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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.
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.
MILLIE VON PLATEN
When someone is about to enter a public office, it is essential that we consider the implications that their new position of power will have for communities far beyond the insulated spheres of places like Washington D.C.
Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and the two sickening sexual assault allegations that have accompanied it have many troubling — but unsurprising — systemic similarities to Middlebury as an institution. These similarities must be addressed.
Kavanaugh grew up in Washington D.C. and attended Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda, MD. Earlier this month, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who attended Holton-Arms — the all-girls sister school to Georgetown Prep — accused Kavanaugh of assaulting her at a party while they were both in high school.
Then, this Monday, another former classmate of Kavanaugh’s came forward: Deborah Ramirez, who was a student at Yale University with Kavanaugh, spoke at length in a New Yorker piece about how Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a college party.
The allegations brought forward by Blasey Ford and Ramirez bear striking resemblances to those of many Middlebury students.
The party culture at Georgetown Prep, which, according to recent accounts provided by Kavanaugh’s former classmates, bred a culture of binge drinking, hypermasculinity and abuse, closely resembles that of Middlebury.
Reports at the college in years past of “Predator and Prey”- themed parties exemplify a party scene that perpetuates rape culture. Older students often warn first-year women of the dangers of Atwater parties. They encourage them to attend parties in big groups and to avoid drinking from cups that are not their own. This should not have to be the case. These trends are not unique to Middlebury, but they are unmistakably part of our culture.
When a national moment bears so many similarities to the community we inhabit, it is imperative that we use it as an opportunity for self-reflection and growth.
Kavanaugh’s defenders have asked whether he deserves to be held accountable for something he did 30 years ago, while under the influence of alcohol and during his teen years — a time when “boys will be boys,” when young men aren’t quite adults yet and, apparently, are allowed to escape the consequences of causing the lasting pain that sexual assault inflicts. In a tweet, President Trump questioned why Blasey Ford had waited so many years to come forward.
To voice these arguments is to delegitimize the longevity and intensity of the pain that survivors of sexual assault — whether at Middlebury in 2018 or Maryland and Connecticut in the 1980s —feel years later.
And if there’s ever a point at which something you did 30 years ago should be placed under the microscope of public scrutiny, it is when you are about to be appointed to a lifetime position on the Supreme Court of the United States.
Another common trend in media coverage of Kavanaugh’s nomination is the discrediting of the experiences relayed by Dr. Blasey Ford and Ramirez.
“New Yorker hit piece on Kavanaugh is not journalism, it’s a bizarre political stage show,” read a Fox News opinion headline Monday, the day after Ramirez’s story was published in The New Yorker.
And sadly, but, again, unsurprisingly, discrediting and delegitimizing the struggle of survivors, rather than supporting them, is a pattern that is all too common at Middlebury.
Last December, a Middlebury student posted a list of men on campus who had been identified by other students as sexual assailants. Discussion of “The List” centered around defending the innocence of the accused instead of attempting to understand why individuals on campus feel so trapped that they turned to a public Facebook post for support.
In recent years, Middlebury has no doubt made progress in improving recognition and support for sexual assault survivors.
Attendance of the “It Happens Here” event, during which survivors detail their experiences of sexual assault on campus, has improved significantly in the past two years. The last event reached full capacity; people were turned down at the door.
Programs like Green Dot on campus have also provided survivors with more support and have been proven to increase reporting of assault.
But despite these steps, if a Facebook post appears to be survivors’ best option, we are failing survivors of sexual assault miserably.
Sexual assaults on college campuses in the United States are reported only around 12 percent of the time, according to a 2015 study by the Washington Post. Survivors need more support.
Institutions — whether the public courts of the United States in which Kavanaugh has made his living, Washington D.C. as a whole or Middlebury College — are bad at acknowledging their own flaws. In order for Middlebury, Washington or the United States to provide survivors the support they deserve and hold assailants accountable, we must acknowledge the stories of survivors as infinitely more important than covering cracks in the institutions that have historically silenced them.
