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Senior administrators held an open forum with students Tuesday evening, discussing the results of recent student surveys and fielding questions about institutional transparency and student life.
Student attendance at the event was relatively sparse, with the number of students roughly equaling the two dozen administrators present.
“There is a lack of student presence in the room,” conceded Kyle Wright ’19.5, who serves as Community Council Co-Chair. “A lot of students are jaded to an extent that engaging with the administration is deeply taxing, so there’s a certain hump we need to get over in terms of re-engaging students to be able to do this work.”
College dean Katy Smith Abbott began the event by discussing the results of the 2016 CIRP senior survey. The survey is utilized by schools nationwide and conducted at Middlebury every two years, asking graduating seniors a range of questions regarding their time at Middlebury.
The 2016 survey, Smith Abbott said, “brought [the administration’s] attention to the fact that the level of satisfaction with student social life had dropped noticeably between 2010 and 2016.”
Specifically, the number of students who reported being very satisfied with social life at the college dropped from one in five in 2010 to one in 15 in 2016. Meanwhile, those who reported being dissatisfied with social life rose from one in five to one in three.
Within the group of schools that Middlebury considers its “peer institutions,” Middlebury now ranks “at the bottom of the heap in terms of student satisfaction,” Smith Abbott said.
The survey’s troubling findings prompted the college to enlist Jim Terhune ’86, a former dean of students at Colby College, to lead student focus groups in order to interpret the results.
Terhune found the top areas of student concern to be alcohol and partying culture, residential life and the commons system, student social space, diversity and inclusion, and student-administration relations.
With regard to drinking culture, Smith Abbott said the focus groups revealed a need for new social opportunities not involving alcohol.
“Rather than imagining that non-drinkers and moderate drinkers will just figure it out, there’s a need to be more intentional about partnering with that cohort of students to develop a plan for what social life looks like,” she said.
Focus groups revealed mixed perceptions of the commons system, Smith Abbott said. First-years reported positive experiences with residential life, finding that the commons system helped them form relationships and navigate college life.
Considerable dissatisfaction emerged with the Feb program. The often-isolated Feb housing and lack of access to First-Year Counselors contributed to these negative attitudes, Smith Abbott said.
Terhune’s recommendations concerning the commons system included conducting an external review of the commons system, working to increase the number of social houses and integrating Feb and first-year housing.
Terhune also identified discontent about the lack of suitable social spaces on campus. Many identified dining halls as the only social spaces they used regularly.
“What was striking to [Terhune] when he first started talking to students was the extent to which the dining halls played a major role in how students understood social experience,” she said. “So there’s a level of imaginative programming development that still lies ahead for us when thinking about dining spaces.”
Student feedback concerning diversity and inclusion was “both not surprising and really tough,” Smith Abbott said. According to Terhune’s findings, students of color often feel as though they are “less than fully-vested members of the community,” reporting feeling physically unsafe on campus and not valued by the college.
Finally, Terhune found relations between the student body and administration to be “strained”—likely an understatement, Smith Abbott noted. Students largely perceived the administration to be out-of-touch and untrustworthy, concerned more with maintaining the school’s image than responding to the needs of its students.
Smith Abbott stressed the importance of student-administration communications. “Almost every other section of the report is impacted by this section,” she said. “If we’re going to make any headway on any of these recombinations, it will be because we make headway here.”
Administrators addressed these palpable gaps in trust between students and the administration. “It’s based on personal relationships.” Smith-Abbott said in response to a question on concrete steps the college is rebuild ties. “You’re right that if people don’t want to step into those relationships and they don’t trust someone enough to start to build on a more personal level with staff, faculty, and administrators it’s hard to move anything.”
Elizabeth Dunn ’18 followed this question by sharing concerns about the perception that the voices of alumni and trustees are privileged over the voices of current students of the College, and the role that donations play as a “middleman” between what the students want and what the administration is able to do.
There was a “divide in the alumni population as well as among parents about how the situation was treated on campus,” noted Meghan Foley Williamson ’17, an administrator in the Advancement Office. “Some showed great sympathy and empathy with the student situation, while others were quite adamant that there should be more discipline and more stringent policies.”
Williamson went on to note that some donors were not inclined to support Middlebury in the short term but there were others who wanted to continue financial ties. The net result was an almost flat result in fundraising but a small overall decline in donors.
David Donahue ‘91, an assistant to college President Laurie Patton, went on to speak about transparency on the board of trustees, noting that that the entire structure of the trustee board was changed three years ago to add a student constituent overseer who is also part of the college board of overseers.
Finally, Donahue shared that the College is “exploring the possibility for student liaisons to different standing committees to increase student access.” He also said he is willing to sit down with members of the student body for conversations about topical issues.
Judicial dean Karen Guttentag also expressed her hopes on making “structural working more transparent so people’s expectation on where they can go and when are their voices welcome and when are there moment where they may not have a voice and someone else will make a decision and why that might be.”
Faculty dean Andrea Lloyd noted that questions asked by students were “very similar” to those coming from the faculty and that “sense of trust in our community has been broken and that we have serious heeling to do is not unique to students, but something that cuts across community.”
Shifting to more financial matters, financial administrator David Provost stressed that the administration, not the board of trustees, remains the main decision maker. In regards to transparency, Provost and Patton are exploring options for sharing the financial realities of the college such as the fact that it takes “277 million dollars a year to run this institution.”
Provost later shared more justification on the new swipe system in the dining halls, maintaining that students should not be buying lunch for non-students. Provost went on to stress that the swipe system offers new data that could help to better the dining experience.
In response to questions about the possible impact of financial constraints on the college, Provost shared that Middlebury has not been “living within its operating means for five years. The dollars that we bring in from comprehensive fees, release from the endowment and gifts are not covering expenses. Last year that loss was almost 17 million dollars.” Provost continued that when compared to the 1.1 billion dollar endowment of the college this is not truly a crisis. Rather, the college is striving to be more responsible to students and alumni and cutting waste such as 51 Main which drained 200,000 dollars a year.
Dining director Dan Detora stressed that discussions on various options for a meal plan have been brought before various committees and the SGA but more consequential answer necessitates a “serious input from the student body.”
Addressing complaints against the swipe machines, Detora noted efforts are being made to speed up the systems, but the influx of 1400 students at peak lunch hours guarantees a line no matter what.
In response to threats of violence following student protests of Charles Murray’s lecture last spring, as well as recent hostilities at the University of Virginia, administrators moved to revise the college’s policies on events and invited speakers.
Provost Susan Baldridge first announced the changes in an email on Sept. 15, which outlined “interim procedures for scheduling events and invited speakers.” These new policies, Baldridge wrote, were the result of “work by members of the administration, Public Safety/Campus Security, and local and state law enforcement.”
Under these interim policies, those seeking to schedule an event will be required to submit a request three weeks in advance, and outline any potential safety risks. Proposed events will then be subject to review by the Student Activities, Event Management and Communications staff.
If that review finds that an event is “likely to be the target of threats or violence,” it will be subject to additional reviews by Public Safety and by the administration’s Risk Management team, to determine adequate safety measures. In “exceptional cases” in which the review finds “significant risk to the community,” the president and senior administrators reserve the right to cancel events.
Senior administrators began to discuss revising the event policies at the beginning of the summer. Karen Miller, vice president for human resources and risk, told The Campus that the Charles Murray protests were a motivating factor, along with related threats that ensued.
“The events of March 2 coupled with the subsequent threats against students, faculty and administrators, did create a new awareness of the risks we face,” Miller said. She added that the discussions “took on a new urgency” following the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, which were partially centered on the University of Virginia campus.
Senior Senator Hannah Pustejovsky ’18, who also served last year in the Student Government Association (SGA), is among the community members who received threats and hateful messages last semester.
“I wrote a bill trying to create an appeals process for speakers to give students an institutional way to file a complaint,” Pustejovsky said. “It must have gotten shared in some alt-right Facebook groups, because I got an influx of Facebook messages from white Texan males and my name began showing up on conservative online articles all within a three day period.”
Pustejovsky’s name, and the bill she wrote, were mentioned on a multitude of conservative internet sites, including The DailyWire, CampusReform, and The Federalist.
