While many students and faculty in the humanities, and maybe even some in the science departments, have never interacted with the vivarium in BiHall, its existence is critical to the study of live animals at Middlebury. But the vivarium – an enclosure that houses living organisms, including plants and animals – has been operating with reduced staff since before the start of the fall semester, forcing the shutdown of the majority of animal research, impacting classes and hindering faculty and student work.
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Snow is a characteristic ingredient of Vermont winters, essential for avid skiers, snowboarders and other participants in outdoor winter sports.
Tri-Valley Transit (TVT) has doubled frequency of service for the weekday LINK to Burlington as of Nov. 1, and plans to launch midday rides and increase Saturday service this spring. This shift is a return to pre-pandemic services.
On top of balancing classes, meetings and the challenges that come with living in rural Vermont, college faculty with young children face an additional burden: finding and retaining childcare.
Middlebury is now a station on Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express, which runs daily from New York’s Penn Station to Burlington, Vt. by way of Albany and Rutland. The station opened on July 29, making it the first passenger rail service to operate in the area since 1953. The introduction of the service prompted increased rail safety awareness efforts in Middlebury over the past several months by Operation Lifesaver of Vermont, Inc.
More than 100 Middlebury students rallied on the lawn below Middlebury Chapel on May 5 at 5 p.m. for a Reproductive Freedom Protest that took place in conjunction with over 20 other colleges across the country. The goal was to “halt the overturning of Roe v. Wade and defeat anti-choice legislators” according to Reproductive Freedom Protest (RF Protest) on Instagram.
New Amtrak passenger train coming to Middlebury this July, increasing need for rail safety awareness
Starting in July, Middlebury will begin receiving service as a station on Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express train line, for the first time since passenger rail service ceased operating in the area in 1953. The service, originating from Penn Station in Manhattan, now includes Vergennes and Burlington after stopping in Rutland for over 20 years. While the schedule hasn’t been finalized, a round trip — about seven and a half hours each way — will run seven days a week between Middlebury and Penn Station. While the service’s official start is months away, the train has already been on the tracks in recent months for qualifying runs and to assess the route.
“Addison County Collects,” a new exhibit highlighting collections in Addison County, will run at the Henry Sheldon Museum from May 17, 2022, to Jan. 7, 2023.
A Vermont Bicycle Summit will be held at the Middlebury Town Hall on May 6 and will feature panel discussions, individual presentations, tables from cycling organizations and nonprofits around the state and a keynote speaker.
On Wednesday, Nov. 10, the Addison County Relocalization Network (ACORN) hosted its annual meeting, where four women from across the Champlain Valley’s food system discussed food insecurity, food service work and activism within the local food system in a virtual panel moderated by Lindsey Berk, the executive director of ACORN.
Representatives from Middlebury College joined Green Mountain Power, state representatives, developer Encore Renewable Energy and the town of Middlebury at a groundbreaking event on Oct. 12 for the college’s new solar installation project on South Street Extension, which will supply 30% of its total electricity usage as part of the Energy2028 initiative for 100% renewable energy at the college by 2028.
This year, Middlebury College officially instituted a land acknowledgement to be read during all official college ceremonies. The statement recognizes that the college sits on land that belonged to the Western Abenaki and calls for the remembrance of the Indigenous community’s “connection to [the] region and the hardships they continue to endure.” Chief Don Stevens (DS) of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation sat down for an interview with The Middlebury Campus (MC) to discuss the land acknowledgment and the next steps toward justice. MC: Could talk a little bit about your perspective on Middlebury College’s land acknowledgment and what is the significance of that statement to you? DS: I think it's great, and it shows how forward-thinking Middlebury College really is when it comes to not only land acknowledgment but also working with our community by going beyond just acknowledging land. I tell people land acknowledgement is meaningless and hollow if you do a land acknowledgement but then don’t allow Native people access to the lands you hold. Right? Because you’re acknowledging you’re on unseated land or whatever that was the Abenaki but oh — by the way — you can’t access it. So that's why I'm working with Middlebury College to have access to the lands that they hold to use for collecting Native foods, medicines and maybe interpretive science, or finding other ways to support our food security programs. We do have bison and cattle, so maybe [there is] hay that could come off some of the lands to feed our animals. So the acknowledgement itself is pretty historic because I think that's one of the first colleges that have actually openly made a commitment to not only a land acknowledgement but also actually putting programs in place to work with Indigenous people. I think it's very important that Middlebury is showing that leadership and commitment. MC: What do you think the land acknowledgement accomplishes, if anything, and what steps does it take toward justice, if any? DS: Anything that you either apologize for or acknowledge, you can’t build upon something that you haven’t acknowledged as either an issue or