Just one week into the Fall semester, a sense of crowdedness has overtaken Middlebury’s campus. Classrooms feel more packed than in years past, peaktime mailroom queues extend outside McCullough, and dining hall lines feel longer than ever.
Despite its marketable emphasis on the value of smaller, intimate educational settings, Middlebury has a growing student body that appears to be creating an increasingly inflexible student life framework, threatening to jeopardize some of the more intimate aspects of campus culture in the process.
In 2018, a total of 765 students accepted Middlebury’s offer of admission and enrolled at the College as members of the Class of 2022, the highest number of students to accept admission in college history. This year’s yield rate of 45.1 percent is 2.3 percent higher than that of 2017, a year when students already began to notice that campus was feeling overcrowded.
Traditionally, many students choose Middlebury College for its small student-to-faculty ratio. Indeed, admissions materials emphasize professor availability and course flexibility as defining characteristics of the college’s small liberal arts culture.
Professors have already noted effects of this year’s over-enrollment. “It does feel like I have more students showing up to add and fewer students ready to drop a spot in a class,” American Studies professor Deb Evans said in an email.
Professors are now forced to make a difficult choice: either reject students hoping to add their class or agree to excessive amounts of grading and class preparation.
“I feel terrible having to turn students away,” Evans said. “In that sense, it’s harder.”
An expanding student population poses additional problems for common areas on campus, particularly in first-year residence halls.
Many former common spaces in dorms such as Battell, Hepburn and Coffrin have been converted into sleeping spaces as a way to accommodate over-enrollment. These room conversions both prompt overcrowding in the few common areas that remain and decrease the total number of social spaces accessible to first-year students.
Based on the experiences of this editorial board, common areas play a central role in the first year experience, allowing for students to develop close, personal relationships with one another.
The fact that these spaces are being lost due to enrollment numbers forces us to question whether recent over-enrollment will be detrimental to new students’ experiences as they attempt to situate themselves in their new home.
Dining halls have also confronted the negative repercussions of a larger student body. Lunch lines have become unreasonably long and frantic, forcing staff members to work overtime to accommodate increased demand. Last week, during the notorious Thursday 12:15 p.m. lunch rush, Atwater Dining Hall staff stopped scanning students’ IDs to avoid making lines longer. Further, dining employees no longer have time to spend conversing with students.
“Sometimes [the dining rush gets] so crazy that you can’t get to know students,” said Proctor Manager Dawn Boise, “and my staff would like to.”
In that same vein, simple errands, like picking up a package at the mail center, can become challenging. Last Friday afternoon before the mail center closed for the weekend, students rushed to pick up their packages. A line formed at the mail center and stretched outside of McCullough and around the building.
While it’s certainly tiresome to have to wait in a line for half an hour after a day of class, what deserves most attention is the effects on the mail room staff whose job it is to process packages; when lines stretch down the hall and outside day after day, their job becomes more taxing than it likely should be. Though the beginning of the year is traditionally a busy time at the mail center, this year seems to be a special case.
A larger freshman class certainly provides a set of campus-wide advantages, specifically increased extracurricular participation, additional admission opportunities for diverse and first generation students, in addition to more overall social engagement. That this year’s freshman class was the most diverse in the college’s history should not be ignored, and the financial upside to admitting more students is understandable. However, this school’s population appears to be growing at a rate that encroaches upon the intimacy that is fundamental to the liberal arts experience.
We encourage the administration to be more aware of the ways in which over-enrollment has begun to affect our campus and the intimacy traditionally associated with it. If Middlebury is to preserve the essential aspects of a small liberal arts culture, it should not continue to increase enrollment without first implementing additional measures to adequately accommodate that growth.
Correction: An earlier version of this editorial said that the student-to-faculty ratio had increased from 8:1 to 9:1. This number was based on a fact sheet found on the college's admissions webpage. A college spokesman informed The Campus that this is not true and the college has no intention of seeing the ratio increase. The ratio remains 8:1 and it has since been corrected on the college website.
This weekend was the first Nocturne, a late-night, student-run arts festival. From Saturday night at 9:00 until 2:00 a.m. the following morning, Middlebury’s lawns and buildings transformed into outdoor art galleries, performance spaces and screening rooms.
