Starting in the fall of 2022, Middlebury will offer half-credit courses, which will either run at full strength for just the first or second half of the semester or run at “half-strength,” meaning that the class will meet more infrequently than usual classes throughout the entire semester.
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Middlebury has been steadfast in its condemnation of Russia’s military assault on Ukraine. The administration, alongside the Student Government Association (SGA), the Russian department and individual student groups, have sent out emails with official statements and information regarding campus-wide talks and fundraising efforts.
The beginning of the spring semester brought a return to seemingly “normal” dining operations, with staff shifting schedules and dining hall procedures to fully accommodate indoor dining, regular Grille hours and the impending opening of the food truck.
Middlebury welcomed students back to campus for J-Term amid a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases nationwide. Arrival testing and testing throughout the first week of the term brought the case count on campus to 122 active cases, 96 student cases and 26 employee cases, on January 13.
Munras Housing at Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) in Monterey, California opened for the first time this academic year, marking the first time the Institute has offered student housing in Monterey. It provides fully furnished housing for up to 85 Institute students, with singles, doubles and triples as well as shared kitchens, bathrooms, study spaces and common areas. The college is hoping that the new housing will make the program more accessible for students.
All Middlebury faculty and staff will receive two extra vacation days and a $1,500 bonus this December, according to an email from the Vice President for Human Resources to all staff and faculty.
The Student Government Association’s Justice Projects, a funding source created to advance diversity, equity and inclusion at Middlebury, has granted the Anderson Freeman Center $110,000 to use for travel-learning trips and speaker events throughout the year.
The Prism Center for Queer and Trans Life has been in the planning stages since June of 2021, and will likely be fully operating in the fall of 2022.
Sixty-five students began the semester living at Bread Loaf, but several have successfully moved out in recent weeks due to rooms opening up on campus or due to ADA accommodations. The college is housing undergraduates at the Bread Loaf campus for the first time to accommodate more than 300 extra students enrolled at the college this fall. ResLife has stressed that moving rooms — typically something available to students due to conflicts with roommates or other needs — will be extremely limited this semester, with priority given to students with ADA/Title IX accommodations and then to students living at Bread Loaf or the Middlebury Courtyard by Marriott. In an email to The Campus, AJ Place, associate dean for student life, said ResLife works closely with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) before and during the room draw to ensure that students who need housing accommodations get them. If students are experiencing trouble in their rooms, Place said that students should contact their RA or RD. If they reach out to ResLife directly, that is usually where they are pointed. If there is an immediate concern, Place advises reaching out to Public Safety. They should be in touch with different offices for support such as the Civil Rights and Title IX office or the DRC as needed. There was a room freeze in place during the first weeks of the semester, when students were unable to move to new residences. With the freeze lifted, many students living at Bread Loaf have sought opportunities to move onto campus — and some have been successful. When Liv Cohen ’23.5 and Lily Kanady ’23.5 first were assigned rooms in Bread Loaf over the summer, they were stunned. Dean of Students Derek Doucet told them that there were rooms on campus that they had reserved, initially, but would be available in the August draw. They withdrew from their original housing placement and went into the August draw, but Bread Loaf housing was their only option and they were ultimately assigned to smaller rooms at Bread Loaf. Kanady had been emailing the school ever since the people she was living with over the summer got some of the last rooms on campus four hours before her slot, and she realized she would probably end up at Breadloaf or the Marriott. She also reached out to her therapist when she got the room draw in August and asked if they could reach out to the school. Then she decided to try to wait it out. On Friday, Sept. 24, Kanady and Cohen were able to move to the Chateau. “It was like the biggest relief,” Cohen said. They lost the incentives offered to students living at Bread Loaf, including the reduced room and board rate, though they still have discounted room and board from the weeks that they did live at Bread Loaf. Even though Middlebury always has reserved ADA rooms, students using accommodations still feared pushback from their peers for utilizing the resource. “It’s tough because you have to put yourself in a position of evaluating how dire your situation is,” Kanady said. “It’s like, I’m really affected day to day by living at Bread Loaf, and it causes me a lot of stress and anxiety. But then it’s almost like you gaslight yourself and it’s like, well, is it really that bad? And it is. It sucks.” Cohen and Kanady tried to remain positive about the half price for room and board, the shuttle service and the fact that some other people they knew were living in their hall. Yet on move-in day, Cohen saw only two students and reality began to set in. Instead of the usual hustle and bustle, it was silent. “I was just so taken aback by the feeling of isolation,” Kanady said. On weekends, Cohen and Kanady had to coordinate their schedule with the shuttle. Once, Cohen got to the shuttle at 1:30 a.m. and waited until 2 a.m thinking the shuttle was coming late, until realizing it had left ten minutes early, at 1:20 a.m. Another night, the shuttle was so full that people who lived in the Marriott in town had to walk home. Cohen said that planning her day became “mental gymnastics.” She felt the loss of little things, such as being able to lie in her bed between classes and changing clothes, as well as losing time coordinating trips back and forth. “That’s when it really started setting in that I would have a very different college experience than everyone else,” Cohen said. When Cohen talked to Katie Burns, her residence director, she was told that there was nothing she could do in those first two weeks. There was, however, a good chance that she would be able to move after the two week room freeze, as many people who had wanted to get out of Bread Loaf had already been able to do so by moving