something that needs to be corrected. You have to acknowledge a situation to logically and confidently discuss, “What does this really mean?” and, “What does it really mean to do a land acknowledgment?” Is it just words on the paper, or is there something substantially meaningful behind it — knowing that we were oppressed people and others have benefited from the land that we once owned? What kind of position does it put us in, by acknowledging the fact that Midd is on our lands that were taken from us and that we never gave them up willingly? [Acknowledging] the fact that that happened says, “Okay, how do we then build equity? How do we work in partnership?” European governance is not going away. But neither are Indigenous people. So if you want to right the past, how do you equally share the land for the benefit of both — instead of one using the land at the expense of someone else? So, by Middlebury acknowledging the fact of the land and working toward uplifting our people — like through the language program, through land access, through food security — then you're actually living out what you're talking about in the acknowledgement. I think that's what that means. It means that it's a beginning point to work toward partnering to provide equity. MC: What are some ways that the land acknowledgement could be improved? DS: I think that carrying out the spirit of that land acknowledgement can be more. In other words, it's already good that [the college is] working on these programs, and I think having a full-time position at Middlebury College to be able to work on education of the students [could] be a resource — being there to create a Native American student body club for other Native students that may not know other Native students that exist in the college, to create a safe place to practice your culture when you're away from home and be able to build that bond between Native people that might be on campus. And having someone be that mentor to that club, and building a curriculum around Native studies. So, I think there are ways to improve upon the spirit of the acknowledgement that we're working on, because you can't do everything overnight. MC: What are some of the major challenges you and your communities are facing right now? DS: We fall into lateral violence. We're the only race that can self-declare. We had to go through a physical legislative process to even be a legal Indian in the United States, and nobody can just say, “I'm Indian” and be covered, you have to be a citizen of a state or federally recognized tribe. So if you're not a citizen of one of those tribes, you're not technically legally an Indian, even though you really are based on the laws of the United States. If you're Indian, you have to have a card in your wallet that declares that you are legally a status-Indian in order to really be protected under the law, which is a shame. That is shameful. But then it creates different statuses. You have federal-status Indians, state-status Indians, and then no-status, who don't have recognition. And then, it puts you in a different class, so some people may think federally recognized is a higher class. So you have different lateral violence between Native communities, because they set you up in a segregated manner to separate people by class. That to me defies everything the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Rights have set up. Part of that is that you should be able to self-declare who you are, just like every other race. But the U.S. has adopted that method, so we have to live within the means that have been given to us, so we have a lot of disparities on many fronts. MC: Have there been any specific challenges relating to Covid-19? DS: Well, I think the Covid situation has really put collaboration on hold on a personal face-to-face basis. Also, the Covid situation has hit the college hard financially, so it's hard to be able to do new programs and open up new avenues when you've been hit financially. Overall, it really shows our food insecurities when we have people standing in food lines trying to get food, and that's why I work on our food security programs. People are afraid of the [Covid-19 vaccination] shots [due to] misinformation, or it could be transportation, [or it] could be fear of getting shots [while] other people really want them. So, there's a whole mixed bag, but there's nobody concentrating on educating people on what's causing those disparities. Why are there [fewer] people in our communities being vaccinated than others? We don't know. And that's what really hindered us as well, and it exacerbated the problem. MC: Is there anything else you are thinking of that might be relevant? DS: I challenge the students and the faculty to find out what Native pieces are in their world or their circle. [Were] there Native things on the land that Middlebury sits on? Are there gardens that have medicinal and Native spirituality connected to [them]? Are there things in your archives that could help with our historical information on Native people in Vermont or elsewhere? How do we find that information? And how do we get it to paint a bigger picture of actually what involvement Middlebury College has had with Native people over the years?” I think, overall, I need to say that Middlebury College is doing a great job feeling their way through something they have never had to deal with before and actually being genuine and trying to work with our population — so we have to give kudos to Middlebury for doing that. I also want to say that we should make sure or ensure that we continue this partnership moving forward because it is so important to the diversity of not only the students but also the education piece of it. But there's always work to be done and we don't really know [what that looks like], but I have to say that Middlebury has been on the right path. It takes a lot to turn a big ship right. Editor's Note: This interview was edited by Local Editor Kenzo Okazaki for brevity and clarity.