A projector issued a wall-length projection of a fish tank onto Painter Hall, glowing a deep, underwater blue against the gray stone. A variety of student musicians invited dance party after dance party outside of McCullough. Beyond mere unconventional fun, Nocturne’s success also seems cause for two important considerations: first, the student body wants (and is eager to participate in) more inclusive arts programming; and second, the school ought to commit more funding to the arts.
Those who attended Saturday night’s festivities were struck not only by the scale of the event, but also the diversity of performers and participants. Spectators flowed in from all corners of campus, be they artists, athletes, physics majors, or all of the above. This was due in large part to the event’s open nature; since anyone could submit work, artists beyond those enrolled in studio art, music or theatre classes could display or perform pieces, and their friends came in support. Not only that, but the event was entirely free, inviting students of all socioeconomic backgrounds to participate.
As it stands, Middlebury offers a number of spaces for performance and studio art. That said, these spaces can be extraordinarily isolating. The CFA is located in the far corner of campus, and aside from classes and the occasional performance receives little traffic. While Johnson is relatively central, the classrooms within are isolated and barred by heavy, locked doors. Not only that, but Johnson’s very infrastructure is failing. The building is plagued by leaky ceilings and inaccessible freight elevators. The physical abandonment of Johnson is reflective of our community’s general apathy toward the arts on campus, at both a physical and fiscal level.
The problem isn’t just Johnson: it is the lack of modern, innovative spaces in general for the arts. The arts community at Middlebury needs more than the lukewarm support it currently receives. The reality is that we simply don’t have a space for all students to share in communal art. The current college museum has collections that far outnumber the gallery spaces, meaning that many pieces of art in storage never actually see the light of day.
Seniors in the architecture department dedicated their thesis studio to solving this problem. Over the course of J-term, 15 students developed designs comprehensive plans for a new art museum. If Middlebury committed serious funding to the arts, perhaps donors would be encouraged to fund bold projects like this new museum. If on the other hand the arts are not made a priority here, Middlebury will continue to fall behind peer schools like Colby and Williams that are quickly becoming leaders in the arts.
There are some ongoing spaces on campus that, like Nocturne, strive to offer opportunities for collaborative artwork that strengthen community bonds. The Anderson Freeman Center (AFC) is decorated with student-made art. Members of the community were allowed to help memorialize and decorate the building. Last year, the artist Will “KASSO” Condry, along with senior studio art major Zarai Zaragoza, collaborated to design and complete a large mural.
Since its inception three years ago, the AFC has been a space for the underrepresented communities at Middlebury. The new mural in McCullough, for example, was part of an initiative to bring the voices of POC artists to Middlebury. Spaces like the AFC and the new mural in McCullough are a part of the initiative to showcase art representative of the minority voices here. Through art, these students are given a platform for illustrating and validating their experiences.
The administration has voiced its desire to build community, and arts initiatives like murals and Nocturne contribute to this process. Nocturne was expansive enough to provide a space for cultural groups dance performances to hand controlled kaleidoscope projections to poetry readings.
Nocturne is what a vibrant student life looks like. As that event showed, the arts are a mode through which we can all share our lived experiences, build community, form identity and examine ourselves. This cannot happen without dedicated support for students’ artistic endeavors. In short, the arts at Middlebury deserve serious funding, not just token acknowledgment.
For students, summer internships are a large source of stress. Undergraduate college students devote increasing amounts of time to procuring “impressive” internships or embarking on exciting opportunities. As this trend develops, the question arises: Should colleges and universities grant credit for summer internships? Does the educational value of an internships merit formal academic recognition? The SGA, in a bill submitted by Senator Kailash Raj Pandey on April 8, argues yes.
Many colleges recognize the educational value of the extracurricular experiences that students engage in when they pursue internships and reward the pursuit of these experiences with academic credit. Schools such as UC Berkeley, University of Michigan and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill all afford students the chance to accrue credits while working at an internship, according to their websites. At Middlebury, however, this is not the case. Although students pursue internships for academic credit during J-Term, summer internships are not eligible to receive academic credit toward the fulfillment of any requirements.