“It was more frustrating than anything, because it was as if these people were coming in and didn’t really know what we were talking about,” Pustejovsky said. “I couldn’t understand why these people had such a high stake in [our affairs] but didn’t take the time to research things or truly read the bill.”
According to Miller, the threats leveled against Pustejovsky were part of a larger pattern. In addition to the individual students who were targeted, the institution itself also received threats from outside sources.
One such threat emerged at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In June, a student there received a letter denouncing “mobs” and “rioters” at schools including Middlebury. The letter urged readers to put “holes in the bodies of such thugs.”
After learning of the Wisconsin incident, a college spokesman told The Campus in June they were aware of the threat.
“In the months after the protests of March 2 we became aware of a number of vague threats made against our community,” Miller said this week. “None proved to be credible.”
The college hopes these interim policies will better prepare the campus for more serious threats, should they arise, in the future.
MIDDLEBURY COMMUNITY RESPONDS
The college’s decision to implement these interim procedures generated both positive and negative responses, on and off campus.
Kyle Wright ’19.5, Co-Chair of Community Council, and no fan of Charles Murray’s, hopes that the interim procedures will foster community-building.
“There is, reflected in these interim procedures, a great degree of hope for a renewed and compassionate conversation surrounding the community we are hoping to build here at Middlebury,” said Wright, an avid defender of student protesters. “We all have an opportunity to engage in the conversations that will now follow, wherein we will seek to define guidelines that foster inclusive discourse — prior to, during, and after events — and protect the members of our community who are most historically vulnerable to violence and exclusion.”
Some conservatives, however, have criticized the procedures’ cancellation provision, which they suggest will allow protesters to shut down events pre-emptively.
Ari Fleischer ’82, a former press secretary for President George W. Bush, voiced his displeasure on Twitter, claiming that the cancellation provision “rewards the heckler's veto.”
“Speakers will not be allowed on campus if groups on campus say they will shut down the speaker,” Fleischer wrote.
Phil Hoxie ’17.5, head of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) club, voiced a similar sentiment.
“This policy falsely equates speech with violence and wrongly punishes speakers for the potential violence of others who reject the principle of free expression,” Hoxie said. “I would hope that the administration would rethink their policies to promote the rights and viewpoints of all members of our community.”
Former SGA President Karina Toy ’17 expressed concern regarding the policy’s mandate for a three-week advanced notice for future events.
“For well-planned events this should not be a problem, as reservations usually occur months in advance,” Toy said. “[But] it will force staff, students, and faculty to plan ahead of time and [could] prevent spontaneous, potentially really awesome, events from happening.”
After sending the Sept. 15 email, Baldridge said administrators have responded to “about a dozen questions” from community members relating to the interim policies. Moving forward, she plans to communicate with community groups to devise a plan for crafting permanent procedures.
“This week I’ll be reaching out to the leaders of the governance groups on campus here and in Monterey to ask how they would like to approach the process of moving to a more permanent approach,” Baldridge said on Monday. “Once we have arrived at an agreed-upon process, I’ll be letting the campus know.”
In the early morning hours of Sunday, Jan. 29, Judge Allison D. Burroughs of the District Court for Massachusetts sat inside a Boston courthouse and made an easy decision with nationwide ramifications. Burroughs, alongside Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein, issued a temporary restraining order against President Donald J. Trump’s travel ban, which had blocked entry into the United States for refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. Burroughs and Dein delayed Trump’s order for seven days, dealing a significant blow to the president’s agenda and transforming Boston’s Logan Airport into a temporary safe haven for affected travelers.
Last week, Burroughs, who graduated from Middlebury in 1983, returned to campus to provide an overview of her life and career, including the January case that thrust her into the national spotlight.
“I make a lot of super hard decisions every month,” she told an audience of students at the Hillcrest Environmental Center on Thursday, Sept. 14. “This travel ban case, to be perfectly honest, was not a hard decision. It was obvious, in my view, what needed to be done.”
“My job is not to write the law, my job is to apply the facts to the law,” Burroughs explained. “Maybe people think that it takes courage to stand up to a President of the United States. But my job isn’t to consider the politics of it — my job is to look at the law and to look at the facts. And it’s very clear that the president, in my view, didn’t have the authority to keep green card holders from entering the country. So, in terms of application of facts to law, it was very straightforward.”
A STEADY RISE
The travel ban case, Burroughs conceded, is likely to represent her “five minutes of fame.” But those five minutes came only after decades of advancements through the legal sphere, beginning as a low-level attorney in the Department of Justice. After a series of lucky breaks, Burroughs eventually became the lead prosecutor on a high-profile drug trafficking case in Philadelphia, which brought her local recognition and fulfilled a lifelong dream of trying criminal cases.
The lesson from her steady rise through the Justice Department, Burroughs said, was to beware “the danger of holding out for the most perfect thing, rather than the thing that lets you get your foot in the door and gives you a chance to prove yourself.”
Burroughs continued to work in criminal prosecution until 2005, at which point she moved to the private sector. All the while, however, a federal judgeship loomed large in her mind — particularly after numerous failed applications to Senate recommendation committees. Her moment finally arrived in 2014, when Senator Elizabeth Warren recommended Burroughs’s name to President Barack Obama for a seat on the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts.
“People ask me, ‘What was your juice, how did you get in, who did you know?’” Burroughs said. “The only thing I can really attribute it to is sheer perseverance. I went at it and at it and at it. There’s really no shame in trying and being rejected.”
ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE
In her lecture, Burroughs emphasized her willingness to speak candidly about almost any subject. Indeed, she shared that judging itself is a decidedly human enterprise.
“I’m very comfortable with everything I did during my prosecutorial career,” Burroughs said. “[But] as a judge, it is astounding the number of times I read one brief and I think, ‘They have it.’ Then, I read the other brief and I’m like, ‘Maybe they have it.’ By the time a lot of these issues get to me, they’re hard—if it were obvious, the parties would’ve worked it out themselves”
Yet, she cautioned, such subjectivity makes it all the more crucial to minimize bias. While considering the travel ban case, for example, Burroughs stressed that the human interest stories reported in the media were not a factor in her decision.
“If you don’t understand this when you’re applying to be a judge, it is drilled into you at the training you get: your job is just to apply the law to the facts. It’s not a creative position,” she said. “There’s a lot of gray area that requires some judgment calls, but you don’t get to think about what the stories are when you’re making those decisions. I didn’t think about it, I didn’t have the opportunity to think about it, and I’m glad I wasn’t in the position where it would’ve been tempting to think about it.”
Still, Burroughs admitted that the criminal justice system contains structural imperfections, particularly with regard to drug policy.
“I think that we need to have a more thoughtful criminal justice posture, by which I mean more strategic,” Burroughs said. “We can’t just be “prosecute, prosecute, prosecute; jail, jail, jail… It’s going to be very hard to kill drug distribution in this country. To get rid of violent drug distribution seems more worthwhile.”
Despite the long list of achievements that Burroughs recounted in her lecture, she told The Campus afterwards that the phenomenon of “imposter syndrome” — feeling undeserving of one’s own accomplishments — is largely unknown to her.
“I clerked after law school for [federal judge] Norma Shapiro,” Burroughs said. “The one thing clerkship gives you is: you walk away thinking, ‘If all of these buffoons can earn a living, I can too.’ You see people in court that are so terrible and unprepared. So, I come at it thinking, to be good at most things, you don’t have to be the smartest kid in the room. You just have to be the best prepared and willing to work the hardest.”
“I know there’s tons of stuff I don’t know, and I work my tail off to get competent,” Burroughs said. “I’m not the most super-confident person in the world, but I’ve always felt that if you work hard and do your best, that’s all anybody’s doing. That’s all anybody can ask of you.”
This week The Campus sat down with Kyle Wright ’19.5, Student Co-Chair of Community Council for the fall semester. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Middlebury Campus (MC): What are your main goals for the upcoming year as co-chair?
Kyle Wright (KW): The biggest things that I focused on in the platform were inclusivity and community building as an umbrella to be able to discuss and tackle various issues prevalent on campus right now. A lot of that includes financial sustainability, transparency and accountability. Environmental sustainability is also a big factor.