Local businesses in Middlebury have faced revenue losses due to declining traffic, reduced hours and limited services throughout the pandemic. However, while many businesses in town continue to struggle, some local restaurants have been able to successfully apply for federal, state and local aid packages. Haymaker Bun Company and The Arcadian have received two rounds of the state’s Vermont Economic Recovery Grant, the Table 21 Grant from an anonymous local donor and a Small Business Grant from the National Bank of Middlebury. According to owner and pastry chef Caroline Corrente, the money has been crucial in keeping the business stay afloat without instituting layoffs or pay cuts and to maintain momentum. “It has allowed me to hire more staff and gear up for a (hopefully) busy spring and summer without having to worry about the lack of current revenue being enough to support the labor costs,” Corrente told The Campus. “We have been able to pay ourselves and most of our staff throughout the pandemic.” Corrente believes the restaurant is well prepared for summer in terms of staffing. “I believe that people are going to be chomping at the bit to return to restaurants and cafes once they are vaccinated. We look forward to hosting people out on our beautiful patio and in our bakery,” Corrente said. Two Brothers Tavern has received two rounds of the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, first in April 2020 and again in January 2021. Both were absolutely essential to the continued function and survival of the business. “Last March we saw absolutely no path forward, but the PPP worked exactly the way it was intended to — it allowed us to reopen our business and employ people again,” owner Megan Brady said. “Not only did this help our employees financially, but it helped give them a sense of purpose.” The PPP loans were not enough on their own to support the business through the pandemic, and Two Brothers also relied on other state and local grants. “All of this aid has been crucial to our ability to survive, because the 50% capacity and limited hours at which we’re operating is not only not profitable, it’s not remotely sustainable. We’re losing tens of thousands of dollars per month, but the aid helps make up that deficit,” Brady said. Brady plans to partner with Otter Creek Bakery again this summer to provide outdoor dining, as the bakery allowed Two Brothers to serve in its outdoor space last summer, but she looks forward to the safe return of full-capacity indoor dining. “The pandemic has obviously been challenging, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised in the level of interest in indoor dining and the willingness of patrons to adhere to all safety guidelines,” Brady said. Both owners agree that in general, restaurants and other businesses in Middlebury — particularly retail shops — are struggling. Even restaurants receiving aid have had trouble finding workers. “Retail shops have seen traffic decrease steadily over the last few years due to the railroad project and then the pandemic,” Brady said. “Middlebury needs not only a break but a renaissance. There are people and initiatives trying to make that happen, and hopefully with the vaccine, the return of college events and tourism, things will start to thrive again.” The future of Middlebury’s local businesses partly rests in the hands of the local community, whose support is especially critical now. “I hope that the community will come out in force and support all the local Middlebury businesses once we are on the other side of the pandemic,” Corrente said. “Residents, students and visitors alike need to be as mindful as ever of shopping locally if they want to have a vibrant downtown — because Middlebury is at a tipping point, and its future is in our collective hands,” Brady said.
Shoreham’s St. Genevieve Church closed its doors during the spring of 2020 due to a decreased number of worshippers and the need for structural improvements to the building. The effects of St. Genevieve Church’s closure rippled outward and — a year later — are being felt in Middlebury. St. Genevieve, as well as St. Bernadette Church in Bridport, are considered mission parishes of St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption in Middlebury, the church situated at the corner of College Street and Shannon Street, near Sunderland and across the road from Warner Hall. “[Mission churches are] in a more rural setting, and usually it means that the pastor is the same for both of them and that the mission church is kind of dependent on the mother church, the main church,” Friar Luke Austin said. This relationship results in lots of cross over in attendance between the parishes. Many people from St. Bernadette and St. Genevieve attend St. Mary’s — and vice versa. The fact that Shoreham and Bridport are part of the Addison County School District is one factor that contributes to this shared attendance, among others. The parishes consist of largely older populations, characteristic of Vermont and New England Roman Catholic communities. The area also has a large proportion of mass attendees who work in agriculture. To accommodate this population, mass is held at 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays. “That’s very late in terms of a mass time for people, but it helps those who have ties to agriculture,” Austin said. “That’s certainly a demographic trait of Vermont in general, as well.” A sense of emotional attachment that some Middlebury Catholics feel toward the St. Genevieve Church in Shoreham makes the church’s closure even more significant. “There are certainly a number of people who grew up in Bridport and Shoreham, who may now live in Middlebury or somewhere else,” Austin said. “There’s family connections, there’s people who do business together, so there’s a lot of natural connections that already exist ... Certainly [for] people at St Mary’s who attended St. Genevieve it is an emotionally challenging thing, especially if they grew up in that church.” Led by Kathleen and Randall Brisson, the St. Genevieve Preservation is working to negotiate with the Burlington diocese for a lease that would allow them to take responsibility for the church’s care. “My initial proposal was to keep the church from being torn down and take care of it through fundraising, while running a non-profit thrift store and food shelf out of the back annex,” Brisson said. Even if St. Genevieve reopens, there is a strong possibility that the two parishes might one day permanently merge into one, considering their connections. An impending issue of organizing churches and parishes is the decline of parishioners and priests, which contributed to the closure of St. Genevieve. The church was also concerned about the building itself and whether it was worth investing funds to repair. “The Holy See released a document within the past year about how to kind of organize parishes so they can better serve the needs of mission and evangelization,” Austin said. “As our bishop and our diocese thinks about how to better organize ourselves, [a merge] could be something that comes up. There’s a sense that we need to be more efficient, or thinking towards the future, especially with our number of priests and our number of parishioners, about how to best organize ourselves.” If a merge were to occur, the impact would more strongly impact Bridport and Shoreham but Middlebury as well. “There could be a tendency to focus more on Middlebury, so the challenge is, how do we continue to reach out to families and people of the towns that are farther out?” Austin said. Most likely, mass attendance would not be affected much. “I don't know if there would be a big numbers shift, I think it would stay the same,” Austin said. “For us, it would be a matter of organizational change.” These trends across New England parishes are linked to changing demographics and may continue to influence Middlebury’s parish, as well as others. “At the time they were all booming because there was a high number of people. Now, with the declining numbers of parishioners and priests, you don’t necessarily need all of those churches anymore.”
