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A vigil for lives lost to the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas was canceled after pushback from students about the event’s stated ban on anti-Zionist speech and concerns from organizers about the effectiveness of the event.
Several Jewish students organized the “Vigil for Lives Lost to Israel-Palestine Violence” in light of escalating conflict between Israel and Palestine in late May, but the organizers elected to cancel the gathering — originally planned for Tuesday, May 18 at 8:30 p.m. — amid rising tensions on campus about the conflict and nature of the planned event.
Max Shulman-Litwin ’22, one of the primary organizers of the event, said the vigil was canceled because of concerns about the climate on campus. Shulman-Litwin also said that some of the posters advertising the vigil were vandalized.
“We decided that the environment was becoming hostile, and it was necessary to take steps to make sure it wouldn’t just be a screaming match. We were hearing that a night march might not actually get the point across,” Shulman-Litwin said.
Other organizers declined to comment because, according to Shulman-Litwin, they wished to remain anonymous after students responded negatively to the planned vigil.
Throughout the last weeks of the spring semester, campus sidewalks were chalked with statements referencing the conflict. Around the same time, many students took to social media to post about the conflict, the campus environment or the then-upcoming vigil.
The Israel-Palestine conflict was at the forefront of campus discourse in March when the Middlebury chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) created a website about the conflict at the go-link go/apartheid. Another student responded with the go-links go/palestine, go/palestinian and go/sjp, linking to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs “Palestinian terror and incitement” page. In an all-school email on April 17, the Community Bias Response Team (CBRT) said that Public Safety was investigating multiple indirect threats made toward a student associated with SJP.
On May 5, Palestine Legal — an organization dedicated to providing legal advice and other support to activists who advocate for justice for Palestine — sent an 18-page letter to the Middlebury administration detailing incidents of anti-Palestinian harrassment at the college and asking administrators to condemn such harrassment. A post by Palestine Legal about the letter was widely shared on social media.
Prior to making the decision to cancel the vigil, Shulman-Litwin and other organizers met with Dean of Students Derek Doucet and Religious and Spiritual Life staff to discuss the benefits and risks of moving forward with the event.
“The decision wasn’t an administrative one, but rather one they as the prospective organizers made. I always try to make myself available to students interested in planning political or demonstration events. Free expression is an essential part of our community,” Doucet said in an email to The Campus.
A number of students on social media questioned the vigil’s advertised prohibition on anti-Zionist speech. Posters for the event read, “Antisemitism, Anti-Zionism, Islamophobia, and Anti-Palestinian Hate will not be tolerated.”
Matt Martignoni ’21.5, a leader of Students for Justice in Palestine, criticized the planned vigil and the rhetoric on the posters.
“The event’s prohibition on anti-Zionism and anti-Palestinian hate is an oxymoron. Zionism, no matter how one feels about it, is predicated upon the erasure of Palestine. Enough said,” Martignoni wrote in an Instagram story.
“I refuse to accept an ‘All Lives Matter’ (white supremacist) narrative,” Martignoni wrote in the same story. “It makes utterly false equivalencies between the intensifying ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and resistance to colonization. I in no way say that to condone the death of Israelis, but rather what I take issue with is the rhetoric of this vigil.”
Shulman-Litwin explained the choice to bar anti-Zionism.
“I and a few other Jewish students hoped to organize this vigil to help everyone understand that it was necessary to mourn all lives lost and not just the lives of some,” Shulman-Litwin said. He explained that he and the organizers knew that they must “put something to tell Jews it is a safe space for them,” and to prevent the vigil from becoming dominated by a “free Palestine rhetoric.”
“What I want to emphasize is striving for Israeli and Jewish and Palestinian activism. It is not mutually exclusive,” he said. “As long as we acknowledge that, anyone who says Israel should be eradicated is wrong.”
On May 19, one day after the originally planned date for the vigil, Chief Diversity Officer Miguel Fernández authored an email to all students, faculty and staff with Doucet and Provost Jeff Cason to address the tensions on campus and violence abroad. The email, titled “Reactions to Recent Events in Middle East,” called the violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “agonizing to witness” and said that the situation had “caused tensions on our campus and beyond, opened long-festering wounds and painful memories, and prompted incendiary remarks.”