With the events that happened last spring, there are conversations that need to be addressed. This year, I’m finally seeing that platform become more tangible. A complicated discussion has also fallen onto my plate: the administration is hoping Community Council will do a comprehensive review of the commons system, how effective it’s been, whether it’s been realized in the way the original establishers of that system thought it would be implemented and whether it makes sense to go forward with any emendations to the system.
MC: What do you view as Community Council’s main strengths as a body? Where has it failed?
KW: My understanding is that Community Council has been an ambiguous body for a long time and has had strong suits based on the co-chair and the student, faculty and staff members that are involved. Those typically tend to lean towards this recommendation process that has been increasingly solidified over the past year, and having Community Council be less of a legislative body and more of a community forum, able to deliberate over issues in a way that SGA, staff council and faculty council don’t.
MC: What role do you envision for Community Council in the ongoing aftermath of the Charles Murray event?
KW: I think a lot of people are looking to Community Council as the only forum that can tackle the discussion of not just what happened on March 2, but why it happened, because a lot of people appreciate that it wasn’t just about Murray. So how do we engage people in conversation to get to the root of not only the how, but the why surrounding the feelings, tensions, emotions and opinions of a variety of community members who need to be brought into that conversation? What created that environment, what went unsaid prior to that explosive demonstration on March 2, and how do we find ways to be vulnerable surrounding our individual roles in that?
How do we find ways to engage each other in dialogue after we were involved in events and actions that hurt other members of this community? How do we implement restorative practices across the institution, and support the administration in doing that? That’s the first step, which means reaching out to groups who aren’t necessarily active on campus, or who probably wouldn’t apply for Community Council. We’re going to have uncomfortable and at times extremely unproductive conversations. Whether people like it or not, that needs to be done, because we need to get to a place of understanding before moving forward.
Step two is to figure out a concrete series of mechanisms through which we can move forward and get to a place where this won’t happen again. That looks like hosting more events and bringing different groups together in spaces that will create a better sense of social community. In my opinion, a lot of the divides that resulted in the demonstration in March stemmed from the fact that we don’t interact enough, so events like that are the primary focus. Working with different clubs and groups on campus to understand their needs is also extremely important. I’m toying around with the idea of assigning community councilors to be liaisons to groups on campus and bring those voices to the table without having to fill our room with 40 or 50 people at a time, which isn’t feasible.
MC: In the Campus article that ran after your election win in the spring, you stressed your desire to promote “micro-conversation and critical self-reflection” as approaches to community building, as opposed to “rhetoric and confrontational free speech.” How do you hope to create spaces for these types of interactions?
KW: The majority of my work is going to be reaching out to constituencies and making sure there are lines of communication to get people there in the first place. The majority of the work implementing those events and mechanisms will go to Tina Brook in the spring.
That said, there are some integral mechanisms. I’d love to put together a series of reports that focus on issues that people want to know about. I want to work with people who are invested in this community and people who are not necessarily invested. I don’t want to put an idea out there that is just coming out of my head. I want to see what’s relevant for groups on campus and what’s going to help them participate more fully in these conversations.
A big part of this is coalitional resilience, which I’ve talked about relatively constantly since March 2. It’s the idea that rhetorical resilience isn’t necessarily enough. It’s a great theory and Laurie Patton put a lot of work, passion and time into her theorizations and conversations surrounding it. But if March 2 showed us one thing it’s that rhetorical resilience doesn’t take into account the lived experiences and traumas that can be dredged up by rhetoric. So for me it’s about allowing people to have hard conversations and then step back into safe spaces in order to recharge.
MC: Moving from SGA to CC, you’ve gone from working separately from administrators to working alongside them. How do you feel about that new collaboration?
KW: I have a terrific working relationship with Laurie Patton, Katy Smith Abbott, Baishakhi Taylor and [Associate Dean of Students] Doug Adams, so it’s easier for me to step into those spaces. Other students don’t necessarily have that luxury, so making sure that they do is a big focus. A huge part of that includes the administration owning up to things that a lot of us don’t want to talk about. That includes the fact that a lot of the student protesters sanctioned after March 2 were [sanctioned] in a way that was deeply isolating and targeting to those students. Many of them only had a few weeks left on campus and left Middlebury with memories of being, in essence, prosecuted by investigators, and having to prove themselves innocent prior to being assumed so. An entire other degree of damage was done in those weeks following the Murray protest.
Being able to own what we participated in so long as that’s safe to do, not going at each other’s throats for our political leanings or individual beliefs and stepping into a space where we can seek to understand and not critique is key. I think the most important thing we can do is reach out in ways that are uncomfortable. People need to have safe spaces. They allow participation in difficult discussions. But I think this community still has the power to have transformative conversations. This is a hard time for our college community, but I have faith that we’re going to be able to come out of it better than when we went in.
Katy Smith Abbott, vice president for student affairs and dean of the college, will step down from her role in the administration at the end of December. She will continue teaching as a full-time professor in the art history department.
Smith Abbott’s decision was first announced in August by President Laurie L. Patton. “I am both saddened at the thought of not having her as a member of the senior administration and pleased that she is remaining at Middlebury and following her academic and personal interests,” Patton said in an email to students
Baishakhi Taylor, the current dean of students, will become interim vice president for student affairs on Jan. 1, 2018.
In an email to The Campus, Smith Abbott shared several goals for her remaining few months. First, she hopes to “continue to work on the implementation of Restorative Practices at Middlebury,” an effort that was renewed last spring in the wake of disciplinary proceedings relating to student protests of Charles Murray. Smith Abbott said that facilitated workshops on restorative practices are slated to take place this week, followed by an intensive training program later in the year.
Second, Smith Abbott plans to “share with the student body and the broader community the results of a social life study that was conducted through student focus groups last year.” Once the results have been publicized, she said, “we will need to work as a community to prioritize the many recommendations articulated in the report.”
Finally, Smith Abbott plans to work closely with the Student Affairs Leadership Team, composed of several other administrators, to “ensure a smooth transition” following her departure. “This is a group of seasoned professionals and strong leaders, so I’m not worried,” she said, “just committed to doing all I can to support each of these great colleagues.”
In her August email, Patton praised Smith Abbott for her work to expand MiddView Trips, provide stipends for J-term courses and summer internships, and her role in the creation of “First@Midd,” a program for incoming first-generation students.
“Over the years Katy has led and inspired numerous initiatives to improve the experience of our undergraduate student,” Patton wrote. “Through it all, Katy has worked to enrich the experience for all of our students.”
Smith Abbott first arrived at Middlebury in 1996. From 2002 to 2008 she and her husband, Steve Abbott, a math professor, served as faculty co-heads of Ross Commons. She was then appointed associate dean of the college and later, in 2011, dean of students. In 2014 then-president Ronald D. Liebowitz appointed Smith Abbott to her current position. She originally served on an interim basis but was formally named to the post later that year.
Taylor came to Middlebury in 2015 from Duke University, where she worked under Patton in Duke’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. Like Smith Abbott, Taylor may eventually be named the official dean of the college despite being an interim appointment, although Smith Abbott had been employed by the college for 18 years when she was promoted.
Will DiGravio and Ethan Brady contributed reporting.
In the wake of the disciplinary proceedings relating to student protests of Charles Murray, administrators and students have renewed past discussions about implementing restorative justice and restorative practices at the College.
These two terms are often used interchangeably, and their difference can sometimes be ambiguous. However, restorative justice is often defined as consisting of community-building alternatives to punitive action after an incident, while restorative practices refer to broader efforts to cultivate relationships and prevent conflict.
When it comes to the use of such policies in response to the Murray incident, however, students and administrators have articulated differing understandings of restorative justice and whether or not it could be applied retroactively.
In a conversation with The Campus, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of the College Katy Smith Abbott focused largely on restorative practices, which she characterized as a holistic “culture shift” that would not necessarily impact the basic structure of the judicial process. Though Smith Abbott stressed that she, like others in the community, is still gaining a fuller understanding of restorative practices, she expressed a reluctance to apply them immediately to the Murray protests.
