate adding another requirement — the college already has a lot — but simply adding another “academic category” option. This way, students can take their classroom knowledge into the real world and attempt to address challenging social problems without sacrificing personal interest or schedule flexibility. Peer institutions like Bowdoin and Williams have categories devoted to social difference and power. Middlebury should consider taking a cue from these schools, and adding a similar category as its ninth, from which students complete seven courses. In addition to academic distribution requirements, all students are required to take two non-credit physical education classes. We suggest that instead of focusing solely on physical well-being, the college consider dropping one of these required classes in favor of a class that focuses on mental and emotional well-being. This would promote more holistic student wellness and align with the college’s increased efforts to support student mental health. Distribution requirements offer students a valuable opportunity to be forced outside of their academic comfort zones but it seems that sometimes the values behind the system can be lost as students are experiencing it. We’d like to see distribution requirements align more closely with the college’s mission while maintaining the flexibility it gives students to meet all requirements.
We would like to commend the How We Will Live Together Steering Committee for revising the college’s Residential Life system based on community-wide feedback about the current system’s shortcomings. Now, the system offers certain students more positive experiences than others, and we appreciate the Committee’s attempt to equalize quality of life across all Commons. But, we would also like to recommend changes that we believe should be part of the final proposal. The Steering Committee outlined its proposed changes to the Residential Life system at a forum in Wilson Hall last Tuesday alongside the Student Government Association and Community Council. Committee members conducted an extensive review of the college’s current Residential Life system and identified key structural weaknesses. “What we now have is one of the most expensive residential systems among all of our peer institutions, with some of the poorest outcomes, particularly around student satisfaction,” said Robert Moeller, assistant professor of Psychology and co-chair of the steering committee. The Committee’s new draft intends to address issues within the current residential system that have traditionally hampered students’ experiences. To identify these limitations, the Committee sent out surveys to the student body and collected input across Commons. Many low-income students, minority students and Febs responded to these surveys expressing that they felt isolated within the current Residential Life system. These sentiments of isolation coupled with the college’s current overcrowding make the process of constructing a new residential system. Some of the proposed solutions include reclaiming lounge areas currently being used as student rooms or office spaces, eliminating restrictions on sophomore housing, improving the integration of Feb students and increasing support for students staying on campus during breaks. We think these are all good ideas that could lay a solid foundation for a more inclusive and balanced residential experience. To build upon these proposals, we encourage the Steering Committee to prioritize grouping new Febs together in dorms, and with other first-year students. Students build strong relationships with their neighbors and hallmates, and we think deliberately integrating Febs with other first-years will help them adjust to college life. It could also be helpful to hire a residential staff member who works directly with Febs. Many of us have good relationships with our deans and Commons coordinators because we were able to connect with them during the first trying months of college; we want Febs to have this chance too. [pullquote speaker="Robert Moeller" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]What we now have is one of the most expensive residential systems among all of our peer institutions, with some of the poorest outcomes.[/pullquote] We are wary of grouping all first-year housing together into a “quad,” as the draft recommendations currently suggest. While we agree that deans and Residential Life teams should be placed within first-year housing, we are unsure whether first-year housing and Residential Life teams should be in one geographical area. This setup could limit interclass interaction and could create an isolating environment — especially for Febs, if the college continues to place them in upperclassman housing. We would also like to see the dining halls open more regularly during breaks. Perhaps the college could create structured programming for students who stay on campus over breaks. It can be lonely to spend Thanksgiving or Winter Break on campus, and the college should do all it can to make it a social and fun experience. We hope equalizing the number of students each dean oversees will make deans even more accessible to students, especially to first-years. Members of our board have expressed varying relationships with their deans, typically dependent upon what Commons they entered in their first year. As such, we agree with the Committee’s initiative to improve student-dean relationships across the board. We also recognize that cozy physical spaces for students to interact with deans encourage students to reach out and ask for help when they need it. Moving Commons or deans’ offices to an uninviting student center could make students less willing to get to know their Residential Life teams, which means the new center needs to be as warm and accessible as possible. Ideally, these offices would remain in first-year dorms to ensure first-years get support when they need it. If the college does hire new deans to address first-year support, we hope they consider Scott Barnicle, dean of Atwater Commons, as an example. Barnicle not only provides the support students need regarding class scheduling or on-campus issues, but also remains highly invested in students’ personal well-being. We think it is no coincidence that Barnicle has a background in counseling, which equips him to support students more holistically. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]We are grateful to be involved in the construction of the new Residential Life plan.[/pullquote] We remain wary of reducing the overall number of deans as this may place more responsibility on FYCs, RAs and CAs. FYCs already have a great deal of responsibility: beyond being the “go-to” people for first-years, they are responsible for coordinating events, building hall community and staying “on call” in case of emergencies, and yet they are not paid enough. We would love for Residential Life members, especially FYCs, to receive better compensation for their work. Our board recognizes that this is a draft of recommendations. It is obvious the Committee has taken student input seriously and we are grateful to be involved in the construction of the new Residential Life plan. We hope the Committee follows through with the commitments outlined within its proposal. Decades ago, when the college first proposed the Commons system, many of the objectives outlined within its proposal never came to fruition. The residential system became entrapped within a self-perpetuating cycle where low-quality programming decreased students’ enthusiasm about their Commons, which then further lowered the quality of housing initiatives. If the college genuinely wants to improve life on campus, it needs to fully implement the commitments outlined within this proposal. In the meantime, we encourage students to continue voicing their suggestions and concerns. The draft is accessible at go/livetogether and students can comment on the draft online until March 1.