Non-traditional grading methods are rare in Middlebury classrooms, but some professors are “ungrading” and experimenting with “labor-based” and self-evaluative assessments as alternatives to letter grades. “It just happens to work well because it’s a natural way to learn,” Biology professor Greg Pask said in reference to his “labor-based” grading system. “Regardless of what happens, this is what I was going to be doing anyway.” Under Pask’s “labor-based” grading system, assignments are assigned different amounts of points; students may choose to forgo some assignments and still receive an A. “Every single grade in my class aligns with how much work you put in,” Pask said. Pask finds that students who have been historically disadvantaged under the traditional letter grade system perform much better under the labor-based approach. “I think the biggest benefit is that students are learning for themselves, they’re exploring this topic of our class for their own interests,” Pask said. “I think it really aligns with being a life-long learner, getting rid of extrinsic motivations and focusing on intrinsic [motivations] — things they really want to learn. Everything extrinsic just devalues the learning aspect of it.” Professor of Computer Science Shelby Kimmel will employ two slightly different styles of grading this semester. In her Quantum Computing class, students will receive constructive feedback instead of letter grades for assignments and will have the opportunity to revise and resubmit work. Kimmel plans to center the course around self-evaluation through student-created learning plans. Progress toward learning goals is tracked through meetings at the beginning, middle and end of the course. In her other course, Algorithms and Complexity, assignments are given “credit” or “no credit” evaluations and can be revised for credit based on feedback. “While this credit/no credit system is more like grading, my goal is to give the students a bit more structure to help guide their learning, while also encouraging students to view learning as a process that requires time and effort and where mistakes are part of that process,” Kimmel said. Like Pask, Kimmel cited the pursuit of equity in higher education as a motivation for her new approach to grading. “I was personally influenced to make more significant changes this year by the Black Lives Matter movement and by becoming more aware of systemic inequities in our society and in higher ed, and how grades can play into issues of social justice,” Kimmel said. Similar to Kimmel’s grading format, Political Science professor Kemi Fuentes-George has experimented with self-evaluative grading, including this past J-Term in his Protest Music in a Comparative Context course. Students evaluated themselves on assignments using a set of metrics, followed by a holistic final self-assessment. “It’s important for people to understand that just because you get points that are fixed and numerically established, that there’s this perception that those points are objectively determined, and it's not necessarily the case,” Fuentes-George said. While there is always the possibility of inaccurate self-perception, Fuentes-George still holds the authority to correct final grades if they don’t reflect the student’s actual effort — an aspect borrowed from Kimmel’s grading structure. However, this is often only necessary when students are too hard on themselves and assign a grade too low. Grace Kellogg ’22, who took both Fuentes-George’s J-Term class and Pask’s Invertebrate Biology course, found increased motivation as well as disillusionment with letter-based grades. She said the biggest downside of non-traditional grading is that it still exists as the exception, overshadowed by an overall culture dominated by the letter grade system. “For educators who truly care about the mental health of their students, now is the time to look into alternate learning models,” Kellogg said. Mia Pangasnan ’23, a student who took Fuentes-Georges' J-Term course, instead believes that ungrading did not necessarily improve her own performance. “If it is a course that has a plethora of participation opportunities, I feel like the students would feel comfortable with the ungraded method,” Pangasnan said. “If it is a class where the majority of the students' grades are determined by a limited number of assignments to be turned in, then I think that the ungraded method could potentially cause undue stress.” Lily Jones ’23, a student of Fuentes-George's J-Term course, expressed that her initial skepticism toward “ungrading” was quickly turned around. “What ended up happening though was that I was even more motivated than in other classes because I have the clearest understanding of what A-quality work is for myself,” Jones said. “Whereas in past classes I've taken, I've felt like the grading was out of my control, in this case, I knew exactly what I had to do to feel that I deserved a high grade.” Editor’s Note: Lily Jones ’23 is a senior writer for The Campus.