“Our campus commitment to open expression is intended to create space for us to talk about what is going on in the world, what's at stake for the communities involved, who is being harmed, and how we understand and view these events,” the email read. “Being able to have these political conversations and to talk about the implications for people's lives and safety is essential within a community that aspires to understand and advocate for justice.”
Doucet told The Campus that the school will attempt to mitigate possible future conflicts by “continuing to offer support to students and responding to any reports of bias of all kinds, including antisemitic, anti-Islamic or anti-Palestinian bias.”
Tucked away on Bakery Lane, below the Cross Street bridge crossing Otter Creek, is a Middlebury landmark: Mister Up’s. Founded in 1970 by Middlebury native Ronald Mainelli, Mister Up’s has been a longtime gathering spot for college students and the greater Middlebury community. The restaurant celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
According to current Mister Up’s owner and manager Rick Buck, Mainelli named the restaurant after his favorite restaurant in New York City, Mrs. Down’s. Mister Up’s has had four owners throughout its past 50 years of business, but Buck and his partner have owned the pub since 2012.
Today, the restaurant typically accommodates a mix of Middlebury locals, parents and students attending college functions, such as Fall Family Weekend, according to Buck. With a dining room capacity of about 200 people and an 80-person outdoor deck, Mister Up’s is spacious enough to host large groups for sports teams, anniversaries or other events. “Homecoming is a big event, along with annual basketball team, hockey team and swim team dinners,” Buck said.
In the past, Mister Up’s was a popular weekend spot for students. Alumni who attended Middlebury in the late ’80s shared memories of enjoying their times at the restaurant because of its welcoming atmosphere, food and drink selection and affordability.
Heather Bohr ’89 described the restaurant’s versatility as a reason Mister Up’s was a favorite of hers. “We used to go there for après-ski in the late 80s after cross country skiing at Breadloaf. It was so much fun to sit at the bar, get to know the bartenders and drink warm alcoholic coffee drinks,” she said. As the year progressed and ski season ended, Mister Up’s remained one of Bohr’s top choices for off-campus dining with friends: “It was always such a happy moment when the deck opened in the spring and we could sit by the river.”
Kristen Homer ’90 recalled Mister Up’s as a common pregame spot. “I think we mostly went for appetizers and a drink before heading out to parties on campus,” she said.
In the late ’80s, students benefited from the “grandfather clause” of Vermont’s 1986 law that raised the drinking age from 18 to 21 years. The clause allowed anyone who was legally allowed to drink at the time the law passed to be exempt from the higher age requirement. In other words, any student who turned 18 before the law went into effect in 1986 retained their legal right to purchase alcohol.
Tom Crowell ’90 recalled the grandfather clause as particularly exciting for Middlebury students in the late ’80s coming from areas of the country that did not offer the same exception. “For many of us, the drinking age was still 18 [in Vermont] unlike our home states, so this was a new thing adding to the college experience,” he said.
Mister Up’s was able to capitalize on the large proportion of the student body still allowed to legally drink. Crowell noted the restaurant offered “an extensive cocktail list of frozen blender drinks and mixed drinks like $2 long island ice teas and tap beer.”
In addition to being a fun drinking spot, Mister Up’s was chosen by some students as a good place to share a meal with a professor. Sarah Evans ’89 recalled a fond memory of going to Mister Up’s for dinner with a friend and one of their favorite biology professors, Steve Trombulak. “I remember thinking about seeing him in a different light — a person — not a professor. It was fun to have a chance to know him in a different setting and relate on a different level,” she said.
Bohr also noted that the restaurant was ideal for a more romantic outing. “The salad and bread bar made dates easy because there was something to do. You could get up, get more bread, walk around. It was definitely the favorite spot for a date,” she said.
In addition to the salad and bread bar, Bohr enjoyed the offer of a unique dessert selection: “I remember their gigantic alcoholic ice cream drinks: White Russians and Grasshoppers.”