One hundred and seven first-year students arrived on campus Feb. 6 to begin their orientation. These new students, commonly called Febs, are part of a tradition which began at Middlebury College nearly fifty years ago. Febs bring unique perspectives and talents to the Middlebury community. We are excited to meet all 107 new students and we’d like extend a warm welcome to the Class of 2022.5. The first couple months of college can be difficult. It can be hard to adjust to a new place filled with new people, challenging courses and the stressors of living apart from family. This can be even harder when you arrive on campus and there are other first-years who have been here for five months already and seem to have things figured out. As the spring semester begins, we are reminded of the barriers that often prevent Febs and September admits, sometimes called Regs, from getting to know each other. For the most part, these issues are institutional, having to do with housing and the Feb Orientation process. Febs are sometimes placed on first-year halls with other students, but many are sprinkled throughout the campus in buildings like Starr Hall. We recognize that the Feb program exists in part to fill the rooms left empty by students going abroad, so awkward housing assignments may sometimes be inevitable. But we think better programming can help ameliorate some issues and encourage students living near each other to interact more. We also realize that approaching students from other years can be intimidating for new Febs. Since each Feb class is small and goes through an intensive orientation process, many know almost everyone in their Feb class — but almost nobody outside of it. Several initiatives have tried to improve integration between the classes, but they have produced middling results, in part because students are not given enough guidance. For example, the Feb-Reg “buddy” program has led to awkward experiences for Febs when their “buddies” try to include them in large group activities without taking the time to get to know them on an individual basis first. Members of our board have observed that new Febs and first-year students don’t seem to mingle at events that are specifically intended to give them opportunities to get to know each other, like Commons dinners. Part of the problem with initiatives and events like these is that they do not feature activities that push people out of their comfort zones. Of course, events should be appealing enough to attract attendees, but as they exist now, the students who participate are not given a real chance to make new friends. It would be better if events had more carefully delineated activities that made it difficult for students to keep to their pre-established friend groups. For example, orientation leaders could facilitate a Midd Uncensored event — the popular discussion-based program that takes place at September and February orientations — between first-years and first-year Febs. These events could also be better publicized. Most students find social activities on Facebook, so each Commons should use that platform to promote events. Students who arrive at Middlebury in the Fall can fear seeming arrogant to the Febs who arrive just one semester later, so they may be hesitant to offer advice, but this community is one where most people want to be helpful and kind. So ask for help if you need it. We also encourage all students to invite potential friends, hall mates or classmates to grab a meal. The dining halls are some of the most social spaces on this campus. Another opportunity for friendship-building that could come from students themselves are joint events between FYCs and FebYCs. FYCs from different Commons sometimes combine events to give first-years the chance to get to know each other, and the same thing could easily be applied to first-year Febs and first-years. And the single most important piece of advice that we can offer this year’s new Febs is to join clubs and participate in other extracurricular activities. The student activities fair will be held this Friday, and it is a great way for Febs to get to know fellow students in every year who share common interests and passions. Middlebury needs more, better institutional support for social integration between Febs and non-Febs, especially those in their first year. With the college having just proposed changes to the residential life system, we look forward to seeing how community-building opportunities will expand in the future. The adjustment period after arriving college is just that — a period — and will pass with time. Febs, you too will soon begin to find your groove, your people and your interests. Your path to graduation may not be the same as most students on campus, but with some effort — and, we hope, added support from the college community — it will still be a good one.