to the Marriott or Inn on the Green. Burns told her to talk to her dean, who then told her to talk to her RD. Cohen said she mostly got passed from person to person. Kanady confirmed with her therapist that she needed her to talk to the school. She also sent emails of her own to Place, ADA Coordinator Jodi Litchfield, Doucet and ResLife. Kanady said she did not know who would help her. According to Kanady, the school offered her resources and told her to talk to her dean. “Living in a community always brings up different values and perspectives and it is important to try to work through conflicts,” Place said. “It’s for this reason that we encourage all students to have open and honest discussions with their roommates(s) about their living styles.” Kanady said they avoided her questions. “They just scoot by them, and they don’t really answer them, and don’t really do anything about it, but just offer circular answers where it’s just like, ‘please be complacent, please god, just chill out,’ instead of actually helping. I just feel like they don’t care, and it’s really frustrating because I love this place so much, and it’s really disheartening,” Kanady said. Kanady went to Litchfield’s office herself. “‘Hey, I’m Lily,” Kanady said to Litchifield. “I’ve been emailing you about Bread Loaf, I haven’t gotten a response. I don’t know if you’re super busy, or if it got lost in just everyday life which is totally fine, but I just wanted to come and introduce myself because I need to get out of there.” Litchfield ultimately emailed Kanady back, who said that if she responded to that email indicating that she wanted a room on campus, ResLife could find a room for her within 24 hours. Kanady was initially looking for a double for her and Cohen. The school said that they had a double at Inn on the Green, an off-campus option for students where students still pay the full cost of room and board, or a single in Lang, which Kanady called stifling. She asked for the weekend to think about it, and if there were any other spaces on campus besides Lang. Litchfield followed up after the weekend saying there were two singles on the same floor in the Chateau. Now that she lives in the Chateau, Cohen says she can feel the college vibe again. She hears people outside and can text her friends for dinner within a five minute walk. Kanady said the situation put her in a moral bind, as she knew that other people might need housing for their own emergencies, but that she ultimately took the opportunity. “I think there are amazing parts of Bread Loaf, and for people that can make it work, it’s awesome. If you’re organized and you don’t mind driving and you like quiet and you’re like a planned person, it totally works,” Cohen said. “But I’m unorganized, very spontaneous, I make all my plans spur of the moment, it just was not working for me.”
Assistant Professor of Economics Andrew Fieldhouse woke up on Sept. 21, with congestion and a slight cough. He sent out an email to his class, moving the Tuesday discussion section online. “Syllabus policy is that anyone with any cold-like symptoms shouldn’t come to class, myself included,” he said. As most courses resume in-person instruction, cold-like symptoms, possible exposures and caution have pushed some professors to temporarily hold classes online while they quarantine. “I think it was pretty easy to move online. I mean, it’s definitely not the most ideal environment for a discussion, but it was easy,” said Clara Geci ’22, a student in Fieldhouse’s Macroeconomics of Depressions course. Geci had not been in a class with Fieldhouse since the week before, and she knew that a number of students with back-to-school colds had tested negative. After Ajay Verghese, assistant professor of political science, was infected with the Covid-19 virus, he made the call to switch to recorded lectures for his comparative politics course for the remainder of the year. Agnes Roche ’24.5, a student in Verghese’s comparative politics course, said that on the first Zoom call, Verghese informed his class of the switch to recorded lectures. “I got the sense that he just got freaked out from his experience, and realized that it’s pretty serious getting it, even after you’ve been vaccinated, so that’s why he switched back to online,” she said. Verghese had been staying with his parents in Pennsylvania, when his 22-month-old daughter contracted Covid-19 in daycare. Even though Verghese, his wife and his parents had all received the Covid-19 vaccine, they all contracted breakthrough cases of the virus. “You can’t really socially distance from a two year old,” he said. Verghese was technically out of the quarantine period before classes had begun, but he wanted to obtain a PCR test to be safe before returning to in-person teaching. He started his classes online, and was ultimately back in the classroom the second week of classes. Verghese also remains apprehensive since his daughter has returned to daycare in Vermont, and he worries about another outbreak. “Right after I got a breakthrough infection, just walking up the stairs was exhausting, and I remember thinking, how am I gonna teach if I still have these symptoms?” he said. Verghese questioned how older faculty would be able to teach if they had a breakthrough infection. He never got very sick, he said, but he still has a residual cough. Last year, the college ran on-campus testing for faculty who were teaching in person, but this year, professors are expected to obtain testing locally. Symptomatic students can get tested through Parton health services, and the college offers a limited number of tests for asymptomatic students on Mondays. When Fieldhouse fell ill, he called his primary care physician, who then called in a test at Porter hospital. Porter did not call back for a day, and Fieldhouse ultimately received a test at the last minute when another patient canceled their visit. Getting tested while asymptomatic at local centers was easier, Fieldhouse said. According to Fieldhouse, Porter hospital is overwhelmed with the rise in Delta variant cases. “It’s unfortunate that there’s not an availability for faculty and staff to get tested through Middlebury if they’re symptomatic, and it’s harder to get tested,” he said. On Thursday, Fieldhouse received a negative PCR result and moved his discussion section back to in-person with less than a half hour’s notice. “In some respects, this is a huge silver lining to the pandemic,” Fieldhouse said. “If I was feeling really sick before, I just wouldn’t come to class, whereas being able to just abruptly move to remote modality for just one day, it’s pretty convenient.” Even though this semester offers more in-person classes and opportunities, students and professors are expected to remain flexible. Fieldhouse expects that there may be times in the semester in which many students are awaiting test results, and an online option will be necessary. “We’ll make that work,” he said.