The salad and bread bar and spiked ice cream floats are no longer offered on the Mister Up’s menu, but the pub food selection remains intact. One of Buck’s favorite recent introductions is an appetizer he named “Thumbs and Toes.” These boneless chicken tenders, fried and tossed in signature sauces or rubs, are one of the restaurant’s most popular items, according to Buck.
This type of pub food was especially enticing compared to the regular dining hall offerings. Evans commented,“Back when I was in school, the food on campus was unremarkable and uninspired, so dinner out was a real treat.”
Covid-19 has disrupted many of the events that alumni fondly remember and current students still hope to enjoy. Buck was disappointed that Mister Up’s could not have a large 50 year anniversary celebration as originally hoped. However, he feels fortunate that they were able to reopen indoor dining under Vermont state guidelines in June 2020, and they have been able to keep indoor dining open for the past 11 months. “Take-out [and catering] are typically a large part of Mister Up’s’ sales,” he explains, so the restaurant was well-positioned to continue generating business throughout the pandemic.
Shifts in owners, menu adjustments and cultural changes are inevitable over the years, but Mister Up’s has maintained many of the qualities that cause alumni to remember their time there so fondly to reach the milestone of 50 years of business.
In typical years, it is tradition for seniors to cover the bulletin board at the entrance to Proctor Dining Hall with the names of the crushes they have had over their four years at Middlebury. The so-called “Proc Crush List” was initiated by a graduating senior, Jason Lockhart, in 2005. For Thomas Tarantino ’21 and David Gikoshvili ’21, this year has provided the perfect opportunity for their capstone Computer Science project: a virtual form of crush lists.
Despite its name, the original crush list tradition began in Ross Dining Hall, followed by a few nomadic years, before the lists finally found a permanent home in Proctor.
Unsurprisingly, amid the drama of such a public crush list, issues of privacy and respect have come up over the years. Students have raised concerns about the predatory undertones of seniors including underclassmen on their lists, and the fact that students are unable to consent to having their names displayed publicly on the bulletin board.
Tarantino and Gikoshvili saw the perfect opportunity to reimagine the “Proc Crush List” in a new format that kept those ethical concerns in mind. Their crush list website, The Panther Crush, allows all seniors to participate and tries to solve the privacy issues of the previous “Proc Crush List.” The crush lists will not be listed publicly — seniors will only be able to list the names of other seniors, and students will be notified when someone who is on their crush list also lists them.
Tarantino and Gikoshvili’s website will launch on May 10 at go/crush.
“The Panther Crush is built by students to enhance two simple aspects of traditional crush lists: privacy and respect,” the platform reads. “We don’t share your list with anyone, so no one sees your list and you don’t see anyone else’s. This relieves the pressure of putting up a crush list in a public space.”
With the added benefit of allowing participation by remote seniors who might be returning for in-person graduation, Tarantino and Gikoshvili are hoping that the timeline they have constructed will foster new connections in students’ final days at Middlebury. After the Panther Crush launches on May 10, students will have one week to fill out their crush list and will be notified of any matches by May 18. This will give students 11 days to reach out before graduation on May 29.
In addition to conversations with other seniors, one source of inspiration for Tarantino and Gikoshvili’s Panther Crush List was the virtual crush lists of peer colleges. According to Tarantino, incorporating ideas from the “Bowdoin Loop,” Tufts’ “Jumbo Smash” and Williams’ “Ephmatch” was helpful in imagining the Panther Crush List. And for Gikoshvili, a key difference between the Panther Crush List and other schools’ lists is the Panther Crush List’s emphasis on romantic crushes or friend crushes.
“We’re trying to have people connect with all those people they’ve admired from afar,” he said.
Designing and coding the crush list algorithm from start to finish has not come without its challenges. Tarantino says many small problems and logistical considerations have come up along the way, such as whether it is better for students to submit their crushes’ first and last names, or just their email address.
For Gikoshvili and Tarantino, the Panther Crush list feels like a fitting way to wrap up their Middlebury academic careers. “There is no better way to finish the [computer science] major,” Gikoshvili said.