On Jan. 29, Middlebury announced it will begin divesting from fossil fuels over a fifteen year period through the Energy2028 initiative. As a board of students, we are excited and incredibly proud of the collaborative work between student activists, Middlebury administrators, staff, faculty and the Board of Trustees, who unanimously agreed to the proposal. We share in our community’s excitement that our institution is living up to its reputation as an environmental leader. Student activism surrounding divestment has persisted through multiple presidents and has been passed down through generations of students. A 2012 article written by Scholar in Residence Bill McKibben for Rolling Stone brought the issue into public focus. In 2013, however, the Board of Trustees voted against divestment. But student activists persisted. We are grateful to the students of the Sunday Night Environmental Group (SNEG) who continued to push for divestment, often writing in our Opinion pages. We applaud the trustees for being willing to rethink their initial stance on divestment, and we hope that other institutions who are disinclined to divest take note that change is possible. Divestment is a complex issue, but this agreement shows that when everyone works together we can find solutions. We were pleasantly surprised to see that Energy2028 encompasses goals larger than divestment of the 4 percent of our $1.124 billion endowment directly invested in fossil fuels. It promises to transition to 100 percent renewable energies by 2028, to reduce consumption on campus, and to expand environmental educational opportunities. While we know that this plan won’t completely eliminate the school’s indirect investments in fossil fuel companies if they are included in general equity funds, we are still pleased that Middlebury is using a broader definition than most for what constitutes a fossil fuel company in its direct investments. We are proud of all that Middlebury has promised and recognized that there is a lot of work to be done to ensure that all of these promises come to pass. We hope that students continue to be climate activists and pass down the knowledge and importance of this agreement to the next generation of students. As a paper, we will continue to support student activists in holding Middlebury accountable. Through continued reporting on the history of divestment and on Energy2028 as it unfolds, we want to do our part in giving this initiative its best chance of succeeding by staying invested in its progress. We hope students will continue to write opinion pieces about their activist work. Those who are skeptical of this announcement have every right to be. Some student activists were dismayed in 2016, when Middlebury reached carbon neutrality only by purchasing carbon offsets from its Bread Loaf campus. But we hope that Energy2028 is the next step of a truly more progressive Middlebury in all realms. We hope the college will continue to practice transparency, detailing how exactly the goals of Energy2028 will be met, and continue soliciting student opinion. We are grateful for the leadership of Laurie Patton and the Middlebury students, professors, community members and administrators who helped make divestment a reality. We are excited to traverse this new frontier and see how Energy2028 unfolds.
For full staff issue coverage, click here. Middlebury College had its first-ever Martin Luther King Jr. Day off this week, and many were left wondering what the commemoration meant — and, perhaps more importantly, why it was happening only for the first time. At the very least, the holiday demonstrated the administration’s often-unrealized but well-intentioned desire to make all Middlebury students feel equally recognized and validated here. It is right to set aside a day to honor Dr. King’s advocacy for justice, nonviolence and peace, but committing ourselves to Dr. King’s legacy means that we must confront the injustices he fought and remember those he struggled for, including oppressed racial minorities and workers. To truly honor Martin Luther King Jr., we should follow his example by refusing to neglect those in our own community who feel overlooked and invisible. After our recent snowstorm, as we walk neatly shoveled paths across campus, it is difficult not to notice the staff members who work tirelessly to make Middlebury liveable. Last Winter Term, we published an article on the snow removal staff. Clinton “Buzz” Snyder, the college’s landscape supervisor, and Luther Tenny, facilities maintenance and operations director, work together to oversee snow removal operations. For a “typical snow event” (a foot or less of snow), 14 snow plows and ten crews of shovelers assemble to tackle the campus. Workers are called in the order of their proximity to the school; staff who live in New York are called in earlier than those who live in Vermont. Plow crews come in around 4 a.m. to clear the roads and walkways. These crews clean over 120 college buildings, including off-campus housing such as Weybridge, Homestead and the Mill. This spring, the Middlebury College staff and faculty will experience significant changes. In an effort to maintain Middlebury’s financial sustainability, the administration announced a workforce planning process last year that will identify areas where the college can be more efficient in its spending, in part through faculty and staff cuts. In the end, the college hopes to cut about 10 percent of staff compensation costs through buyouts, and save over $2 million over the next few years through early retirement by faculty. It is unfortunate that the people who work the hardest for this school should have to worry about the security of their jobs. Recent dining hall short-staffing during this week’s snowstorm pointed to the value of each individual staff member. It’s difficult to meet our low-waste environmental standards when we have to use paper plates and cups instead of reusable ones. We rely on staff for all our school’s operations, from putting on plays to coordinating on behalf of student organizations. Our school does not run without them. As a student newspaper, we have not always done a good enough job covering the issues that matter to the staff members who make Middlebury a place we can call home. We understand that part of the reason why this relationship has been tenuous in the past is because staff members are often not allowed to speak freely without repercussions. Our renewed commitment to community integration may take the form of more anonymous interviews. As we have seen in the process of putting this issue together, there are more nuanced considerations for staff who wish to voice opinions or concerns than there are for students or faculty. We believe that The Campus should be the medium through which staff members can express their opinions openly. At the same time, as Middlebury’s primary newspaper, we hope to provide an outlet for every person in our community. We hope to extend the lines of communication and give voice to faculty and staff concerns, which should be concerns for every person who has a stake in this school — that is, for all of us. If it weren’t for staff, Middlebury would be unsuccessful, not to mention uninhabitable. Let’s appreciate the people without whom this college would cease to exist.