At its core, we feel that Middlebury’s lack of provision of credit for summer internships runs counter to its educational mission as a liberal arts institution. At Middlebury and other liberal art colleges, a defining component of the educational mission is a belief that varied, self-motivated, worldly experience forms an essential piece of each student’s liberal arts education. The Middlebury mission statement reflects this objective: “Through the pursuit of knowledge unconstrained by national or disciplinary boundaries, students who come to Middlebury learn to engage the world.”
When pursued with care and intentionality, summer internships may perfectly fulfill the designation of educational experiences “unconstrained by national or disciplinary boundaries.” Internship experiences are rooted in real-world work, demand reflection and self-evaluation, and provide us with educational moments that we simply cannot get while working as full-time students at Middlebury College. Regardless of whether the internship is paid or unpaid, any professional position conducted with introspection, intentionality and rigor supplements the mission statement’s vision of education at Middlebury. Offering credit for internships would demonstrate that the administration recognizes their academic value.
In order to ensure the jobs they perform are worthy of receiving credit, students participating in these internships could be subjected to a check-in process similar to the one that students who receive CCI internship funding have to go through. This process calls on students to submit photos, written reflections and employer updates to the CCI in order to uphold their funding grants. Given the correct screening and check-in measures, it’s entirely possible to construct a system under which internships that are pursued with care and rigor are granted appropriate academic credit.
Beyond Middlebury’s educational mission, we see a number of other reasons that summer internship experience should be able to count toward a student’s academic credits. For one, many companies and businesses that offer so-called “unpaid internships” will not allow students to take unpaid positions unless they are earning academic credit for the work they perform (usually for legal reasons). Granting academic credit for internships would allow students to take positions that would otherwise have been unavailable to them by virtue of the college’s current policy.
Furthermore, providing academic credit for summer positions would aid many students who might wish to graduate early from Middlebury for financial reasons. Rather than taking on five-class semesters or taking summer classes at other schools, these students would be able to accumulate credits for meaningful experiences earned during summers in working toward graduating on their own schedule.
The internship process for international students, however, is entirely different. When applying to study in the United States, prospective students must obtain an F-1 visa. This visa is a non-immigrant visa; those who hope to study in the United States must have official residence in their home country and intend to return back to their country of citizenship. The purpose of this visa is to educate the student and then allow them to bring this newfound education back to their country of origin, not the United States.
When applying for internships in the US, F-1 students can apply for Optional Practical Training, which is temporary employment directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion).
In order to use OPT effectively, an international student must carefully ration out their time in the United States; each student is limited to only 12 months of this form of authorization at each degree level, so the use of it prior to graduation significantly affects these students’ future options in the United States. As stated in senator Pandey’s bill, an international student must pay a $410 filing fee each time they want to engage in an off-campus internship experience that is not for academic credit. This significantly limits who is able to apply for internships; an international student may have to turn down the same opportunity that a U.S. peer student is able to accept and benefit from.
If this bill is passed, international students will be afforded the same opportunities as their American peers. As a board we endorse the idea of this bill; international students should be able to receive academic credit for internships without having to jump through hoops to do so.
That said, there are a number of technical questions that must be answered if the college is to take this step: How many credits might a single internship count for? What exactly would an effective screening process look like in order to ensure a position’s validity? How should communication between the college and employers factor into the process? While these details must eventually be worked out, we call upon the college to first recognize that, on an ideological level, granting academic credit for internship aligns with the mission statement of this institution.
For many faculty and staff, the prospect of granting students academic credit for experiences undertaken away from lecture halls and discussion circles will no doubt seem like a drastic step, as it contradicts many conceptions of what it means to be a traditional college student.
But from an ideological standpoint, granting credit for these positions aligns with what it means to be a college student today, in a world where experience is deemed to be of the utmost value for students entering the workforce. It also aligns with what it means to be a student at a liberal arts institution, where these experiences are valued as components of each student’s personal education.