Much like everyone else in 2020, former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama added “podcaster” to their already-lengthy resumes. Take a look at what two students have to say about these new presidential projects.
As president, Bill Clinton was known for repeating the rhetorical question “Why am I telling you this?” in speeches. It makes sense that Clinton, a notoriously talkative and sociable person, used the pandemic as a time to begin a podcast. In “Why Am I Telling You This,” Clinton channels the feelings and memories evoked from his childhood experiences gathered around the radio with his family.
With episodes ranging in length from 30 minutes to an hour, Clinton delves into topics like jazz in democracy, the implications of the 2020 presidential election and Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s appointment to the Supreme Court. Each week, he also hosts a celebrity or expert on the episode’s topic to foster conversation and bring in a different perspective. Some guests include Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Magic Johnson and Stacey Abrams.
In the episode “How Facts Can Fight a Pandemic,” Clinton and Gupta discuss the politicization of the pandemic and the potential decrease in respect for healthcare workers as the pandemic continues. They also speak about Gupta’s new book “Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age,” which explores the process of neurogenesis and the idea that the deterioration of cerebral health is not inevitable with age. Clinton strikes a nice balance between asking interesting questions and adding his own thoughts, though Gupta spends far more time speaking than Clinton. Clinton effectively blends topics of politics and science in the episode, discussing Gupta’s research in neural function and his knowledge of Covid-19.
To reflect on the 2020 Presidential Election and January 6 insurrectionist attacks, Clinton hosted political commentator and Rice Professor of History Douglas Brinkley for an episode titled “How History Will View the 2020 Election.” Though there are certainly many overlaps between science and politics, especially amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, the discussion about the implications of the last election cycle is in Clinton’s wheelhouse. Brinkley brings up the symbol of the mask as a key component of Biden’s campaign message, especially in contrast with Trump’s symbolic MAGA hat, and the idea that moving forward, “the only way out of this mess politically is to work our way through [it].”
Part of Clinton’s aim for the podcast is to provide a platform for storytelling and discussion with people whom he views as having relevance to current happenings. However, especially in this episode, it would have been nice to hear more from Clinton himself. As a former president and long-standing political figure in Washington, Clinton certainly has a unique perspective surrounding this past election cycle.
The podcast also touches on voter suppression and the importance of voters’ rights legislation in the episode, “How to be a Changemaker,” with Stacey Abrams. Considering the important role Abrams has played in the outcome of the recent election, and how much she has fought for guaranteed voter enfranchisement, her appearance on the podcast is exciting. The conversation between Clinton and Abrams flows well, particularly because they have a well-established relationship, and he is able to provide an effective platform for her to speak about the voting rights legislation for which she is advocating.
The content of Bill Clinton’s podcast is overall varied, engaging and relevant. The big-name figures that Clinton has been able to have on the podcast since its debut show Clinton’s continued relevance in the political sphere and encourage a variety of listeners to be interested in the podcast. In our world of exponentially increasing podcast options, “Why Am I Telling You This?” is a quality podcast for listeners interested in hearing from important figures about current topics hand-picked by former president Bill Clinton.
Porter Hospital launched several diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in February in an effort to ensure more equitable healthcare for Vermonters.
One initiative involved the formation of the hospital’s first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Council. “Porter did not have a formal mechanism for addressing DEI issues prior to the formation of the DEI Council,” said Dr. Francisco Corbalan, a member of the newly formed council.
In order to gauge the specific concerns of Porter employees, the DEI Council conducted an employee survey with questions such as “How comfortable do you feel at work?”, “How much do you think your voice is being heard?” and “Do you feel like you are welcomed and valued?” About 47% of the Porter workforce responded to the survey.
Based on the survey’s results, one focus of the DEI Council has become making the hospital more accessible and inclusive for Spanish speakers.
“Inclusivity often feels elusive when someone who doesn’t speak English walks into our hospital and can’t find the department they are trying to find,” said registered nurse Becci Gordon, who is also part of the council.
For this reason, the council is working on adding more onsite translation signs, creating phone options for Spanish speakers and displaying messages stating that discrimination will not be tolerated.