On Dec. 22, the government shut down because President Trump wants a wall. The longest shutdown in U.S. history is the apex of partisanship and the culmination of Trump’s number one presidential campaign promise. But while we keep telling ourselves that this is not a normal time in our history, it becomes increasingly difficult to continue having the same visceral reactions of anger or sadness to each calamity that appears in the news. They happen so often. Strangely enough, this is the first time we have chosen to editorialize directly about the president this year. What took us so long? One reason is that it feels impossible to choose between the different disasters. Is this shutdown any more or less outrageous than family separation at the border, or the government’s failure to adequately respond to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico — neither of which we have addressed as a board? It would be impractical for us to write about these outrages each week. Doing so would force us to ignore the on-campus issues that often feel even more immediate than what is happening in Washington. But it would be irresponsible to ignore them altogether. For several reasons, we find this shutdown too shameful to go un-covered, even by a student newspaper. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"] Trump is quick to take responsibility for creating the shutdown but not for the actions that created the crisis in the first place.[/pullquote] President Trump seems either ignorant or apathetic, or both, of U.S. interference in many of the South American countries that are currently sending many people to the U.S., including Honduras and Nicaragua. Trump is quick to take responsibility for creating the shutdown but not for the actions that created the crisis in the first place. Despite Trump’s “America First” rhetoric, the shutdown has furloughed 800,000 workers and caused government agencies and services that help his own supporters to stop operations. The Environmental Protection Agency has furloughed 95 percent of its workforce, the Treasury department 85 percent, and even the Department of Homeland Security has furloughed over 30,000 workers. According to the U.S. Border Patrol, the number of border apprehensions is at its lowest rate since 1971, and despite Trump’s claims, most people living in the U.S. illegally have simply overstayed visas, not crossed over the Southern border. A few years ago we might have thought that statistics like these would convince the public that the answer to any border security issues we might have is not a $5 billion wall; now we fear that facts are no longer persuasive. Trump has moved away from facts and into pure rhetoric. This rhetoric encourages Americans to distrust the media and further harms the very Americans the President claims to support. TSA employees are not getting paid, resulting in longer airport lines and less thorough security; the FDA is not inspecting food as it comes into the country; national parks have been unable to collect crucial park fees. Though on the surface things seem to be business-as-usual here in Middlebury, people here and around the country are affected every day by Trump’s recklessness. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]The choice to give up and cede the debate to those who traffic in falsehoods would be disastrous, once that apathy spreads throughout the electorate. [/pullquote] Two years into his presidency, Trump’s influence over his strongest supporters is as clear as ever. His capacity to make people believe things that are plainly not true makes it even more important to reaffirm the truth — even when doing so feels tiresome, or like shouting into the void. Even on a small scale, the choice to give up and cede the debate to those who traffic in falsehoods would be disastrous, once that apathy spreads throughout the electorate. As student journalists, we certainly work on a small scale. But at the very least, we hope that our choice to pay attention and stay vigilant comes from the same truth-seeking impulse that motivates the reporters who scrutinize Trump’s finances, or debunk his toxic myths about immigration. As Middlebury students, it’s essential that we think and read critically to work toward the future that we want. This style of governing is inefficient and dangerous, and young people need to decide if this is the way we want our government to function. We believe that a president should not be able to hamstring the government and the public because he could not achieve what he wanted in the two years his party controlled both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate. There is no end on the horizon for this shutdown. Democrats are happy to continue to refuse funding the wall and many Republican senators feel their political fortunes are tied to Trump and therefore continue to support him. Trump has rejected and refused to consider reasonable proposals to re-open the government and separate the border security issue. But we are reassured by the recent polls showing that a majority of Americans agree that the President is at fault for the shutdown. Truth is not dead, but it has taken work to keep it alive.