All students were required to obtain a negative Covid-19 PCR test within 72 hours before arriving at Middlebury this fall semester, in a change to pre-arrival procedures announced via email on Aug. 17. Students who had not yet received a test result by the time they arrived — those whose results were ultimately inconclusive — were offered a test from Health Services and were required to stay in room quarantine until they received a negative result. The college also provided Covid-19 vaccinations for those who did not have access to the vaccine before returning to campus. For some students, finding pre-arrival testing proved both difficult and costly. Shea Brokaw ’24.5 searched for testing sites along his drive from Southern Connecticut to Middlebury, but was unable to find anywhere with availability. When he finally found a testing site in what he thought was Manchester, Vermont, it turned out to be Manchester, New Hampshire. “I looked in every single town from Connecticut to Middlebury and couldn’t find a single place that would get our results back by Saturday,” Brokaw said. Brokaw and another student, Will Nemeth ’24, both drove four hours out of the way and ultimately paid $200 each for their tests. “Free testing is widely available,” according to the college’s Fall 2021 Semester Information page Q&A about pre-arrival testing. “If you are unable to secure free PCR testing, and the cost of testing presents a significant financial hardship, you may be eligible for assistance.” Last year, students were not required to get tested before coming to campus. Instead, all students were instructed to complete a 14-day pre-arrival quarantine, and were tested by the college upon arrival to campus. Students remained in room quarantine until they received the results of their Day Zero test. The college’s decision to require students to get tested prior to their arrival on campus, as well as an indoor mask requirement, followed a nationwide increase in Covid-19 transmission, said Sarah Ray, director of media relations, in an email to The Campus. Before the policy was announced in August, the college did not plan to require vaccinated students to quarantine or take any other precautionary steps before arriving for the fall semester. Students arriving early to campus were told of the requirement first, on Aug. 17, with orientation leaders slated to move in fewer than 10 days later. Students not arriving early were informed of the pre-arrival testing requirement via email on Aug. 19. Pre-arrival testing identified 16 Covid-positive students, who subsequently delayed coming to campus. Unvaccinated students and students coming from international points of origin were tested by the college several times upon and in the weeks following their arrival. Joshua Gluckmsan ’25 was not required to pay for his test, but still faced difficulties in finding a testing site. He returned to Vermont from Chicago three days before move-in to spend time with his family, and had to find testing in Vermont to meet the 72-hour timeframe requirement. “I was confused because Vermont is like the safest state in the country, but there were no tests,” Glucksman said. After his parents engaged in a long email exchange with the school, they eventually discovered that Glucksman’s Middlebury email address allowed him to claim Middlebury as his permanent address, even though he is not a Vermont resident. He drove about 45 minutes to get tested by the state, and received his results just an hour before arriving at Middlebury. The test itself was free and easy, but the process took a toll on him, and took away from time he had hoped to spend with his family before starting college.
Middlebury Senior Technology Specialist Scott Remick was arrested July 7 on federal charges of possesing child pornography. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and would be required to register as a sex offender. At his preliminary hearing on July 26, he pleaded not guilty. Remick allegedly had images of young children in various restraints, which a hacker discovered and turned over to authorities. The hacker was later granted immunity. According to authorities, the informant also discovered chat files which included exchanges of images of child pornography with someone named “Jeanie,” who the hacker believed to be a teenager. The college declined to comment on Remick’s employment status, but he has most likely been placed on leave. “Middlebury complies with and cooperates in all matters involving lawful requests from authorities,” Director of Media Relations Sarah Ray said in an email to The Campus. “In the rare event of an arrest, we ordinarily place the employee on leave and take other appropriate steps while we gather more information.” Authorities confiscated over 100 hard drives, computers and digital media from Remick, many of which belong to the customers of the computer repair business that he owned, Vermont Geek. Prosecutors have presented no evidence that Remick produced any images himself or had direct contact with any producers. The deadline to file pretrial motions is in November.