Last February, Porter also began displaying a Black Lives Matter flag at the facility’s entrance in celebration of Black History Month . The hospital is continuing to fly the flag beyond Black History Month “as an acknowledgement that [anti-racism] work must continue,” according to a press release.
“Our local focus on DEI was truly driven by the national response to the George Floyd death and other similar incidents,” said Ron Hallman, spokesperson for Porter.
Dr. John Brumsted, CEO and president of UVM Health Network — the larger network that Porter is part of — has made DEI programming a major priority for the entire network over the past year.
Dr. Brumsted said in a statement that UVM Health Network’s goal for its DEI initiatives is “to create a culture that is diverse, equitable and inclusive for our employees, patients and communities we serve.”
“Our very broad goal is to make Porter a more inclusive and welcoming place to both work and receive health care,” Dr. Corbalan said, echoing Dr. Brumsted’s statement.
Porter has also taken advantage of college-specific resources such as the Middlebury College Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (OIDEI), which includes the Anderson Freeman Center, Disability Resource Center, and the Civil Rights and Title IX Committee, among others.
Renee Wells, Middlebury’s director of education for equity and inclusion, spoke about her involvement in the hospital’s efforts.
“The Porter DEI Committee reached out to me last fall, and I met with them to talk about possible goals and action items they might focus on as they were launching their committee,” Wells said. She has been in contact with members of the council periodically since the fall, and she has been able to offer advice about DEI initiatives.
Hallman feels that the initiative is coming at a good time, considering the inequities Covid-19 has illuminated nationwide.
“The impact of Covid-19 on our greater population throughout the United States has once again illustrated the inequity and the uneven impact of the pandemic on different people based on their race and social/demographic profile,” he said.
Chief Medical Officer and DEI councilmember Anna Benvenuto feels positively about the change the DEI Council is enacting.
“I’m really proud of the work the council is doing. It’s foundational to our community, and it’s acknowledging the ways in which inequities and systemic issues — whether it’s racism or anti-LGBTQ sentiments — have created disparities in health care outcomes,” Benvenuto said to the Addison Independent.
Dr. Corbalan feels similarly energized by the work of the council so far. “The work has been humbling, challenging and inspiring,” he said. “Diversity, equity and inclusion are big words; translating those words into tangible, substantive actions is an incredibly delicate and complex process.”
Burlington High School is set to re-open on March 4 in a renovated building that was once a Macy’s department store in downtown Burlington. The refurbishment, a $10-million project expected to be completed by Feb. 22, was initiated as a solution to the discovery of toxic chemicals in the old high school complex and its consequent closure in the fall.
Burlington School District superintendent Tom Flanagan is optimistic about the project. “We are excited about learning opportunities downtown and partnerships with theaters and businesses, as well as new, rich programs that will provide deep learning,” he said.
The former Macy’s store, located on Cherry Street, has 150,000 square feet of space, providing enough room for all of the academic classrooms in addition to music spaces, a cafeteria and areas for physical education class and afterschool sports.
“The walls are up; faculty and staff are prepping for what next semester’s going to look like. Everyone’s really excited just by the opportunity to get back into a home,” said Lauren McBride, the high school’s acting principal, in an interview with VTDigger.
The renovated building is a temporary home for Burlington High School while officials evaluate the old complex and the feasibility of removing PCBs. The district has signed a three-and-a-half year lease on the former Macy’s building, costing $1.2 million per year, and looks to complete initial chemical testing at the old complex by July. In light of high costs and extreme circumstances, the state is expected to bear the cost of the temporary school’s construction.
Though the district plans to begin spring instruction with only two days of in-person learning each week, Flanagan is hopeful that a shift to a fully in-person model will be possible in the near future.
“As vaccinations increase, the secretary of education thinks we will be back closer to fully in-person by April,” Flanagan said.
The move to Macy’s was precipitated by an unexpected turn of events in September. During preparation for an upcoming $70 million renovation project, air and soil tests revealed dangerously high levels of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in the old Burlington High School building. Vermont Department of Health guidelines required the school to halt in-person learning while administrators and the school board considered how best to move forward.