On April 8, the SGA passed a bill requesting the addition of a second student constituent to the college board of overseers. This initiative arose in response to what the bill identifies as “limited and lacking student representation and consequential engagement with the Middlebury college board of trustees,” and aims to increase student involvement in the college’s decision-making process.
But the Patton administration has final say in the matter. In the spirit of collective governance, the administration should embrace the plan — but not just stop there. Inside and outside the boardroom, trustees need more points of contact with students, especially when they make decisions that impact the student experience.
Middlebury’s governance structure can be confusing, but in short the trustees oversee the institution’s long-term health. The board of trustees is split up into three boards of overseers: one for the undergraduate college, one for the language and abroad schools, and one for the Monterey Institute. Several trustees make up the college board of overseers, as well as one faculty member, one staff member and a number of partners.
As it stands, the SGA president serves as the sole student constituent to the college board of overseers enjoys no voting power. This bill aims not only to add a second student, but to grant both the ability to vote. In addition, the board of trustees has six standing committees: prudential, programs, resources, trusteeship and governance, and risk and strategy. If approved, the plan will add student representatives to the programs, risk and strategy standing committees.
On Monday, the editorial board met with the co-authors of the resolution, SGA president Jin Sohn ’18 and chief of staff Ish Alam ’18 to discuss the value of student constituents.
“Speaking from my own time on the board,” Sohn said, “I can attest to the fact that there’s not a lot of student representation.” Still, she went on to detail how her experiences with trustees have been positive.
“I feel as though they always want the conversation to keep going on,” she said, “like they’re genuinely interested in what students have to say.”
Still, the trustees can always benefit from firsthand input about campus life — input that extends beyond informal meals and into the boardroom itself.
The bill aims to increase the term length of student constituents as well, a smart way to better integrate students onto the board. Under the current system, the SGA president serves on the board for a single year (in other words, for three meetings). Under the new bill, this term would be extended to two years, such that student constituents overlap for a year. This is a sensible solution to ensuring the kind of continuity that faculty and staff constituents already have.
As the bill proposes, students should be better prepared for the processes involved with sitting on the board. They would be able to more effectively establish meaningful relationships with other board members. This is crucial; in the past, Sohn explained, the board has been against having a larger student proxy because board members have to feel comfortable in the room in order to engage in constructive conversations. With longer terms, both board members and students will feel more established in their roles, allowing each to speak freely.
This plan would make students privy to upcoming changes, and thus better able to stand up for student interests when it matters. This is particularly important with standing committees, where many of the ideas which actually come into effect on campus originate. For instance, when the construction of a new temporary building to house the computer science department was first floated, no student was present. Since such a change will affect students’ lives, this seems like an unacceptable disconnect.
Voting power is perhaps the most democratic way to give students more say in Middlebury’s governance. “There’s indisputable value when it comes to having a student in the room,” Alam said. While he and Sohn acknowledged that voting power may be a long shot with this administration, we commend the SGA for including the idea. Though it may seem ideal, it’s actually feasible. A substantial student voice in college affairs is necessary; even better if it were met with voting power.
The bill specifies the appointment of two student constituents. Indeed, it’s difficult to pick two students to stand in for such a diverse student body. We urge the SGA to consider carefully who would best serve as student constituents — students of color, for example, or those who have demonstrated a passion for Middlebury but might not be considered a “typical” student. Also, the two year term might eliminate juniors who want to go abroad. To that end, it might make sense to elect rising seniors, who could serve their last year and then the year after they graduate.
The SGA’s plan must be part of a larger project of widening communication channels between the board of trustees and students. This means more frequent events, both informal meals and focused meetings — not only with athletes or first-generation students but a wider sampling of Middlebury students. Before deciding policy on particular issues, like divestment, the trustees could even invite knowledgeable students to present in the boardroom — where the decisions themselves are made.
Finally, we call for more clarity and transparency within the trustees’ decision-making process. Adding student constituents to the board is a necessary — and long overdue — first step in putting governance at Middlebury closer to the students, but it should not stop there. We urge the administration to approve the SGA’s plan, and to work proactively to increase transparency on all levels between students and trustees.