Within the past year, several Middlebury businesses have shut down, leaving “For Sale” and “For Lease” signs in once-crowded window displays. The facades of the empty buildings have cast a somber shadow over the town, and many are wondering what the lasting implications of the closures will be. A vibrant town is just as important to the Middlebury community as a vibrant college. With these losses, we have also lost unique opportunities to engage with the people of Middlebury by supporting businesses that are important to the larger Middlebury community. The relationship between the student community and the town community has often been fraught with tension, perhaps rightfully so, as the student body often does very little to engage with the surrounding town. One sad example was the cancellation of the Vermont Chili Festival; students loved the event, but hardly ever did more to make it happen than drunkenly consume chili. It should be the student body’s long-term goal to improve the existing relationship between students and the town’s long-term residents. This will take time, and perhaps a few generations of students, but we believe every student has the opportunity and the obligation to contribute to a thriving greater Middlebury community. Carol’s Hungry Mind Café, The Lobby, Ben Franklin, Clay’s Clothing, Rough Cut and Storm Café, each on or near Main St., have all closed just in the last few months. Store owners say high rent prices, the joint railroad and bridge construction and increased competition from online retailers have all contributed to the closings. We know the college has worked in the past to help small business owners in the town. (A sizeable fraction of the town’s annual budget is made up of college funding.) We also recognize that some Middlebury students, or students participating in Middlebury programs, attend the college year-round and contribute to the local economy year-round. In September, several members of our staff had a conversation with Angelo Lynn, the editor and publisher of the Addison Independent. He asked us to think about the types of businesses that would bring Middlebury students into town more often and get them invested in the community. In light of his question, we have been thinking about what could fill the town’s unfortunate new vacancies. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]The success of a college depends on the success of the town surrounding it.[/pullquote] Taste of India and Sabai Sabai, restaurants that serve international cuisines that can be hard to find in rural Vermont, are enduringly popular with students, who often come from urban areas with a wide variety of foods. We think it would be great to fill in gaps left by closed restaurants with more types of cuisine. The Lobby has been replaced by the newly-opened Italian restaurant The Arcadian, but we hope that this will be only the beginning. Other ideas include more social spaces, where students can spend more than an hour in town. On a campus that sometimes feels overcrowded, spaces for group hangouts are more needed than ever. A bowling alley or arcade could also bring in revenue. Some of the successful businesses in town, like the Tinker and Smithy Game Store, offer social experiences in addition to merchandise or food. However, this conversation cannot occur in a vacuum. While these options seem appealing to us as students, we must consider the town’s need to fill the vacant storefronts with businesses that will benefit the entire community. This past summer, the Town of Middlebury email list (you can sign up to be on the list and receive town updates at go/middmailinglist) asked residents what alternatives they would like to see replace Clay’s and Ben Franklin. Of the 230 respondents, over 80 stated that they would want a clothing store of some kind. Over 60 said they would prefer a small-format Target. Some argue that the responsibility to revamp local infrastructure should be placed on the town. The Editorial Board believes that the onus should be equally placed on students. We think the success of a college depends on the success of the town surrounding it. Therefore, supporting the local economy is essential to ensuring the longevity of the college. The Black Student Union (BSU), for example, rents out the Middlebury Marquis to screen films for their members. BSU has actively engaged with the town community, making that space part of college activity and helping to bridge the gap between Middlebury students and town residents. Our ways of participating do not have to be solely economic, however. The Middlebury Campus has a longstanding relationship with the Addison Independent; Campus editors often intern with the newspaper over the summer. Recently, The Campus covered the local midterm elections in Addison County. After our election issue came out, our staff compiled a live report on Election Day of the results of local and state elections. The issue and live report received positive feedback from students, faculty and most importantly, town residents. Other organizations have taken similar steps to integrate the college with the larger community through their work. This Saturday, the Better Middlebury Partnership will host Very Merry Middlebury, a public celebration to kick off the holiday season, with events in town from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There will be horse-drawn wagon rides, hot chocolate, gingerbread house-making and a gingerbread house exhibit, caroling and free gift-wrapping for all presents bought in town, not to mention that Santa Claus is expected to make an appearance. It should be a perfect opportunity for students to have fun engaging with the community and support local businesses. It is also the responsibility of the SGA External Affairs Committee to serve as a liaison between Middlebury, Addison County, the state of Vermont and other governmental and non-governmental bodies external to the college. Many students, particularly first-years, simply don’t know what the town of Middlebury has to offer. The SGA should but together a list or map of local business, interesting local places to visit, and ways to get involved with the community. The External Affairs Committee could host an event similar to Chili Fest — something that encourages collaboration between students and locals. But the change doesn’t have to come from our institution; it can start with interactions between us students and the members of our community who make Middlebury, Vermont feel like another home.