According to Flanagan, there were some benefits to the sudden move online. The district had originally planned a hybrid learning model in which students only interacted with their teachers twice a week. However, once the school went fully remote, it implemented a new model that gave the students four to five days of real-time contact with their teachers on Zoom, which is more interaction than was occurring at [most] other high schools in the area.
Another silver lining Flanagan identified in transitioning online was the increase in availability of support for and information about productive remote teaching strategies now that virtual learning has become the norm in many school districts.
However, Flanagan also acknowledged the strain online learning has placed on some students. “We are most concerned about our students who need us most,” Flanagan said. “Students with special education needs, students learning English and our most vulnerable students. We want them to be back in person to help support their needs.”
As the gravity of the violent insurgence at the Capitol reverberated across the nation, Middlebury students in the D.C. area reeled from the shock of its proximity.
When the attacks began, Ethan Sherman ’21 was at his home about half a mile from the Capitol. “I started to hear sirens outside in the early afternoon, and they persisted for the rest of the day. As news of the insurrection trickled in, I was glued to my phone,” Sherman said.
Just outside the city, Max Nagle ’24 also felt the shock of the riots. “I was scared of what might happen after dark,” said Nagle, who lives in Arlington, VA. He expressed concern that some of the insurrectionists would be forced out of the city and into his state.
Although the initial fear has begun to dissipate in the wake of the attack, the scars of the events remain. With barely enough time to process the Jan. 6. insurrection, Washington D.C. began preparing for President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. As the date approached, security tightened — and its impact on the mood around the city was palpable.
Mia Zottola ’24 of Arlington described the feeling as “apocalyptic” and Sherman said he saw “troops on every corner for about nine blocks” when he walked down a prominent residential street the day before the inauguration.
For Sherman, knowing the past actions of the police and military — especially during last year’s Black Lives Matter protests — made him nervous and distrustful of the security in D.C.
“I was disgusted to see them put up very little resistance to armed insurrectionists storming the Capitol, considering that they tear gassed … and shot rubber bullets at the protestors over the summer,” he said.
Sunday Night Environmental Group (SNEG) leader Divya Gudur ’21 expressed concerns similar to Sherman’s about the increased police and military presence in the city. She said that SNEG members have been trying to support the D.C. population since this month’s attack, emphasizing difficulties in providing mutual aid, particularly for individuals without housing.
In particular, Gudur noted that homeless and low-income groups in D.C. have been heavily impacted by the shutdown — as the military cleared out the streets — leaving community service workers struggling to provide them with essential services.
The domestic terrorist attacks put further strain on an inauguration already heavily modified due to the pandemic. During a typical year, Sherman said he would have walked down to the Capitol and National Mall to celebrate.
Similarly, Mia and Marian Zottola, both members of the class of ’24, had hoped to enter the city from Arlington to attend the inauguration, but the military presence blocked nonresidents from traveling into D.C. Even though Sherman and the Zottolas were a few miles away from the inauguration, they watched it on TV like the rest of the country.
Hannah Laga Abram ’23 won the Ward Prize for the 2019-2020 Academic Year. The award recognizes first-year students who demonstrate exceptional skill in writing. Laga Abram, whose work was nominated by three professors, also received a $500 cash prize. Ryo Nishikubo ’23.5 and Mia Pangasnan ’23 were runners-up for the award, and Emily Garcia ’23, Gloria Escobedo ’23 and Kate Likhite ’23 received honorable mentions.
Established by his family in 1978, the prize is named for Paul Ward ’25, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and diplomatic reporter.
A committee of three faculty judges from different academic disciplines decide on one winning submission, two runners-up and three to five honorable mentions. About 50 students are nominated each year for the prize, drawing from work in both fall and spring classes.
Laga Abram said she was surprised to hear she had won the award.
“I’ve been in love with words for as long as I can remember, so it’s delightful to feel seen and heard in that way and be at a school that treasures the magic of language,” she said. “I’m flabbergasted, honored and grateful to all of my professors, the judges and others who make the Ward Prize possible.”