Each year, The Campus endorses a candidates for Student Government Association president. This comes after a sit-down with candidates, in which each is allowed 15 minutes to present their platform and answer questions. Our subsequent endorsement reflects who we as a board feel is best suited for the position — someone who represents the interests of all Middlebury students. This year, the candidates for SGA president are Rae Aaron ’19.5, Charles Rainey ’19 and Nia Robinson ’19.
Once elected, the SGA President serves as the first line of communication between the student body and Old Chapel. Should an issue (say, a contentious debate or student outcry on-campus) arise in the Middlebury community, administrators turn to the SGA President first, in order to gauge student sentiment and craft a response. As such, it is imperative that the president in question not only communicate well, but hold the interests of Middlebury students at heart. Beyond that, the SGA President shoulders a vast array of responsibilities and must be committed to working diligently in order to convert visions, ideals and values into tangible institutional change.
In the 2018 SGA Presidential race, the editorial board believes Nia Robinson best suits this role.
Until two weeks ago, Nia herself was an opinion editor at The Campus. Rather than see this as a conflict of interest, we believe this affords us unique insight into Nia’s suitability for the position, one for which we eagerly endorse her campaign.
All three candidates presented impressive platforms. Rae Aaron offered a platform centered around campus life, accessibility and inclusivity. In addition, her extensive SGA experience as Feb senator and speaker renders her highly qualified for the position. Rae’s weekly email updates are beloved by the Feb community for their humor and informativity, and demonstrate her communication ability. Charles Rainey presented an incredibly thorough platform focused on three areas: social life, community and support. His proposal consists of 15 total points, with five specific points he hopes to achieve for each of these three main areas. He aims to weave ideals of inclusion and accessibility into his platform (for example, hiring a counselor of color at Parton). Yet, while the breadth and detail of both Charles’ and Rae’s campaigns were impressive, Nia emerged as the stronger candidate.
Nia has deep and varied experience in working with students and administrators. As a member of the college’s Judicial Board, Nia understands well the inner workings of bureaucratic systems at Middlebury. And as a former co-president of the Black Student Union, she has already built the relationships needed to work with cultural organizations and bolster inclusivity initiatives on campus. In short, she has worked both inside and outside of the system to make Middlebury a better place.
Unlike Rae and Charles, Nia has never before served as a member of the SGA. Rather than see this as a shortcoming, the editorial board believes this presents an exciting opportunity for a fresh and unique perspective Instead of spending her time exclusively working within the SGA, Nia has lived and worked through many valuable and authentic Middlebury student experiences. Who better to lead us?
During her time at The Campus, Nia proved to be incredible writer, eloquent speaker and meticulously thoughtful participant in discussions about the state of the Middlebury community. During these discussions, Nia displayed a sincere and unwavering desire to create a Middlebury that serves all students equally, pushing time and time again for transparency, accessibility and social inclusion on campus. She entered each discussion with an intense focus and presence that conveyed not only her values and vision, but a sincere desire to follow up and convert her visions into tangible change.
On a more personal note, Nia’s work on campus has demonstrated what a thoughtful, focused and good-humored individual she is; we on the board believe these qualities make her aptly suited to the role of SGA president.
Anyone who has watched Nia at work in Crossroads Café or witnessed one of her admissions tours cannot possibly fail to notice the efficiency, grace and responsibility with which Nia conducts herself.
Responsibility aside, the way that Nia interacts with other students is nothing short of special. Nia not only makes it her project to connect with as many of her peers as possible, but to do so on a genuine, personal level. As a result, she is known and loved by the Middlebury community — professors, deans, students, staff and administrators alike. We on the editorial board are excited by the value Nia places upon building authentic individual relationships, and we are sure she would pursue honest, empathetic communication with every member of Middlebury’s community.
Above all else, what makes Nia most suited to the role of SGA president is the breadth of her experience at Middlebury. Nia possesses unparalleled knowledge of day-to-day student issues. This will be crucial in balancing community members’ perspectives, which, as a board, we identify as the single most important requisite for SGA president. We are excited to endorse Nia’s candidacy in this year’s race.