Last Thursday, Middlebury’s two-year-old satirical student publication The Local Noodle launched a successful first print issue. It positively flew off that heater right inside the entrance to Proc, a much-needed face shield for students looking to avoid eye contact with others but unwilling to risk being seen reading The Campus. As the editors of Middlebury’s “biggest waste of time and resources,” we would like to extend our warmest congratulations to “Middlebury’s only news source.” We need more student publications on campus, and the Noodle’s first print edition shows that it is possible for a small group of students to get together and produce an impactful publication. In their inaugural editorial, the Noodle’s staff outlined their paper’s mission. “Though much of our coverage is comical,” they said, “the main purpose of our journalism is, and has always been, to identify and tackle the real problems here on Middlebury’s campus.” Though The Local Noodle is not fact-based, it succeeded in using comedy and fiction to address important issues, like sexual assault culture within sports teams and disillusionment with the administration’s carbon neutrality promise, in a way that captures genuine sentiments shared by students. When The Campus tries to cover sensitive topics like sexual assault or the relationship between athlete recruitment and academic rigor, we run into reticent interviewees, data shortages and administrative roadblocks. On the other hand, when The Local Noodle makes up a fictional quotation or statistic, they may not be reporting real news, but their satire can bypass those difficulties and address dark aspects of our campus culture that often go unspoken or unproven but are accepted as realities by many students. News, opinion, art and comedy must exist together to create an accurate record of student experiences at Middlebury. The Campus has been a part of this record for more than one hundred years. Our community’s contribution to Middlebury’s recorded history — and to the history of college life in the United States — will be incomplete if we do not leave a record of our true, uncensored and occasionally inappropriate thoughts (see: “Size does matter” article on theNoodle’s front page). The main obstacle to creating an accurate and complete record of student experience is a lack of involvement in publications. The Campus sometimes struggles to find writers, and other publications do not receive enough submissions or have enough dedicated contributors to survive for long. Part of the responsibility rests with us, the editors of The Campus, and the editors of other publications, to be more proactive and inclusive. The Campus, The Local Noodle, Middlebury Geographic, Translingual Magazine and other publications are always looking for submissions, but we could do a better job of reaching out to younger students who we know to be thoughtful writers and invested community members. Another problem limiting participation is that no publication besides The Campus has a designated workspace at Middlebury. Our Campus office in Hepburn certainly contributes to our permanence as an organization, and we want other publications to have the same access we do. The college could create a “publications hub” in McCullough to facilitate the growth and durability of student publications. It could have a large table for meetings and computers with design software for laying out pages and creating websites. Since no such space currently exists, The Campus has offered (and will continue to offer) help and advice to new student publications on how to navigate the print process. Middlebury needs more healthy competition between its student publications. Students should have options in what they read, and a variety of publications helps ensure quality. As Middlebury’s oldest publication, The Campus is often seen as part of the college’s “establishment,” which we acknowledge makes some students hesitant to share their stories with us. Ideally, all students would be able to find their voices reflected in a student publication. Other notable publications, including Beyond the Green, MiddBlog, MiddBeat, The Crampus, The Idle Times and others have risen to fill niches that some students have felt The Campus cannot, but most have fizzled out as the students behind them have graduated. It’s important to have humor represented in a publication, and this “you-know-what rag” can tell you that this is sometimes at one’s own expense. Especially in this political climate, reading humor pieces can be a welcome reprieve from the seemingly constant barrage of political turmoil. We are excited to praise The Local Noodle for their first issue. As a publication that has been printing dozens of issues each year for decades, we understand the difficulty of putting out a publication, and we want to make it easier for other publications to endure for future generations of students. Putting a lot of work into an issue, whether factual or funny, is worthwhile and rewarding. Doing so takes a lot of time and energy from dedicated people, and we hope that more students can experience that satisfaction.