As Middlebury plans to return for a fully in-person fall semester, ResLife has replaced superblock houses with new special interest houses and approved all seniors who applied to live off campus next year. In past years, three properties have been available as superblock spaces. A large group — sometimes close to 40 students — submits an application with a theme and proposed property for a superblock house, then the group splits who lives there across the spring and fall semesters. Three groups are currently working toward establishing a permanent special interest house. The International House is transitioning from a superblock to a special interest house and will live at 97 Adirondack. The ResLife team is also working with the Center for Community Engagement to establish a Community Engagement house, though they have not finalized a location. The third group is still in early conversation, and ResLife was not able to provide details on their plans. Special interest houses are expected to fill their rosters, but any extra spaces will be available in the open housing selection process in August, according to Associate Dean for Student Life AJ Place. ResLife also approved 150 seniors, senior Febs and Super Senior Febs to live off campus next fall. This is up from the normal number of about 100 students, who typically must apply and then be selected through a lottery process. Because many students took time off during the Covid-19 pandemic, Place and the ResLife team expects an increase in students returning to campus for the fall. To house the unusually large student population, the college increased the number of off-campus applications that were accepted to live off campus and ended up not needing to run a lottery at all. However, not everyone who was approved to live off campus was able to find housing. Massimo Sassi ’22 had planned to live in town with three of his friends for his senior year, hoping to rent the apartment above Shafer’s. “We originally wanted to live off campus just so we could start to have more of our own space, kind of separate from the campus. We were thinking about going off the meal plan and buying our groceries and cooking and stuff like that,” he said. After the landlord went with other tenants, they found themselves unable to find anywhere else to live. Sassi heard of similar difficulties from many other students as well. Eventually, Sassi and his friends decided to return to the on-campus housing draw. According to Sassi, living off campus “wasn’t a dire thing.” “In all honesty, it will probably be more convenient to be on campus senior year for being close to classes and not having to drive to school is really nice,” Sassi said. “It was something we were very excited about, but it’s not like we were depending on that for any reason.” Place said that ResLife expects to return to the lottery process in future years for off-campus housing. Louisa Stevens ’23.5 had initially wanted to live in KDR in the fall — a Feb tradition — and Jewett in the spring. She was in charge of organizing housing for both groups, but as she browsed online, all of the application information seemed to be based on previous years. She began to hear rumors about changes to superblock housing and eventually decided to email Reslife. Stevens was unsure how she would have found out about the changes if she had not emailed. “Maybe I would’ve gone and spoken to someone, otherwise I would’ve just been pretty confused,” Stevens said. “It seemed like a roundabout way to get to it because at the end of the day, it’s not happening. I was wondering if maybe they didn’t want to deal with any sort of backlash around taking away superblock housing. Although I do think it’s a disappointment, I’m not entirely sure how the rest of the school would’ve reacted.” Now, she will probably live in a suite, just as she does this year. “I’m sure they have their reasons for creating the special interest housing, but I do think it’s kind of a bummer that juniors won’t be able to have houses because I think it’s great socially, and just for friend groups to have a break from dorm living. But it kind of is what it is, I guess.”
Eight Language Schools will return to in-person instruction in Vermont this summer while four will remain online, according to a Feb. 25 announcement from Dean of Language Schools Stephen Snyder. The Abenaki, Arabic, French, German, Hebrew, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish schools will take place in person, following Covid-19 health protocols similar to Middlebury’s guidelines for the fall and spring academic semesters. The Chinese, Italian, Japanese and Russian Language Schools will all take place virtually, and the School of Hebrew will also offer online options. All Language Schools were online in summer 2020. In-person students will follow similar protocols as students arriving in the spring, including a pre-arrival quarantine, getting tested upon arrival and quarantining in their rooms until they receive negative test results. Courses will be online for the first week. All students will have single rooms, and the Language Schools will create socially distant co-curricular activities that will primarily take place outside. According to Snyder, some in-person schools will still have online components, but having several programs fully online will help keep campus less crowded. Snyder worked with the directors of each school to make decisions about modality on a case-by-case basis, considering travel and safety on campus. According to Cecilia Chang, the director of the Chinese School at Middlebury, finding enough faculty to keep class sizes small — to allow for proper social distancing — would have been challenging, as many potential faculty members were only available to teach over Zoom and could not come to Vermont for the summer. Last year, concern about Zoom fatigue led the Chinese School to make larger classes asynchronous, allowing students to review class videos on their own time. The program length was also shortened from eight to seven weeks. Small classes averaged only three people, and each student spent 30 minutes in one-on-one discussion with an instructor every afternoon. This year, the Chinese School will keep the same academic structure and increase the individual discussion time to 40 minutes each day. Chang is hoping to set up a virtual host family with graduate students in China who will host extracurricular events for the students. Students will also be able to apply to be matched with an alum of the program in different career paths. Last year, more than 1,100 students enrolled in the 2020 Language Schools programs, despite the change in format to fully virtual classes. Approximately 1,500 students enroll in a typical year. “The language schools in their traditional model are really based on… experiential learning and it takes a great deal of faculty-student interaction and immersion experience,” Snyder said. “Everyone eats together and does activities all day, and that’s really where the proficiency gains come from, so we were struggling last year to recreate that in a virtual space and did the best we could.” Despite successes last summer with online Language Schools, Snyder and Chang still believe that in-person instruction is the best mode for learning a language. “Everyone wants to go back. The so-called Middlebury experience… is magical,” Chang said. “As a director and longtime teacher there, I want my students — I want many students — to experience that. It’s a wonderful place to be.” Applications are still open for the summer 2021 Language Schools and are accepted on a rolling basis.