Last Friday, the SGA announced the creation of a new program called Middworks. “Middworks,” an email sent to all students explained, “is a new program created [...] to share information and experiences and to build a greater common understanding among students, faculty and staff.” In short, the program aims to foster better relationships among students and staff at the college. As the email attested, “this process starts not only with sharing our worldviews, but also with sharing our different lived experiences at Middlebury College.”
In addition to outlining the new program, the email called for students to sign up for Work Alongside One Another. This, the first Middworks-sponsored event, offers students the opportunity to work shifts with Dining and Facilities services staff on April 16 and 19. Held in concert with Staff Appreciation Day (April 30), the event provides students with the opportunity to “learn more about the challenges and rewards experienced by the staff who help the campus function day-to-day.”
Those who sign up for shifts on April 16 will join President Patton and the facilities staff to learn about the work done by facilities workers to maintain campus cleanliness and safety. On April 19, the opportunity likewise exists for students to work with treasurer David Provost and the dining staff to learn about the challenges of preparing meals for over 2,500 students. After shifts, participants are invited to share a meal and discuss community interests, issues and experiences which arise. This is a great idea, and the SGA and administration deserve credit for putting it together.
This paper’s March 22 editorial “Our Staff Deserve Better” called for students and administration to increase efforts at recognizing the value of our facilities and dining staff. In light of widespread mess and vandalism in dorms, dining halls and other locations, we asked that students be more thoughtful about their treatment of the college environment, particularly spaces whose cleanliness forms the supposed responsibility of wage-earning staff.
For years, the staff members in question have shouldered preventable messes in dining halls and dorms. This reflects poorly on the student body as a whole. Simply put, we can do better. In recognition that true improvement necessitates collective effort by students and the administration, the same editorial called for improvements in staff wages. Just as students can do their part, so too can the administration. Only then can we demonstrate to Middlebury’s wage-earning staff that they are more valuable to our school than current conditions suggest.
We believe that both Middworks and Work Alongside One Another constitute the first step in such a project. As was pointed out in the March 22 editorial, inconsideracy and carelessness on the part of students formed the core of the problem. As such, students themselves must take the initiative in order to reverse these trends. Work Alongside One Another provides students an opportunity to appreciate firsthand the work that wage-earning staff perform.
Listening as staff explain the intricacies, difficulties and joys of their job cannot be anything but rewarding for both parties involved. It allows the worker to convey the challenges involved in the tasks they perform, so that students might better understand the ramifications of their actions. If enough students attend, a tangible difference might be made in the system of student-staff relations on campus.
Although there are many more steps that our administration can and should take to better convey the value of our dining and facilities services staff, the most obvious being wage increases, the fact that Patton and Provost have chosen to dedicate their time to this program deserves recognition. We hope that their decision to participate is an indicator that more substantive action will come soon.
And so we call upon students to sign up for Work Alongside One Another. Put simply, it is the least we can do. Workers in facilities and dining services take pride in their jobs and are often eager to share their experiences, and the Work Alongside One Another presents us a valuable opportunity to listen.
Students can sign up through the survey in the email sent out by the SGA on April 6.
Note: This editorial was accompanied by a news report about Sander’s lecture, which two Campus reporters attended. The editorial was written before the lecture took place.
Once again, Middlebury finds itself at the center of a loud moral debate. Richard Sander, author of the contentious “mismatch theory,” visited Middlebury Tuesday afternoon to discuss his research, urging attendees to ask the following question: Does affirmative action hurt more than it helps?
At the heart of Sander’s work lies affirmative action, a process he claims hurts students of color by placing them in “overly competitive situations” without adequate skill sets to match. Implications of Sander’s theory aside, a number of questions arise surrounding the event itself: How are we supposed to read student-conservatives’ decision to invite Sander a year after Charles Murray? What do we actually stand to gain from speakers like Sander coming? Above all else, how are we supposed to reconcile an event like this with simultaneous goals of healing post-Murray and creating a platform for diverse and productive dialogue?