The midterm elections on Tuesday, Nov. 6, present voters with the opportunity to restructure the national political landscape. This is a chance for voters to translate critiques of the Trump administration into tangible change by voting for ballot measures and candidates they feel represent their values. But these midterms go beyond issues of national politics. Gubernatorial races and other state elections may affect our daily lives more than a federal election would. Many of the state officials elected on Nov. 6 will redraw legislative districts following the 2020 census; those districts cannot be changed again until 2030. Often this partisan redistricting, or gerrymandering, contributes to systemic inequality and further disenfranchises marginalized voting populations by weakening a particular group’s vote and guaranteeing that they have fewer representatives in office. All this is to say: vote. Because not many young people do in midterm elections. Historically, midterm elections have elicited significantly lower voter turnout than presidential elections. According to FairVote, a nonprofit voting rights organization, over 58 percent of eligible American voters showed up to the polls for the 2016 presidential vote, but only 35.9 percent participated in the 2014 midterm election. Midterm turnout rates are notoriously low among voters aged 18 to 35. Millennials are now as large of a political force as baby boomers, according to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of U.S. census data. Both generations make up approximately 31 percent of the overall electorate, yet millennials continue to have the lowest voter turnout of any age group. Perhaps this is because young people move frequently, which makes voting more difficult. Or, maybe it is because campaign outreach efforts often overlook younger voters and therefore, fewer young people show up to the polls. These potential barriers make student votes even more important. It’s clear that young Americans care deeply about the future of our country. Much of the national activism in the last couple of years has been organized and supported by young voters. Movements like March for Our Lives, the Women’s March and Black Lives Matter indicate the power and passion of young people. On our campus, students often participate in and organize political activity. At Middlebury, students volunteer for political candidates, push for more recognition and support for undocumented students and rally against the current presidential administration’s redefinition of gender, among other political activity. But movements and protests aren’t enough. We need people to vote to bring the issues they care about and the issues which afflict their local communities into the legislative sphere. As the most diverse voting group, millennials have the unique ability to advocate for minorities and historically disenfranchised populations. We have a civic responsibility to vote and we appreciate that Middlebury prepares us to make informed choices. We are lucky to be surrounded by a variety of people and intellectual discourses which challenge our political views. Our school gives us access to a wealth of magazines, newspapers, textbooks, ethnographies and journal articles, all of which we can use to bolster or challenge our own thinking. Voting gives us a way to translate the knowledge we accrue in Middlebury’s academic environment into tangible social change. We recognize that voting absentee can be a hassle. We also know that some states, like Georgia, have suppressed minority votes. Middlebury students are fortunate, however, to live in Vermont where same-day voter registration exists; the majority of states require voters to register 15 to 30 days before an election. We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity. If you find voting in your home state to be difficult, register to vote in Vermont. Even if you don’t vote in Vermont, it is important to follow the local races and debates. These races may seem detached from Middlebury College life, but they are not. They affect the discussions between Middlebury students, faculty, staff and the broader Vermont community. Living in a small state also gives us the opportunity to interact with accessible leaders and politicians, another rarity. Take advantage of the fact that your voice will be heard and become a part of the change that local and state governments can carry out. Of course, political engagement must continue beyond Nov. 6. This means canvassing for future candidates, donating to organizations you believe in, going to protests, calling politicians to raise awareness about issues affecting your community, reading your local newspaper to understand what your neighbors care about, writing in to your local paper to express your views and having conversations with friends and family. However, we have to acknowledge the ways in which, during this midterm season, Middlebury has a chance to overcome historically low young voter turnout and make our voices heard. If we truly aim to be the engaged global citizens advertised in our college’s mission statement, the least we can do is participate in this fall’s elections. After all, what is the point of learning about the world if we never take action to change it?