“We’re in a really tough moment now where many of us can say, ‘Oh, if we’d already had restorative practices on this campus we would’ve had different kinds of conversations, post-March 2, that could’ve potentially influenced the judicial process,’” Smith Abbott said. “We are not comfortable saying we’re going to implement [restorative practices] in a rush.” She cited the advice of experts in restorative practices, with whom administrators have consulted, as the reasoning for taking a slower approach to implementation.
Rather than changing existing judicial procedures, Smith Abbott expects these practices to provide additional avenues for dealing with conflict. “It’s expanding the menu considerably, so that we have different resources and competencies to be able to ensure that we care for individuals and communities,” she said.
Even if restorative practices were applied retroactively to Murray protesters, she noted, “It’s not to say that there would be no judicial sanction for a policy violation, but [only] that the conversation would be informed by this work.”
In recent weeks, however, student advocates have advanced their own interpretation. A flier distributed throughout campus, titled “No Discipline Without Justice,” demands that the College “immediately halt its official disciplinary process and reconsider all discipline leveled against Mar. 2 protesters.” The flier also calls for the implementation of restorative practices, which, it asserts, “can radically and progressively change the College’s culture.” Additionally, in solidarity with students facing discipline, organizers at the Chellis House distributed armbands and pins reading “RJ,” for restorative justice.
Travis Sanderson ’19, who has been involved in the student advocacy, discussed its importance in an email to the Campus. “Without restorative practices, there is no long-term institutional change that will last and address sufficiently the pain and harm currently felt among segments of our community,” he said.
“Fortunately, we are moving forward as a College with restorative practices,” he continued. “Just not quickly enough."
The administration’s consideration of these topics may have its origins in a December 2015 town hall discussion with President of Middlebury Laurie L. Patton. At that time, Patton raised the possibility of implementing restorative justice in the context of bias and cultural appropriation, noting that restorative justice “focuses less on the idea of legal violation and more on the ideas of community and repair.”
In the spring of 2016, a four-step plan was created for implementing these practices at Middlebury. According to that plan, restorative practices “seek to build relationships and a sense of community in order to prevent future wrongdoings or conflict.” In addition, they aim to “reduce, prevent, and improve harmful behavior, repair harm and restore relationships and resolve conflict and hold groups and individuals accountable.”
Ultimately, however, due to financial restrictions, the College was unable to move forward with the plan. Its $30,000 price tag was impractical as concerns surfaced College’s financial difficulties, and the timing of the proposal would have required that it receive discretionary funding rather than simply being included in the annual budget.
Thus, the College has yet to implement the proposed plan, which would take about a year to complete. “We would need to have at least fifty trained facilitators on campus to address any conflict or concern using restorative justice practices,” Dean of Students Baishakhi Taylor said in an email. “It would take about twelve to sixteen months to get this many colleagues trained and create appropriate scaffolding of support around the practice before implementing it.”
Student advocates have cited Patton’s 2015 words as evidence for the benefits of restorative practices. In response, while Smith Abbott acknowledged the “understandable desire to say that this thing that the president first named as restorative justice could be implemented right now,” she concluded, “I don’t see the things as antagonistic — restorative practices and an approach to college policy violations being adjudicated by a community board.”
Still, Smith Abbott left open the possibility that the implementation of restorative practices could change the course of future disciplinary processes. “In terms of how restorative practices would impact the outcome of policy violations, I think that’s very real,” she said. “I think that’s where the Judicial Affairs Officers and the Dean of Students, in conversation with me and probably several others, would determine how we balance a desire to uphold college policies ... with the primary goal of any disciplinary process, which is individual growth, education, community and the repair of any fissure that has occurred.”
Editor’s Note: This article is the second in a series that will examine the current financial state of the College. In recent years, the College has run budget deficits and has been forced to rein in spending in order to ensure long term financial stability. These articles will aim to inform the Middlebury community about the College’s financial situation, dispel rumors, raise new questions and, hopefully, spark new debates about how the College operates and spends its money.
A flawed policy intended to limit Middlebury College’s yearly tuition increases has been a major contributor to its current financial troubles, and will require significant tuition increases in coming years.
The policy, first announced by then-Middlebry President Ronald D. Liebowitz in 2010, capped the annual increase in the College’s comprehensive fee at one percentage point above the Consumer Price Index, which is commonly used as an indicator of inflation.
At the time, Liebowitz described the policy, known informally as “CPI + 1,” as a necessary step towards controlling the increasing costs of a liberal arts education. “We need to recognize that the demand for a four-year liberal arts degree, while still great, is not inelastic,” he said in a February 2010 speech. “There will be a price point at which even the most affluent of families will question their investment; the sooner we are able to reduce our fee increases the better.”
By 2014, however, the College was forced to revise its policy. Facing rising budget deficits, the College announced that CPI + 1 would apply to student tuition only, rather than the comprehensive fee, which includes room and board. Ultimately, in April 2015, the College fully ceased its implementation of the policy, though a news release noted that the formula “moved Middlebury College from the top to the near bottom on its peer list of most expensive liberal arts institutions.”
David Provost, executive vice president for finance and administration, spoke with The Campus about the policy’s repercussions and how they may be addressed. According to Provost, the College’s biggest error was to voluntarily limit its own revenue stream without a plan to address rising expenses — namely in financial aid and other operating costs.
“It was a nice gesture to [implement the policy],” Provost said. “But what’s absent for me is any plan on how we were going to control costs.”
From 2012 to 2016, Provost said, the College generated new revenue at a rate of only 1.8 percent, while expenses increased by five percent. To compensate for that deficit, Provost expects that the College will raise tuition by four to five percent above the rate of inflation in next year’s budget.
Provost said that the College expects its yearly tuition growth to stabilize at roughly three percent by 2020 or 2021. By that point, it hopes to achieve financial stability — a state in which its revenues meet or exceed its expenses.
Once that process is completed, Provost expects the College’s tuition to rank in the middle to top third of its so-called “peer overlap institutions” — a group that he defined as “where [Middlebury students] didn’t go, but where they applied to.”
Provost anticipates an increase in financial aid funding next year along with tuition, asserting that tuition growth “won’t significantly affect our ability to attract a lot more high-need students.”
In the long-term, Provost said that President of Middlebury Laurie L. Patton hopes to increase the College’s endowment in order to fund financial aid, moving away from the current system, which funds aid largely through revenue collected from tuition payments.
The first article in this series, detailing how the College has spent more than anticipated on financial aid, can be found here.
On Feb. 19 at the Student Government Association (SGA) meeting, President Karina Toy ’17 revealed that President of Middlebury Laurie L. Patton had previously informed her that the administration would be capable of funding the $50,000 for MiddView orientation trips without help from the SGA.
Toy’s announcement, made during the SGA’s most recent meeting, brought about an abrupt and surprising end to the funding issue, which the SGA had been debating since the administration’s initial request on Jan. 15. Toy explained that this initial request — that the SGA assist in funding for three years, beginning in fall 2017 — was the result of a miscommunication with President Patton.
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of the College Katy Smith Abbott, one of the three administrators who made the original request to the SGA, emphasized that the administration regrets the misunderstanding.
“Unfortunately, our initial communication with SGA created an impression that the College could not afford to continue the program and, perhaps worse, was not committed to it,” she wrote in an email to the Campus. “This was never the case. We believe MiddView is an important experience for incoming students.”
According to Toy, the misunderstanding arose from Patton’s previous experience at Duke University. At Duke, budget specifications are re-negotiated each year, which was a process that seemed unfamiliar for many at the College.
“From a Middlebury SGA/student perspective, being asked for money by the administration is a giant red flag that sets off a lot of alarm bells,” said Toy in an email. As a result, President Patton’s original intent — to informally inquire whether the SGA would be willing to assist in funding — was interpreted as a formal request.
Instead, the administration’s inquiry to the SGA regarding the potential for funding MiddView was intended to be an invitation to a renewed partnership.
“We understand why that message was received differently, and once we saw that was the case, we reaffirmed our commitment to MiddView and clarified that the program was not at risk,” said Smith Abbott.