The JusTalks program has changed throughout the years — ranging from informal teach-ins to a student orientation program to an all-day workshop conducted at Bread Loaf. Now, JusTalks has taken on a new tack, facilitating voluntary, specialized workshops that occur throughout the year. This spring, the student-led organization kicked off a series of eight workshops exploring the intersections of prejudice and social life, including “Desirability: How Being Wanted by Others Shapes Us,” “Race and Class at Middlebury,” “Interracial Hookups/Relationships: Are your Preferences Racist?” and more. “Ultimately, our end goal is that in each of the workshops, people are able to leave with one thing and take one step further in their own learning,” JusTalks program coordinator Jasmin Animas-Tapia ’21 said. “We don’t all need to start from point A and get to point B. The point is just to get to the next letter, to the next step. We hope that these conversations can be part of someone’s own learning and actions, and that they take that into their own circles at Middlebury.” The JusTalks team creates the workshops collaboratively based on issues prevalent on campus or around the world. The sessions have largely focused on race this year in response to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement throughout last spring and summer, but they hope to expand to more social issues as well. “JusTalks is created by students and is led by students, and ultimately that is the essence of JusTalks,” Animas-Tapia said. “With JusTalks, we try not to intellectualize everything and make everything academic. This doesn’t happen just in an academic context, [which is] not always accessible. This happens in our everyday lives.” Workshops build off of and respond to students’ experiences. The JusTalks team created a new workshop, “Race and Class at Middlebury,” during J-Term in response to the inequalities laid bare by the virtual semester. The content of the workshop will seek to guide students in their own reflecting on the importance of race and class on campus and the lack of discussion surrounding both. In yesterday’s workshop, “Understanding and Responding to Racial Microaggressions,” students practiced responding to real examples of microaggressions that have occurred on Middlebury’s campus. JusTalks Facilitator Olivia Reposa ’24 acknowledged that it may be difficult for participants to have to relive some of these events, but the goal is for it to foster recognition and growth. The team has two workshops offered only to white students. According to Reposa, the Black Lives Matter protests were the first time that many people realized the impacts of racism, even though these conversations should have been more prevalent long before. “Having to think about systemic racism isn’t something that, as a white person, you have to do every single day,” Reposa said. She noted people tend to associate white supremacy with extreme, large-scale examples like the KKK, but the “Uprooting White Supremacy in Ourselves” workshop — also only open to white students — focuses on the small things that happen day to day. According to Animas-Tapia, programming made for only white students is important because it mirrors the whiteness of Middlebury. She emphasizes that these conversations ought to happen in majority white spaces, as it is not the responsibility of students of color to educate white students. Animas-Tapia points out that these sessions are not meant to “guilt-trip” or demonize students. Rather, it is important that students approach them with honesty instead of being worried about saying the “wrong” thing. On the other hand, some workshops will only be offered to students of color. One example is “Exploring the Relationships within and Across BIPOC Communities,” during which facilitators hope to create a space for students of color to share their experiences, build community, and discuss specific dynamics that communities of color face. Meg Farley ’24 first attended a workshop on interracial friendships in October and has participated in seven more since. “JusTalks provided the space to have these conversations that I typically don’t have,” Farley said. “JusTalks opened me up to like, ‘Oh, there are people on this campus that like to have these conversations, and there’s a way to have these conversations that’s mutually productive and allows for a lot of learning and, more importantly, unlearning.’” “Everyone is so thoughtful and in the know and cares, and yet there’s often a point that we can’t get past in certain conversations because they’re just too taboo or they’re too painful or we don’t know how to have them without causing more harm,” Hannah Laga Abram ’23, a JusTalks facilitator, said. “JusTalks is a space where those conversations can happen, and we’re pushed beyond that point, whatever it is. In this moment of major crisis and upheaval, I think this is a really spectacular way to start doing the work of existing as a genuine related human in this time.” The JusTalks facilitators are still planning workshops throughout the spring. As of now, they will have at least four in April as well. They are also hoping to host workshops for first years and with MiddAthletics, as well as to create new workshops that they have not run before.