Last Saturday, the college hosted its first-ever Panther Day. The main event of the day was the parade, which started at the Kirk Alumni Center and ended at the Mahaney Center for the Arts. After the parade, students could attend the second annual Harvest Festival, the opening of the Continuity of Change exhibit and the Harsh Armadillo concert. During these events, some of which were better attended than others, we found ourselves wondering: what does it mean to have “Panther pride?” Perhaps, showing Panther pride means waving a banner supporting your cultural organization or commons at a school parade. Or, maybe Panther pride means attending a football game and cheering for Middlebury. But maybe Panther pride also means actively working to better the college community by critiquing the institution and protesting when it’s necessary. Self-reflection and criticism was a structured part of the Continuity of Change exhibit at the Kirk Alumni Center, but the exhibition opening was not as well-attended as we had hoped. With a full class schedule and midterms to contend with, the time crunch meant that students were forced to choose which events to attend and which to skip. But students found other ways to make their voices heard. Student protesters stood peacefully by the Mahaney Center for the Arts during the parade, some holding signs, some standing with their mouths taped and some offering informational sheets to those that wanted them. They were protesting Middlebury’s treatment of sexual assault survivors. The protesters were not necessarily there because they hate Middlebury; rather, they were demonstrating through protest that they care about this community and want to make it better by standing in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault. Protests can generate pride among alumni as well. Several alumni who were visiting Middlebury for Panther Day and Homecoming Weekend thanked protesters for raising awareness about issues surrounding sexual assault they felt were not properly addressed during their time on campus. Similarly, after publishing articles about student protests and efforts challenging the college to do better, The Campus will often receieve comments and letters from alumni expressing support. This Panther Day showed that Middlebury is not entirely unwilling to face its history, but the focal point of the day remained an enthusiastic attempt at a parade that overshadowed the day’s opportunities for self-reflection. We are not arguing for the dismissal of the parade. We recognize that parades can be fun, unifying and empowering events. Instead, we ask the college to consider other ways it can encourage manifestations of school pride. The juxtaposition between the parade and the protesters showed that pride manifests in different ways and that all forms can be impactful across the broader Middlebury community. For example, last May several Middlebury students organized the first “Nocturne: A Middlebury Arts Festival,” in which students displayed their artwork to the public from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. throughout campus, from the Gamut Room to The Knoll. The festival was a success: many students stayed out late to see their friends’ work, and the campus buzzed with discussion about the striking exhibitions for days to follow. Nocturne constitutes another example of an event that encourages its own breed of Panther pride. During Nocturne, students rallied together to organize an event centered around supporting peers’ creative ambitions. We think it is important for the college to consider how it might support these student-led pride events. Being proud of this institution requires continuous reflection and critique of its past and present in order to facilitate a better future. We are grateful that the college is attempting to unify the student body by fostering Panther pride. We simply ask that as we continue to find ways to celebrate that pride, students and the college administration alike practice an awareness of the various spheres of campus life that inspire it, and the many different forms it can take.
ESME FAHNESTOCK Before the Class of 2022 arrived on campus this year, they were sent and asked to read “The Origin of Others,” the latest work by Nobel Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison. Having a common reading for all incoming students has been a facet of the first-year experience on and off since at least since 1961. That year, students were asked to read “Lord of the Flies” and a collection of essays entitled, “The World Crisis and American Responsibility.” According to a short documentary from 1961 (you can find it on YouTube: “Vintage College Tour: The Story of Middlebury College”), a panel of faculty members would discuss the selection(s) in front of the first-year class and answer questions. Luckily, that model was abandoned, replaced by intimate small group discussions often led by faculty members. Not since 2015 has an incoming class been assigned reading. The last book, “A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants,” was a memoir by an alumnus detailing his journey from Middlebury College to ordained Buddhist monk. While surely well-intentioned, the choice felt forced, as if the college were saying, “This is the kind of stuff Middlebury students should do after they graduate.” Many members of the Class of 2019 disliked the choice. It is essential that the selected reading foster conversations and challenge students to think critically about new ideas in new ways. “A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants” missed the mark. “The Origin of Others,” on the other hand, was the perfect selection for the Middlebury of 2018. The book is Morrison’s reflection on her own life and work, and the themes that permeate both, including race, fear and “the desire for belonging.” In other words, “The Origin of Others” deals with the very issues that we as an institution must continue to grapple with. Morrison’s work exemplified the community’s aspirational values of inclusivity, equity and social justice. The choice also served as the foundation for the 2018 Clifford Symposium of the same name, which explored Morrison’s body of work and the overarching issue of racism in America. The decision to connect the first-year reading with the symposium came after discussions between the symposium’s faculty organizers, Residential Commons Faculty Heads and the staff in charge of orientation. According to Larry Yarbrough, a professor of religion and one of the symposium organizers, all agreed that the book would serve as a significant step towards engaging first-years in pertinent issues. In preparing to write this editorial, The Campus reached out to several first-year students and asked what they thought of the choice. Many students appreciated receiving early exposure to rigorous discussions on difficult subject matter, the norm in college classrooms. Tying the book to the Clifford Symposium also lowered the barrier of entry into the potentially intimidating intellectual environment that a first-year may seek to avoid when choosing classes. Yarbrough said discussion leaders reported that a majority of incoming students were well-prepared for the conversations and most welcomed the opportunity to engage with the work. Given the success of this year’s common reading, the administration should consider expanding the project to further incorporate the rest of the Middlebury community. Older students would benefit from having the option to participate, and it may help bridge divides between different class years. In order to incentivize participation, the college might also consider including more than just books. Creating a shared experience worthy of academic discussion can also stem from listening to a thought-provoking podcast or watching a film. No matter the form, the choice should center on the values and aspirations of the institution. This is what made “The Origin of Others” the perfect choice.