“Communication on MiddView Trips funding went sideways,” Toy said. “President Patton was not here and we didn’t get the chance to talk so both of us could better understand the situation; where I was coming from and where she was coming from.”
It was unclear where the administration was able to locate the additional funds.
“While the College is reviewing its operating expenses carefully, as it should every year,” Smith Abbott said, “it is important to acknowledge and recognize that Middlebury is fortunate to have the resources it does. Among the many things this makes possible is a high-quality orientation program for incoming students.”
“In the future,” she continued, “we will be more mindful of the impact a well-intentioned proposal might have even as we continue our practice of inviting students to discuss issues when they have concerns or questions.”
“I think both SGA and the administration learned a lot from this experience,” Toy said, “especially how to interact and communicate in the future. I am very optimistic for the future of our relationship.”
With this assurance that the administration will supply the $50,000 that was originally asked of the SGA, MiddView trips will remain a mandatory requirement for incoming students free of charge. It also means that the SGA did not have to vote among a series of proposals that would have forced the SGA to decide between raising the student activities fee, dip into the SGA’s reserve funding, or decrease the budgets of existing clubs.
College Provost Susan Baldridge announced in an all-College email on Jan. 23 that in September, the Board of Trustees had unanimously approved an Intellectual Property (IP) policy that will address the legal ownership of all academic and creative work produced by members of the Middlebury community. In addition, Baldridge announced the formation of an ongoing IP committee that will be charged with regularly evaluating the policy, receiving feedback and proposing revisions.
“Prior to September, Middlebury did not have an intellectual property policy, which was a problem,” Baldridge said in an email to the Campus. “A policy was needed in order to clarify the legal rights and responsibilities of those in our community doing intellectual, creative and innovative work.”
Baldridge expects the new policy to help sustain the work of students, faculty and staff, stressing that the policy “assigns rights to the institution only in cases where there is a significant investment of institutional resources or where the institutional identity is clearly implicated.” Baldridge also noted that the policy treats the work of these three groups equally, which she finds “consistent with Middlebury’s innovative spirit.”
Another of the policy’s strengths, according to Associate Provost for Digital Learning Amy Collier, is that it “approaches Intellectual Property in a conversational way, rather than as a prescriptive legal document.” This approach, she said, arises from Middlebury’s cultural emphasis on “the merits of negotiation and good faith judgement by IP creators.”
Collier will serve as chair of the IP committee, which will be composed of faculty and staff from various segments of the institution. In that role, Collier said, “I encourage conversations about IP scenarios among the Committee members and include them on any inquiries and communications we receive from members of the Middlebury community.”
Overall, Baldridge said, the policy will have few noticeable effects, “since ownership of the vast majority of creative work will remain with the creator by default.” That said, the College “will be highlighting the new policy for those seeking significant funding from Middlebury, and will reach out to individuals when we believe questions about IP might be relevant to work they are doing.”
The full IP policy and committee membership can be viewed at go/ippolicy.
On Jan. 29, a federal court in Boston issued a temporary stay on President Donald J. Trump’s executive order barring travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries. For Professor of Religion Ata Anzali and his wife, who were spending his sabbatical in their native Iran, this ruling necessitated an agonizing choice: return immediately to the U.S., abandoning the research projects they had worked on for months, or remain in Iran until June as they had originally planned, with the danger of being denied entry into the U.S. upon their return.
Anzali, his wife, and the elder of his two daughters are all permanent residents of the U.S.; his younger daughter is a U.S. citizen. Unwilling to risk having their family separated, the Anzalis ultimately decided, in consultation with attorneys and College administrators, to return to the U.S., and arrived safely in Boston on Feb. 3. This week, Anzali spoke to Nick Garber, a News Editor for the Campus, about his trip back to Vermont, the impact of Trump’s order in his home country and the type of activism he hopes to see from the Middlebury community.
Nick Garber (NG): What role has the College played in this process?
Ata Anzali (AA): I was in constant conversation with President Patton and the senior administration, including Andi Lloyd, the dean of the faculty. They were really helpful and very proactive, and I’m grateful for the help that I received. Eventually, they strongly urged me to come back as soon as possible, and even though that was a really difficult decision for me to make, I decided that was the best course of action we could take.
I feel fortunate. My case was probably one of the easier ones. I had support, I was a permanent resident, I had a full-time job here at a good institution. But there were all these visa holders and refugees who didn’t know anyone here; sometimes it was their first time coming here. So it’s terrible to think about what they’ve been going through. In many cases like that, you don’t even know what resources you have. When we entered Boston, after we passed [Customs and Border Protection] and went out to the terminal, so many people greeted us right there; there were volunteers and lawyers and stuff on standby. But I knew they were there. If you’re a refugee in a camp in Sudan or Somalia, how do you know there are people who are willing to help you, who you can just call?
NG: Before you left Iran, what kinds of opinions did you encounter towards Trump and the U.S.? Do people consider Trump to be representative of the U.S. as a whole?
AA: Before Trump was elected president, the situation was not much different from here [in the U.S.], in terms of people, by and large, saying, “This is not gonna happen. There’s no way this guy could be the president.” And then this happened. he response was really interesting because of the people that I talked to, overwhelmingly, their first response was, “Oh, this guy is exactly like our past President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” The same kind of bombastic style, being more concerned with what you think rather than what is appropriate process. It was interesting to hear people saying, “Well we had eight years of that disaster and now it’s America’s turn.” But the problem of that is that Ahmadinejad was the president of a country with significant regional influence but not global influence. Now you have a guy who has tremendous influence on world affairs.
The other part was that people I’ve seen do realize that the [American] political system and its people are different. But at the same time, the far right in Iran is taking tremendous advantage of the situation in America. For example, the Supreme Leader, in his latest meeting with some people, said, “I thank this guy who is now the President of the United States because he has revealed the true face of America.” This is what he wanted, he’s basically dancing all over the place. So that’s really disturbing to see how politicians on both sides benefit from more tension and more conflict. Whether it’s the far right in Iran or the far right here, they’re happy.
NG: What do you think is important for Middlebury students to understand about the ban and the people that it’s affecting?
AA: I think it’s a collective responsibility. It’s not just students; it’s us, faculty, everyone in this community. There is no way around the fact that the ban was a thinly disguised plan of religious discrimination. Trump made it clear during the campaign what he wanted to do, and this was probably the least legally troublesome way of doing it: to start with seven countries and then see what happens. So I’m really worried about how the Islamophobic discourse has suddenly jumped to this central, politically powerful place. When I taught my intro to Islam courses, I talked about these people with my students. But these were marginal people, who now have a strong influence in the White House.
The bottom line is that this is about Islam in America. It’s not about Iran, it’s not about any of those issues. It’s about Islam and its relationship to America. I do teach courses on Islam and I have a course on Islam in America, but I feel that I haven’t been doing what I could to reach out to the wider community. For every single one of us, we have to think about how we get out of the bubble that is Middlebury. I’m not saying that everyone in Middlebury thinks the same way or that everybody is enlightened, but I think there’s a huge gap, when you think about [the fact that] almost half of the people that voted in that election voted for Trump, and according to polls they support this ban. I don’t think those numbers are that big at the College, but then in the larger community, it would probably be [closer to the national rate]. So I think both for students and [faculty], we have to come together to think about how we can reach out to the community, how can we find ways to make connections to Muslim-Americans, and seek ways to coordinate our efforts with them. To educate the larger population that sharia law is not a threat to America, or that Islam is not a political ideology.
In my classes for next year, I’m thinking about how to create a syllabus that is more reflective of the wider conversations about Islam in this country, rather than some elitist snobbish subjects that I or my students might like. For instance, I like to teach about Sufism and Islamic mysticism, since that’s where my expertise is. But given the level of discourse in society, and the questions about jihad, about sharia, about violence, about treatment of women in Islam — I think I have to tackle them, and those discussions have to be part of the events that we do in the College. At the same time, we have to make these borders a little more porous. Community members don’t typically attend college events. How can we make connections to be able to have more impact, not just on students and our peers but also on the community? That’s something I don’t have a good answer for, but we have to think about that together.