When the majority of students left Middlebury for winter break, leaving just 23 students on campus for the dining halls to feed in December, dining hall staffers were left with little work. As a solution, the college offered these staffers the option to temporarily work in other departments, which allowed them to avoid using up their Combined Time Off (CTO) during the break. Staff members accumulate CTO the longer they work at Middlebury, and it can be used for vacation time or sick leave. Those who did not opt for positions in other departments will be required to use CTO to account for the time off. Dining staff are currently helping across a range of departments, including Grounds and Custodial as well as at the Snow Bowl and Bread Loaf. There is also a “skeletal crew” working at Ross to feed the small number of students currently living on campus. Coordinating requested time off and scheduling new positions for 100 dining staffers was no easy feat. According to Dan Detora, director of dining services, staff were given the choice of where they would like to work, and Middlebury made efforts to put them in their preferred spot. Patti McCaffrey, a chef in Atwater, has worked in the kitchens of Middlebury for 22 years. After similar reshufflings last year, she had worked in the athletic center during the summer and was happy to return there for winter break. The majority of the dining staff went to custodial services. The custodial team typically employs about 85 staffers, but this year it was down to about 65 during the fall semester after a hiring freeze that has been in place since last spring. The team has temporarily increased nearly twofold this winter with the addition of dining staff. The custodial staff usually cleans small houses and suites during the semester but did not do so this year due to their reduced numbers and the health risks presented by Covid-19. Now that most students are away from campus, staff has been busy cleaning these houses and suites and moving the belongings of students assigned to new rooms for the spring. As things have slowed down, the college wants employees who accumulated more than 80 hours of CTO by November 29, 2020 to take time off. This is to reduce the likelihood of staff taking such breaks in June and July instead, when the college anticipates there will be a lot more work to be done. Dan Celik is one of the custodial supervisors who has integrated teams of dining staff into facilities work. He also teaches an introductory course on cleaning, including safety aspects, PPE, chemicals to use and ergonomics to prevent injury. He has been busy teaching these classes to the dining staff members who recently joined the custodial team. McCaffrey noted that Middlebury has been understanding about the difficulty of these changes. “There’s been no pressure at all. It’s been like, ‘work at your own pace, take lots of breaks,’” he said. According to Celik, everything has run smoothly, and the dining staff has successfully integrated with the team. Still, the situation is not perfect. The dining staff were hired as cooks, and many would much rather do that. “For people who aren’t really happy about this, it’s a long enough time to not be doing what they really want to be doing,” McCaffrey said. The dining staffers have been able to maintain their same pay, and they will return to their regular dining positions for the spring semester.
The journey from Central America across the southern border of the United States is a frequently traveled path, but its dangers are enormous, and migrants die every year attempting to cross the frontier. Middlebury’s “Hostile Terrain 94” project is a video compilation of members of the community paying tribute to those who have died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in southern Arizona. The video is part of the “Hostile Terrain 94” project, directed by Jason De León, a professor of anthropology at UCLA. De León serves as the director of the Undocumented Migration Project, which visually catalogues migrant deaths that occurred as a result of the the U.S.’s 1994 Prevention Through Deterrence policy. The policy took advantage of the strategically increased border patrol presence in urban areas along the southern border, redirecting migration routes through the Sonoran Desert in Arizona to let the harsh environment and hostile terrain do the work of border patrol agents in deterring and preventing migrants from crossing. The 18-minute video features members of the Middlebury community reading the name, age, reporting date and cause of death of migrants who perished while attempting to cross the border. While most people showed their face, some remained anonymous and spoke with a black screen. The majority of the deaths are due to “exposure to the elements.” Throughout the video, text ran across the bottom of the screen reading: “As a result of the U.S. border enforcement strategy — Prevention Through Deterrence — at least 3,200 migrants have died while attempting to cross the harsh terrain of the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.” “I think a lot of Americans just aren’t aware of the involvement that the U.S. has in perpetrating violence against migrants,” Stephanie Soriano-Cruz ’21, one of the students who helped organize the video, said. “The U.S has just distanced itself or deflected blame and placed it on the migrants themselves as if they’re responsible for their own deaths.” Soriano-Cruz said that she wanted to raise awareness about the violent nature of the U.S.’s strategies in deterring migration. The idea for the video was conceived when Rachel Joo, an associate professor of American Studies, taught De León’s book “The Land of Open Graves” in her course titled Immigrant America. “It’s really a book that breaks all sorts of boundaries in terms of disciplines and incorporation of photography and art and academic tests,” Soriano-Cruz said. “It’s an incredibly powerful book about death on the US Mexico border, death of migrants, and who is to blame and what factors contribute to deaths.” Many of her students were moved by the book and wanted to bring De León to campus to speak. Their wish came true in the fall of 2019 when he came to Middlebury, led several events and invited the school to join his project. “Jason De León was interested in making it a very visible statement that would contribute to the discourse around immigration up to the election,” Joo said. “He wanted immigration to be a bigger issue than it has been in this last year. It’s been mostly about the pandemic, and obviously that affects everyone, but a lot of the issues around immigration, like these 545 children who’ve been taken from their parents whose parents can’t be located, that was just a blip.” In October, a report revealed that the parents of more than 500 children separated from their families at the border could not be found. In a world without Covid-19, the “Hostile Terrain 94” is a traveling visual exhibit. Participants receive a name of a migrant who died, fill out a toe tag similar to those that identify the bodies found in the Sonoran Desert and pin it to the location where their body was found on a large map. “It becomes this 3D artwork. It really gives you an understanding of the lives that are lost,” said Trinh Tran, assistant professor in anthropology and education studies. “Because it’s individuals who are getting the names of individual migrants and writing it down, I think it starts to sink in, the scale and the enormity of the loss.” Joo assembled a group of students including Alondra Carmona ’21, Christine Nabung ’22, Ariana Rios ’21, Soriano-Cruz ’21, and Tran. Tran has taken over the project this year while Joo is on sabbatical. Around 180 institutions, including