Laga Abram’s winning work was titled “The Ecology of Folklore: A Relational Examination of Storytelling Traditions in Ireland and Iceland,” which she wrote for her Environmental Anthropology class.
Professor of Anthropology Michael Sheridan nominated Laga Abram’s piece for the prize in May, and asked to serve as a judge on this year’s panel in September. He said that her essay demonstrated talent and thoughtfulness beyond her years.
“She engaged the topic insightfully, and then boldly and creatively connected it to course readings and themes. She demonstrated a mastery of the topic that I would expect from a junior or senior who had been marinating in a discipline for a much longer time,” Sheridan said. “It was a beautiful text and a shining example of the craft of writing.”
“Stories have so much power in reminding us that the earth — and ourselves as a part of it — are alive, wildly beautiful, and made of mystery,” Laga Abram said.
Writing and Rhetoric Professor and Writing Center Director Genie Giaimo took a lead role in coordinating this year’s process. Working in conjunction with Giaimo, Writing and Rhetoric Professor James Chase Sanchez selected the faculty for this year’s judging panel.
Given that there are only three judges for the prize, one of Sanchez’s biggest goals and challenges was getting “an array of voices and disciplines” on the panel. Even with the challenges of online learning this semester, Sanchez had no trouble finding judges to serve on the panel, which consisted of Professor of History Ian Barrow, American Studies Ellery Foutch and Sheridan.
Sheridan said that he enjoyed the diversity of thought that comes from having judges in different academic departments. “By having the judges come from different parts of the college, it balances out differences like disciplinary approaches to knowledge and aesthetics,” he said.
The prize has received steady enthusiasm from faculty and students alike in recent years. To keep this momentum going, Giaimo hopes to see a greater number of nominated pieces from STEM classes.
Professor of Writing and Rhetoric as well as Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies Catharine Wright has been a recurrent nominator over the past twenty years. “[I nominate essays] that leave me excited after reading them, stimulate me with their insights and ambition, and move me,” she said.
Editor’s Note: News Editor Abigail Chang ’23 and Managing Editor Riley Board ’22 contributed reporting.
Middlebury College Democrats, Middlebury College Republicans and Sunday Night Environmental Group (SNEG), three of the college’s political groups, are preparing in anticipation of next week’s presidential election.
The College Democrats have focused on encouraging participation in the election and planning programming for students both before and after the election, “cognizant of both possible outcomes,” according to Suria Vanrajah ’22, president of College Democrats.
For College Republicans, recent goals have been “keeping people engaged and in dialogue about political issues and candidates,” according to George Werner ’21, the club’s president.
Werner said his group is spending time emphasizing to students and club members that every election is important. “The attitude that voting is only important at certain times or that it varies in importance is detrimental to our system of government,” he said, noting that the organization is maintaining their historical stance of not endorsing political candidates.
Divya Gudur ’21 — one of the leaders of SNEG — says her group has predominantly focused on preparations for potential post-election action.“We are primarily equipping ourselves with the appropriate organizing skills to be prepared for a contested post-election,” she said. SNEG members are currently attending non-violent direct-action and de-escalation trainings.
All three groups have faced planning and organizational challenges as a result of Covid-19. College Democrats normally co-host an election night screening in Crossroads, which is not possible this year, according to Vanrajah. But the group is getting creative, working with the Student Activities Office (SAO) to try to plan a virtual election night event.
College Democrats, and all other political organizations on campus, cannot directly engage in phone banking or canvassing because of Middlebury’s 501(c)(3) status.
College Republicans has focused on local races and the gubernatorial election in recent weeks. Werner believes that the best way to impact local elections is through face-to-face interactions found in door-to-door canvassing, both largely impossible under Covid-19 restrictions.
The biggest stressor for SNEG members has been the uncertainty of the election results, according to Gudur. After witnessing Trump preemptively “undermine the election results with his accusations of voter fraud,” SNEG — along with other activist organizations — has begun preparing to mobilize post-election.
However, College Republicans has confidence that the election will proceed — and conclude — smoothly. The organization feels optimistic that there will be “negligible irregularities in the process,” according to Werner.