NG: So you’re envisioning a two-part outreach to the Muslim-American community as well as to some more prejudiced groups?
AA: Yeah. Honestly, I think that many of the students I know, even those who are opposed to this ban, don’t have a Muslim friend. So I think we need to be more conscious about making those connections. There are, I think, questions deep down that we wonder about, but we don’t ask because we’re afraid of being accused of bias. I think there is some sort of political correctness, even among students who would identify as progressive.
So on the one hand, we need to make connections to people who are affected; to minorities, especially Muslim-Americans. And at the same time, if you need to engage the community to correct prejudices, to show them that Islam is not a threat — I don’t think you could do that effectively if you don’t have a Muslim friend. Those human connections make a lot of difference. If you have a Muslim friend then you can invite him or her to a meeting where there are some other opinions. And then when they see a real person in front of them, it makes a lot of difference. They can’t just say in abstract, “This is a threat.” They have to talk about this person.
NG: Sometimes, especially in the discussions of race that take place on campus, there’s a notion that members of a marginalized group should never be responsible for educating others — that that should be a job for people who aren’t being victimized. Do you have thoughts on that? If the idea is that Muslim members of the community should go out to these prejudiced people and educate them, I imagine there could be some pushback.
AA: What I meant wasn’t just for the Muslim students to go out and educate. We have a collective responsibility. But as someone who lives in this community, because I know about these issues, I do think that I have a responsibility to reach out and say, “If you want me to be part of a conversation, I’m here.” I’m not confined to my college classes. I can actually spend some time in a church community and have a conversation with you guys.
So I do think that, of course, the onus is mostly on the people who are not the minority. But I don’t think just sitting passively as a minority and saying, “Well, people are gonna come and reach out to us” — I don’t think that’s a constructive approach. Muslim-Americans need to be more proactive about showing their humanity. “We’re human, we don’t think about subverting American institutions every day.”
Your question reminded me of this conversation we had in my first-year seminar. There was this JusTalks series, an evening meeting once a week that my students attended. The discussions were about race and ethnicity and all the students were white. I think that the students understand that maybe that’s okay, but those conversations need to happen with real people. You can’t just have an abstract conversation about race, about religious discrimination. So that’s what I meant: that all students need to be more proactive about making more connections. There has to be more willingness on both sides to work with each other and reach out to the wider community.
Representatives from the College administration formally asked members of the Student Government Association (SGA) on Jan. 15 to assist in the funding of MiddView orientation trips for three years, beginning in fall 2017.
MiddView trips in their current form — mandatory for all students and free of charge — have existed since fall 2013. The SGA and the College agreed to split the cost for the program’s first three years, with the College assuming full financial responsibility in fall 2016. However, facing unexpected financial challenges in recent months, the College has been forced to turn back to the SGA. As it stands, the College is asking the SGA to contribute $50,000, roughly one-fourth of MiddView’s $204,000 cost for 2017.
The SGA is not obligated to comply with the College’s request, and may choose to refuse any contribution whatsoever, to fund only a portion of what the College has requested, or to fund only one year.
Speaking to The Campus, three administrators charged with approaching the SGA discussed the causes of the College’s financial predicament, the importance of fully funding MiddView trips and the possible consequences should the SGA decline to do so.
“Some of the unexpected [financial] challenges that the broader institution has faced, including the undergraduate college, means that while we’re certainly financially strong — our endowment points to that — we still need to make certain decisions to ensure that we preserve that endowment,” said Dean of the College Katy Smith Abbott. “That has meant a kind of fiscal belt-tightening, and now a pulling-back for fiscal year 2018, so that non-compensation budgets are being cut by four percent.”
The Administration’s decision to turn to the SGA, Smith Abbott explained, resulted from the “pre-existing collaborative partnership” that already existed between the two groups. “Because that previous partnership had been suggested as a pitch by students to the senior administration, I think that seemed as though it was a fruitful place to begin the conversation,” she said.
Funding MiddView trips in full, they agreed, is crucial to the mission of the program. Derek Doucet, associate dean of students for student activities & orientation, explained that “a single unifying experience that every student goes through at the beginning of college is really valuable, particularly in a time where we’re trying to be more intentional in the way we address issues of equity and inclusion.”
“This is a program where athletes and non-athletes mix, where international students mix with domestic students,” Doucet said. “It’s very intentional in the fact that the groups that we create are drawn from across all different areas of campus. To have that first experience be one that is immediately breaking down some perceived barriers that are often talked about on this campus, I think is really valuable.”
An SGA decision to refuse funding, while not catastrophic, would compromise these strengths. “We’re not saying that if we don’t get this funding from the SGA, MiddView is going to collapse,” Doucet said. “But it would look very different than it has in the past, that’s for sure.”
“We could think about a fee-based program with a very generous financial aid packet built in so that socioeconomic considerations were not a barrier,” he said. “But there are equity and philosophical issues that I have with that particular approach too. So we would have an opportunity, beginning in 2018, to completely rethink how we run the trips program.”
“The way the program is run right now is the most inclusive way we could run it,” agreed Amanda Reinhardt, assistant director of orientation. “In the outdoor education and recreation world, there’s a huge lack of people of color participating in that way, and so what would that mean for students on this campus who maybe don’t already feel welcome here, to have to make that choice: do I opt into this program, or do I not?”
“It doesn’t mean we wouldn’t make a different model inclusive,” Reinhardt said. “There would just be more barriers to participation that we would need to lower. We’d need a lot of help and creativity to figure out how to lower those barriers.”
The SGA will decide whether or not to fund MiddView at their Jan. 22 meeting. According to Interim SGA Finance Committee Chair Peter Dykeman-Bermingham, who delivered a presentation at the Jan. 15 meeting of the SGA, there are several different courses of action that the SGA could take should they decide to fund the program.
“I was looking at [several] options should the Senate decide that they are going to fund it,” he said. “I was very seriously considering student value, of where we put money for impact. Our allocations fund everything from cultural orgs and club sports, to food and service clubs. And I want to make sure that the student body, holistically, gets the most out of their money.”
One option that the SGA has, should the body decide to allocate funds towards MiddView, would be to decrease all spending by five percent, thus resulting in a cut of student organization budgets. Members of the SGA could also choose to tap into the SGA’s reserve fund which, according to Dykeman-Bermingham, is just over $100,000. The SGA reserve fund is used to fund new money requests, as well as any unanticipated expenditures that may occur throughout the year.
“Our reserve has two major functions. One is insurance, so that if something goes wrong we have the funds and capital to put money towards it,” Dykeman-Bermingham said. “The other is to encourage innovation in the student activities realm. If someone comes to the [Finance Committee] with a very good idea that we hadn’t originally budgeted for, that’s the piggy bank we’ll reach into to help promote and bring that to fruition.”
Another course of action that the SGA could take would be to raise the Student Activities Fee (SAF). At present, the SAF is roughly $415 and is used to fund student-sponsored organizations and on-campus activities. It is the responsibility of the SGA Finance Committee and, for larger expenditures, the SGA Senate to distribute this money each year. Students who receive financial aid do not pay the SAF, as it is included as a part of financial aid packages.
The SAF is set by the Board of Trustees and, historically, has been adjusted each year by the consumer price index (CPI). The SGA would need to recommend that the Board of Trustees raise the SAF by $20.40 to cover the entire cost of MiddView.
Dykeman-Bermingham also presented two integrated solutions to members of the SGA that included raising the SAF, depleting reserves and decreasing SGA spending.
The first option would be to raise the SAF by the consumer price index (CPI) plus two percent. This would raise the SAF to $430 and generate an additional $36,750 in revenue per year. The SGA would then deplete their reserves by roughly $30,000 over three years and decrease annual spending by 0.3 percent ($3,250).
The second option would be to raise SAF by the standard CPI plus one percent, deplete reserves by $30,000 over three years and decrease annual SGA spending by 1.3 percent ($13,050).
According to Dykeman-Bermingham, several one year options are also being considered. While the final decision lies with members of the SGA, Dykeman-Bermingham said that the finance committee will advise the SGA should they seek their counsel.
A final decision will be made at the Jan. 22 meeting of the SGA.