schools, museums and libraries, are participating in the project. Although some places decided to create a Covid-19-safe way to create the toe tag exhibit, Middlebury decided to delay the hands-on component and create a video in the interim. “I think during this time of Covid, when our freedom of movement is so limited, this project is really important because maybe now more than ever we can understand why the right to movement is so important, and how some people don’t enjoy those rights that we have,” Tran said. “Not only do they not enjoy those rights, but they will pay literally the highest price, which is their lives, in order to get that right to mobility.” On Oct. 15, the Dean of Students sent an email to Middlebury students detailing the project. It informed members of the community that they could email Hostile Terrain in order to receive a name and record a clip for the larger video. Tran has access to the Undocumented Migration Project’s database of names and assigned them to individuals who reached out. On Oct. 28, the group, which is affiliated with Juntos, screened the video at Crossroads Cafe from 12-4 p.m. “There's that Middlebury bubble we talk about a lot where it’s easy for us to just stay on campus and not really think about what’s going on in the community, but this impacts students on this campus and folks in the community directly, and we just don’t think about those things,” Rios said. As a first-generation Mexican-American, this project is personal for Rios. Her father, who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in the 90s, was very excited about Middlebury’s involvement and submitted a video to the larger project. “He was lucky and he was able to make it across, but there are thousands of people who don’t,” she said. “The purpose of this project is to give names to the people who have crossed over. A lot of the time we don’t get to see and hear these names or these people who have lost their lives,” said Carmona, one of the other student organizers. The team hopes to show the video again in the future, possibly projected on Mead Chapel, and make the video accessible on the internet.
Although traditional study abroad has come to a halt because of the pandemic, Middlebury offered remote courses and internships this semester as an alternative experience. Throughout the summer, Middlebury suspended schools individually based on the Covid-19 levels in the area and local universities’ plans. By mid-summer, however, the school decided to close all Middlebury Schools Abroad and halt all study abroad options that might be available via external programs. Middlebury students abroad often enroll directly in local universities, so Middlebury has a large contact network of faculty in each country. Dean of International Programs Carlos Vélez was able to reach out to the directors at each of the schools, who found local faculty who were willing to teach remotely to Middlebury students. He then communicated with department chairs at Middlebury — mainly those leading language departments — to finalize a list of courses. “It was a very consultative process, both with my staff in the schools abroad but also with the chairs of the departments here,” Vélez said. “We wanted to make sure that whatever we offered wouldn’t conflict with other courses that are being taught in those departments.” Originally over 50 students registered for these programs, but Vélez is unsure how many there are now. All courses but one are taught in a foreign language, and thus have the same prerequisites as they would normally. Claudio Gonzalez-Chiaramonte, director of the schools in Argentina and Uruguay and associate professor at Middlebury, said that students were initially shy and nervous in his Spanish course on U.S.-Latin America relationships. But after three or four sessions, they warmed up to the class and became more comfortable speaking. The Spanish-speaking schools also created a site with daily activities such as conferences, movies and chats that students can participate in. Peter Stavros, an instructor with Middlebury Schools Abroad in Jordan is teaching refugee and forced migration studies this semester. The class is usually taught in Arabic, which meant that it was previously more focused on language learning than content, but this year it is being taught in English. “Because we are doing it in English and most students obviously speak English very well, we’re able to kind of cover the substance more deeply,” Stavros said. Students are also finding non-academic ways to stay connected to the abroad experience despite coming home. Diana Milne ’21 was studying abroad in Madrid last spring when the pandemic began to unfold, and was forced to return home early. Now, she is completing a 10-week remote internship for Liceo y Colegio San Juan Bautista, a school in Uruguay. “I really felt like I didn’t get the full experience that I wanted studying abroad in Madrid because I’d lost so much time being there and it just wasn’t the same from the computer screen,” Milne said. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to kind of get a little bit more knowledge about their culture and work on my Spanish. And it just sounded like fun, working with kids.” Milne spends her time in the Uruguayan classroom speaking in English so that the students can interact with a native speaker. This is particularly helpful for older students who are preparing for international exams. She joins their classes — all in person — via Zoom to give presentations about herself and hear the students’ presentations about themselves, Uruguay, their culture and their school. Milne’s communications with the director, supervisor and teachers are all in Spanish. “I’ve been checking with half of the students that are taking these remote internships, and to my surprise, they are really very comfortable. I expected questions, discomfort, or some people who might feel lost,” Gonzalez-Chiaramonte said. “They felt that they were learning and they could do what they wanted to do.” These courses have presented the same obstacles as many remote courses, since professors and students have had to adapt to Zoom technology. “It’s obvious that it is less interactive, less spontaneous than a real classroom. We miss the classroom — I say ‘we’ as teachers and I suppose also as students,” said Nicolas Roussellier, a Paris-based professor who is teaching a French politics course. KK Laird ’21, who is taking Gonzalez-Chiaramonte’s course, noted that the large asynchronous component of classes presents a barrier. Similar to other online classes, it is far less personal and interactive. Still, students and professors are making the best out of the situation. “You know, as we say in French, ‘It’s better than nothing, something like this.’ So still, I would say that if we keep a good spirit, a good morale, we can really make a good job,” Roussellier said. He added that the small size of his class allows him to see all of the students on the same page, as opposed to his previous in-person lectures — with as many as 80 students — in which he was unable to have closer interactions with individual students. “There are a lot of cultural assumptions in teaching — in my teaching, in your teaching, in teaching in France and China. It will be great that Middlebury students will be exposed to those differences,” Gonzalez-Chiaramonte said. Gonzalez-Chiaramonte hopes that Middlebury will continue to offer international courses in the future. Middlebury is set to make more decisions about the spring semester on Oct. 30. “I think one of the advantages is you could take multiple classes from multiple professors in different countries. And there is kind of an exciting element to that,” Stavros said.