Vanrajah says College Democrats is planning to co-host an event with Feminist Action at Middlebury (FAM) about reproductive justice and the Supreme Court. They are also working with the SAO to prepare to support students after Nov. 3 in a way the school was not prepared to do in 2016, according Vanrajah.
Although the three organizations come at the issues from different political perspectives and align with different candidates, they are all looking to the future.
“What we want most of all is not to let election day change who we are as people. No matter who wins, the United States will still wake up the morning after election day,” Werner said.
“We are focusing our attention on actionable steps we can take to provide students with a space to reflect on the election and continue engagement once the election excitement dies down,” Vanrajah said.
Moving across the country to buy an inn and restaurant in a rural college town may seem like an unimaginably risky venture in a normal year, let alone in the middle of a pandemic. But for Matthew Robinson and Serena Kim, the new owners of Swift House Inn, it’s been a remarkably seamless transition.
When Robinson and Kim decided they wanted to make a change from their life in Southern California, they began looking at inns in New England college towns.
Their search for the ideal inn began a few years ago when Robinson hired a broker to find properties in the New England area. Robinson saw the Swift House Inn for the first time in May 2019. He returned to Middlebury two months later with Kim, and from there they became more serious about making the purchase.
The Swift House Inn and Jessica’s Restaurant are made up of three historic buildings located on Stewart Lane in the heart of the town of Middlebury. The main house was built in 1814 and is named after John Swift, a former governor of Vermont. The other buildings are the Carriage House and Gate House, the former having been built by the Cartmell Family in 1906.
The inn contains 20 rooms, and it caters primarily to visitors of the college or travellers in town for bike tours, winter sports and vacations. The previous owners — Dan and Michele Brown — owned the property for 16 years.
Robinson and Kim made an offer in early February and flew out to Middlebury during the fateful week of March 9 — during which the pandemic became a reality in America — to negotiate the purchase. Despite the shutdown of the inn on March 16, Robinson and Kim continued negotiations through May and June.
By July, they took a leap of faith and moved to Middlebury to continue working on the deal. They worked with the National Bank of Middlebury and the previous owners of the inn through September to close the deal and get to know its operations.
In addition to these relationships, they became well-acquainted with the inn’s staff. “Usually when an inn changes ownership, the staff hears the day the deal has been sealed,” Robinson said in an interview with The Campus. Robinson and Kim credit the smooth transition of ownership to the talented staff who have provided consistent service and hospitality for guests.
The nationwide shutdown due to Covid-19 left many small businesses struggling to get sufficient business or being forced to close. But thanks to the steady and strong support of the local community, the inn and restaurant have been able to weather the storm of the pandemic.
“Swift House was supported through Covid-19 by the community and parents of Middlebury students, predicated on the relationships the previous owners had built,” Kim told The Campus.
Since the state of Vermont began allowing people to visit hotels and restaurants again, the inn has been working hard to resourcefully adapt to restrictions. According to Robinson, the biggest challenge has been turning away visitors from New York City, Boston, and other areas when they have not complied with Vermont’s two-week quarantine rules.
As the weather gets colder, Robinson and Kim have plans to rearrange tables indoors and reopen the bar area. They also hope to extend hours on the weekends as the demand among students, parents and other affiliates of the college rises. “We love the students,” Kim said enthusiastically. She looks forward to deepening their relationship with the college when restrictions loosen up.
Robinson and Kim plan to find creative and practical ways to keep business at the inn and restaurant going safely through the winter. In addition, they are looking ahead to more long-term projects. “We hope to begin a fruit orchard and work with Middlebury College on a botanical garden on the parcel north of the inn,” Robinson said. Kim also highlighted the importance of producing and consuming food locally, as living through Covid-19 has shown.
Though they have exciting plans for the inn, Robinson and Kim don’t plan on changing anything too quickly. Robinson believes new home — or inn — owners are most successful if they live in the building “as is” for at least six months. In the meantime, Robinson and Kim will take this time to secure their footing as members of the Middlebury community and adjust to being small business owners during an unpredictable pandemic.