Middlebury College moved to increase its support of current and prospective students who are living in the country illegally, according to a statement released by Laurie L. Patton over Thanksgiving break, in an emphatic rebuke of President-elect Donald J. Trump’s promises to end illegal immigration.
The statement on Nov. 23 came a week after about 400 students, faculty and staff staged a “walk-out” in front of Old Chapel protesting Trump’s proposed mass deportations and urging administrators to take direct action.
In the statement, Patton said that the College will “not voluntarily share” student records with federal or state law enforcement officials in deportation efforts.
“We will take every legal measure to support our undocumented students as we continue to live up to our principles of educational access and inclusivity,” Patton said.
The College will continue to provide pro bono legal assistance to students with questions about their immigration status through the office of International Student and Scholar Services. Dan Berger, an immigration lawyer in Massachusetts, will come to campus for two days to host an information session and hold individual meetings with students. The information session will be Dec. 2 in Dana Auditorium at 5 p.m. and individual appointments will be schedule the next day between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Curran & Berger LLP, the law firm where Berger is a partner, advises clients on legal routes under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an executive immigration policy that allows certain immigrants to the United States who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. The federal government has estimated that the DACA program provides temporary resident status to about 728,000 young people.
Beginning with next year’s applicants for the class of 2022, the Office of Admissions will evaluate applications from prospective students living in the country illegally under its need-blind admissions policy, which applies to all domestic applicants. The College will commit to meeting the full demonstrated financial need, as determined by Student Financial Services, of students admitted under this effort.
The Office of Admissions has reviewed applications in the past from prospective students living in the country illegally, but did so on a need-aware basis. About a dozen such students are currently enrolled at the College, according to an estimate given by Bill Burger, vice president for communications.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a memorandum to its agents in 2011 stating that certain enforcement actions should not occur at “sensitive locations,” including schools, hospitals and churches, without prior approval. The policy, which is still in effect, specified arrests, interviews, searches and surveillance as off-limits. But the memorandum specifically stated that obtaining records and serving subpoenas are not covered by the policy.
The president has wide latitude in enforcing immigration law, meaning that ICE’s policies can change depending on how the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, sets its priorities. Trump is expected to select a secretary for this agency who shares his hard-line stance on immigration.
Lawyers for the Obama administration used this executive authority as legal basis for delaying deportation of certain immigrants, including children and those without criminal records. But the next president would have the same authority to reverse that course.
Trump’s campaign website lists ten steps under immigration. He pledges to “end sanctuary cities” and “immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties” — referring to DACA and DAPA, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans. Trump promised repeatedly on the campaign trail to reverse President Obama’s executive orders granting temporary resident status to certain classes of immigrants. The plan also says that Trump plans to triple the number of ICE agents employed by the government.
“This is what it means to have laws and to have a country,” the plan reads.
In a 60 Minutes interview on Nov. 20, President-elect Trump said he planned to immediately deport all living in the country illegally who “have criminal records” after his inauguration next January. When pressed on his campaign pledge to deport even those without criminal records, Trump said that after securing the border, his administration would make a “determination” on the remaining immigrants, who number about 11.3 million according to Pew Research Center.
When asked if the College would obey a federal court order requiring cooperation with ICE officials, Burger said the College “will always comply” with court orders.
“We are not above the law,” he said.
Some have doubted that Trump will focus his deportation efforts on nonviolent children of immigrants who are studying in the U.S.
“We find it hard to believe that Trump will suddenly revoke work cards and DACA from 750,000 high achieving students,” said lawyers at Curran & Berger LLP in a notice on the firm’s website. “Perhaps more likely is that he could stop DACA extensions. Moving to deport these students would be another radical step — if they just lose their DACA status, that would be awful, but we can advise them as we did pre-DACA.”
But student organizers of the walk-out protest on Nov. 16 are wary to believe speculation that Trump will moderate his agenda.
“We look forward to continuing conversations with President Patton and other members of the administration to talk about the ways that the college can continue to work in solidarity with students on campus and members of our community,” said Austin Kahn ’17.5, one of the organizers.
Organizers believed that the College’s response to the walk-out was a necessary step in protecting students who are in danger of deportation and in alleviating the concerns of community members.
“In our view, Laurie Patton simply responded to the huge public pressure demonstrated by both the walk-out itself and the letter signed by well over 1,500 students, faculty, staff and alumni,” Kahn said. “While we were definitely excited to see so many people willing to take time out of their daily activities, we would expect nothing less during a time when there exist real and unmistakable threats to the wellbeing of marginalized people on our campus and in our country more generally.”
News of Donald J. Trump’s election as the nation’s 45th president sent waves of shock and uncertainty throughout campus, prompting students to stage protests against the president-elect and discussions of what the next four years will bring.
For many, election night was a surprising and ultimately devastating display of the American electoral system at work. The long election season culminated in a packed Crossroads Café Tuesday night Nov. 8. When, at 7 p.m., Vermont projected to go for Hillary Clinton, the group of mostly liberal-leaning students cheered loudly, proud of the state for being the first in the country to vote for Clinton.
Most students felt optimistic at this point, and Crossroads had a celebratory feel. People chatted with friends and shouted happily when early states were projected for Clinton. For some students, a Clinton victory was all but inevitable.
“I’m very confident in a Hillary victory; I’m just curious to see how much America will go for Trump,” James Callison ’17.5 said early in the night. “The only thing I am concerned about, however, is the Senate election. I’m worried it’s going to go 51-49 Republicans.”
Others did not share Callison’s certainty, but nonetheless felt that Clinton would most likely end up pulling through.
“[I feel] sort of cautiously optimistic, which is bad, because you want to feel hopeful that reasonably optimistic predictions from statisticians and political watchers… are solid predictions that you have faith in,” Noah Liebmiller ’17.5 said. “But at the same time, there’s a lot of self-doubt. I would hate to have my hopes crushed at the end of the day. One in four things happen all the time. Cubs came back from 3-1 the other day. Cavaliers came back from 3-1 in July. Nothing’s ever sure.”
At the same time, Liebmiller felt excited for election night and looked forward to watching the contest unfold.
“We’ve been waiting for this to happen for almost two years, and every day it got a little bit more intense, and so many crazy things have happened,” he said. “If you’re a nerd who loves politics, this is like Christmas morning, but it’s only once every four years.”
Charlotte Massey ’18, on the other hand, did not have much optimism and half-jokingly explained her contingency plan if Donald Trump were to emerge victorious.
“We’re flying to Europe tomorrow for a debate tournament, so the mindset is, if Trump wins, we’re just staying there,” she said.
In spite of the nerves, the atmosphere remained relaxed and congenial well into the night. Students enthusiastically grabbed free Grille food and watched as Matthew Dickinson and Bert Johnson, professors of political science, commented on the results as they rolled in. Until about 9 p.m., Dickinson and Johnson reiterated that Donald Trump had a very narrow path to victory.
And then it became clear that Trump was outperforming expectations. Dickinson and Johnson began to express surprise as states like Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin remained extremely close with slight Trump leads.
The hum of conversation in Crossroads softened as students realized what was happening. The cheers for the few states that were called for Clinton became even louder. Conversations turned toward expressions of anger and frustration.
“It really pisses me off that it’s even this close because if she wins it’s still really depressing about what’s happening in America,” Caley Henderson ’18 said.
“So many people seemed so confident, and I thought I was ready mentally for the idea that it was going to be close,” Liebmiller said. “And I’m still not clear whether it’s close yet, but it’s starting to feel really close, and that’s not a pleasant thing.”
By 12 a.m., many of the students at Crossroads were thinking back to that moment that Vermont was projected and wishing the rest of the night would have gone much differently. Crossroads had closed, and Pennsylvania would soon be called for Trump.
At 3 a.m. on Wed. Nov. 9, Trump had been declared victorious and gave his acceptance speech to the nation.
“I felt that the values of America had failed those that are most vulnerable in society,” Callison said later about his reaction when he realized that Trump had won.
He and several other students gathered in Crossroads again on Wednesday morning to discuss the results, express their feelings and commiserate. Political Science professors, including Johnson, Sarah Stroup, Erik Bleich and Orion Lewis, led the conversation and attempted to give students some context for the election. But even they had a challenging time making sense of the results.