The invitation of Sander in the wake of Charles Murray reveals a troubling fixation with racial science on campus. To be clear, there are crucial differences between the events of Murray and Sander. For one, Murray was not invited to speak about “The Bell Curve,” a book which argued for the existence of fundamental differences between people of different races. But these controversial conversations remain inextricably tied to Murray’s figure, and occupy much of the limelight of the controversy surrounding his talk. In contrast, Sander was invited to talk about his well-known “mismatch theory.” Both speakers therefore serve as figureheads for contentious racial science, Sander arguably even more so.
As such, conservative groups on campus appear intensely preoccupied with the question of whether or not students of color belong at Middlebury, or any institution of higher learning. (Sander’s “mismatch theory” for instance, focuses on law school admissions.) This reads as oddly specific, even pointed; following the 2016 presidential election, a wide range of conservative issues have assumed the spotlight, including topics like LGBTQ rights, abortion and religion. Why not invite speakers whose specialty lies in these areas? Why the apparent obsession with race on a campus which makes ardent claims at inclusivity?
We do not protest the right of Sander or others like him to speak. We do, however, call into question the productivity of the event. Are there not greater questions about conservatism and the state of American politics? What does Middlebury stand to gain by repeatedly undermining the status of students of color on a campus where they already form a minority?
Following the Charles Murray incident, calls echoed across campus, not to mention a number of national publications, for “diverse thought and dialogue.” Yet if our collective goal remains to facilitate dialogue alongside the process of healing, student organizers of the event must know that inviting Sander specifically was not the way to accomplish it.
Since Murray, Sander is the most highly-publicized conservative figure to come to Middlebury. In advance of the talk, students were not asking, “I wonder if affirmative action really does or does not help,” but instead or “Will Sander be the next installment in the Murray saga?”
Caitlyn Myers, who served as the moderator on Tuesday, identified her role as attempting to “engage in a substantive, rigorous, and critical dialogue.” Yet are students in attendance genuinely invested in the “substantive” dialogue in question, or simply interested in making a statement by either supporting or protesting the event? And so with an opportunity to move forward, student conservatives have apparently chosen instead to feed the fire, prioritizing their “right to free speech” over healing, or hosting a conversation in which students might actually engage with the topic at hand.
We are left wondering how we can encourage conservative speakers to come to Middlebury. Beyond that, how might students attend talks in a productive manner?
For one, there are various forms of conservatism that go beyond widely-refuted racial science. The AEI club has invited numerous speakers to campus since their founding. Yet for whatever reason, these are not as widely advertised. At best, there are fliers and a mention of free food. There should be more of a push for those events. Why is that the hot button or controversial topics are the events that are widely advertised? Murray and Sander belong to an emerging phenomenon of statement speakers, whose loudest proclamation ostensibly stems from their being on campus, rather than anything they may or may not have a chance to say onstage. If these are the only talks that receive advertisement, how can conservatives hope to have their side of the debate heard?
There is, of course, a painful irony at play here. Conservatives on campus complain of political oppression, forming a small minority relative to their liberal counterparts. And yet their response to such marginalization is to target students of color, a group which faces marginalization well beyond the confines of College Street.
If conservative students are genuinely interested in racial science or similar questions, more of an effort should be made to collaborate with cultural organizations in order to carry out these events in a thoughtful and enlightening rather than alienating manner. Just as conservatives deserve to have their voices heard, so too do cultural organizations or minority groups on campus. As it stands, cultural organizations like the Black Student Union received a mere email asking for permission. This is not collaboration; this is ticking a box, and — in light of the past year — this is inadequate.
We hope that moving forward, Middlebury student groups are more thoughtful about who we ask to come speak. We hope that those seeking to bring a speaker devote considerable time to the question of whether or not that person is what we need. The issue is not any one group feeling attacked. The issue is what seems a deliberate furthering of troubling divisions which have arisen on campuses surrounding speakers, one which requires consideration on every point of the political spectrum in order to repair.
The invitation of speakers like Sander in Middlebury’s current context does not read as an opportunity for growth, but a deepening of painful divides. There is a difference between free speech and productive speech; if we truly desire to move forward, Middlebury must start to make attempts at the latter.