In the weeks before students returned to campus, staff members from dining halls, the mail center and facilities moved thousands of boxes that were left in dorm rooms when Middlebury evacuated students last March. The abrupt departure in the spring sent students scrambling to schedule flights home and pack up their belongings, with little idea of when campus would reopen. When the college decided to finish the semester remotely, residential halls remained filled with boxed belongings that needed to be moved before new students arrived for the fall semester. The college announced plans to reopen for the fall semester on June 22, with the first round of the delayed room draw scheduled for late July and the second occurring in August. Because most students received room assignments less than a month before moving in, staff had only a few weeks to move items from hundreds of rooms to students’ new residences. “At one point, we had six teams of four moving student belongings. We just needed more time before students got here,” Jodie Keith, manager of custodial and support services, said. “Three weeks before the first students were scheduled to arrive, we got the list, and we started moving boxes then.” Staff had already shuffled boxes around in the spring, as the college consolidated housing for students who remained on campus. Middlebury had designated several residential houses for temporary use by Porter Medical Center employees and prepared others in case the town needed them during the spring, according to Keith. “It’s hard to say how many boxes we moved, but I would say on average there were probably 20 boxes per room, and kids did not take many things with them,” Keith said. Seniors and other students not returning to campus for the fall were allowed back to pick up their belongings in late July. Some spaces, like the Atwater Suites, had many unlabeled items that staff had to move. “We also brought over all the items that were left in common areas in the suites,” Keith said “There was a lot of furniture and just random things left in there, so we bagged it all up and took it to Nelson and labeled it.” As the college adjusted housing plans, staff had to move many belongings multiple times. “The biggest challenge was students who switched rooms — and I know they tried to minimize it because we were moving belongings and things — but they were also trying to keep students separated and use as few doubles and triples as possible,” Keith said. Keith explained that sometimes staff would deliver a student’s items, then get a new list indicating that the student was living somewhere else, and they would need to return and move the items to a new location. Most students packed up their items and labeled boxes clearly when they left, but staff had to guess for those that did not. Some items, such as rugs and mattresses, may have had tags fall off in transit and appeared unlabeled, according to Keith. “When we loaded the trucks, we didn’t just load one room, we loaded five or six rooms. So when we got to a location and there wasn’t a tag on [an item], we tried to make our best guess on which student it belonged to,” Keith said. As students moved into their dorms this fall, some were greeted by empty rooms. When Maya Saterson ’22 arrived on campus Aug. 28, only two of her items were in her room — her mirror and her fridge. “I was thinking ‘oh, maybe they’re not here because I’m really annoying because I had 28 items,’” Saterson said. “But I was trying to be very patient because I appreciate how much the school is doing and how much was on their plate… They were helpful, it just took a while.” Because Middlebury’s reopening plan required students to quarantine in their rooms until their Day Zero Covid-19 test came back negative, students without belongings had few options on the first day. Once released to campus quarantine, students were still not allowed to go into town throughout Phase One, therefore many missing items could not be replaced. The college provided some supplies to students without belongings but not all students were aware of the option, and others were simply unable to get them. “I reached out initially to my [Community Assistant] and he was very helpful. He said that he would reach out to facilities and everyone, and also he got me sheets and a pillow and a towel,” Saterson said. Keith noted that the process could have been more organized. “When students first left, we probably should have gone through each room and written down an inventory, which we did eventually but not when we first had to consolidate rooms,” Keith said. In the days after students arrived, staff worked to get the undelivered items to dorm rooms. Saterson got permission to pick up her boxes and move them herself from Nelson Arena on Saturday, Sept. 5 — more than a week after she arrived — but staff members ultimately delivered them to her on Friday night.