“This has been one of the most extraordinary elections in memory, with a result that most political scientists would not have bet on,” Johnson said later. “Those of us who study U.S. elections will now have to examine why the polling data leading up to the election was out of step with the result.”
While the students had come together to watch Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, the gathering ended up being a catharsis of sorts. It was a moment for students and professors alike to try to make sense of the intense emotions they were feeling.
For the rest of the week, many students and staff at the College struggled to figure out how to move forward. Some professors canceled class or delayed tests; others attempted to keep conducting business as usual. But among many students, the overriding emotions were confusion and sadness. Some professors and staff who have worked at the College for many years compared it to the days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks; others were shocked at the depth of the emotional response from students.
“I have not seen our campus so paralyzed,” Stroup said. “Optimism and articulation were suspended. Our first years are navigating this historic moment in a new environment. Usually I can find some evidence and arguments from political science to these events, but we all got it wrong -- which requires some humility.”
Johnson perceived the same strong, passionate reaction from students. “The state of alarm on campus is something I have not seen before in my twelve years here,” he said. “I can understand why many are concerned with the result, and to be frank, I share many of their concerns.”
As a result of the election, the College organized several different opportunities later in the week for students and faculty to come together. During one such event, which took place on Friday, Nov. 11, members of the College community broke up into small groups to converse and reflect on the election and how to move forward.
In one group, the participants talked about the different ways that people might get active to make a change, the ability of faculty to take a stance against certain political rhetoric and how people might deal with the despair and hopelessness they feel. The participants agreed to be anonymous, but they all expressed an appreciation for the cathartic effect of the meetings.
For many, the willingness of students to engage in difficult and rewarding discussions at events like this was a particularly bright spot in an otherwise tough week.
“I have been surprised at and comforted by the range of conversations I have had,” Stroup said. “Yes, these are based on little sleep and half-formed thoughts, but people have reached out to discuss and deliberate.”
In response to the results, President of the College Republicans Club, Hayden Dublois ’17, emphasized the crucial importance of being there for those who are marginalized or scared by a Trump presidency.
“Even as a Republican, I’m disgusted by Donald Trump and disagree with his policies. But rather than rioting, I think there is a two-fold response that is more effective. First, be there for those who feel marginalized and scared by a Trump presidency,” said Dublois in an email to the Campus. “Second, oppose Donald Trump’s policies that you disagree with. Call your Congressman or Senator; donate to an interest group; join an advocacy organization — whatever you have to do to oppose the particular policies you disagree with.”
As the days passed, sadness and confusion transformed into anger and a desire to act. In conjunction with several students, Travis Wayne Sanderson ’19 helped plan and organize an election protest, which was held at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13 outside Mead Memorial Chapel. Sanderson thought of the idea after taking note of similar events at different campuses. He saw it as a good method to transfer our community’s emotions into a constructive goal.
The Facebook event page, which garnered interested from over two hundred students, read: “Our presidential election has ended in terror for the lives and livelihoods of millions of marginalized people. We cannot sit still in a time of injustice. On Sunday, our Middlebury community will gather at the front steps of Mead Chapel to stand together against racism, fascism, hatred and all forms of oppression. We hope you can join us in standing up in this moment of history.”
Students eagerly gathered around the steps of Mead Chapel right at 4 p.m., with the crowd gradually growing as the protesters made their way down toward Davis Memorial Library. Many students held cardboard signs with slogans reading, “Not My President,” “Stronger Together” and “Love Trumps Hate.” The crowd, comprised of roughly 250 students, chanted as they then made their way across campus from Davis to McCardell Bicentennial Hall. Two of the chants that echoed across campus were “Immigration, Not Deportation” and “Build Bridges, Not Walls.”
Back on the steps of Mead, Sanderson took the stage first. Several speakers followed Sanderson, offering individual stories touching upon topics ranging from immigration reform to discrimination within on our own campus.
“Overall, I’m happy with how the protest went,” said Charles Rainey ’19, a student representative of Community Council, who spoke at the event. “The message is clear — we have a passionate subset of the population, a diverse group of kids that came out to really show that love trumps hate, that black lives matter, that the pussy grabs back and that we stand in solidarity with LGBTQ+ folks. I hope that this leads to a broader discussion for how these values we hold dear, and our feelings about the election, can be translated back on campus and make this campus a more inclusive one.”
As part of his speech, Rainey read two poems by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib. He emphasized the need to cultivate constructive conversation moving forward.
Moving beyond the protest, Sanderson envisions cultural organizations, as well as other student groups active in inclusivity, helping to continue the dialogue on a more permanent basis. However, he recognizes that this is a democratic effort.
“The conversations that have to be cultivated in the next months and years rely on people and organizations not only hosting them and making the spaces for them, but also on people in dining halls and other spaces making sure there isn’t a tolerance for intolerance in this place,” said Sanderson. “Even if you’re not directly involved, there’s space to be more inclusive and more of an exception to the dominant narrative of intolerance that has taken the nation since last week.”
The Middlebury College department of International Politics and Economics (IPE) will host its fifth annual symposium, “The Global Illicit Drug Trade: Confronting Challenges and Exploring Solutions” on Friday, Oct. 28.
The event, slated to take place in the Robert A. Jones House Conference Room, will mainly consist of three lectures delivered by guest speakers with expertise in drug policy; the fourth will be given by Rebecca Tiger, a professor of sociology at the College.
In the lead-up to the symposium, the Campus spoke with Professors Mark Williams and Sebnem Gumuscu (Political Science) and William Pyle (Economics), who have served as the primary organizers of the event. All three highlighted the symposium’s pragmatic, policy-oriented focus, as well as the increasing pertinence of drug policy both at home and overseas.
“There were a number of things that led to this topic,” said Williams.
Perhaps the biggest motivator, he said, was a United Nations General Assembly session convened in April which focused on the world drug problem.
“Countries were trying to rethink the international law that deals with drug trafficking,” he explained. “We wanted to time the topic to coincide with that, to build off whatever momentum may have come out of that session.”
A central theme of the symposium, the professors said, will be an analysis of the perceived failures of global drug policy, and what steps nations may take to forge a better future.
“The standard pathway for a long time has been prohibition of drug production and drug consumption—selling and so forth —and punishment for those that are involved in any of those processes,” Williams said. “For many countries, there’s been a growing consensus that this sort of standard approach hasn’t worked. Not only hasn’t it worked, but it’s created more problems without even solving the problems of the drug trade itself.”
Moreover, Williams highlighted that the subject has increasing relevance at home. “I think that over time, there’s been a growing perception that something is not right with the way that we’ve been approaching illicit drugs,” he said. “You can see that, not only in the number of people that are incarcerated but in the return of some drugs that had been on the decline, like heroin.”
Pyle concurred, noting that the issue has particular resonance “if we think about something like marijuana policy, which is changing on a state-by-state basis. We have policy experiments in Washington state, Colorado—it’s something that’s directly relevant to Vermont state politics, it’s part of the governor’s race right now and the state legislature dealt with marijuana legalization in just the past year […]. So it’s something that’s international in scope but it also resonates nicely with issues that hit closer to home.”
Gumuscu elaborated on the significance of drug policy from a geopolitical standpoint. “I study and teach comparative politics, and we talk a lot about state building and state failure,” she said. “Interestingly, drug trade is a very important part of that process in very different parts of the world, especially the developing world.”
She explained that insurgent groups—sometimes known as terrorist groups, “depending on the point of view”—often depend heavily upon the drug market. “[These groups] gather substantial financial income and resources from this trade,” she said. “And they can thus finance their operations in many of these developing countries […]. So there are multiple dimensions to it, from state-building and state failure to insurgencies, terrorist organizations and transnational terrorist organizations and networks.”
Each of the day’s speakers, the professors said, would highlight some aspect of these issues. The first is Peter Reuter, a professor at the University of Maryland who Pyle described as “an expert on the international policy regime.” His lecture, “The International Drug Policy Reform Agenda: Why It Misses the Major Problems and Opportunities,” will be a critical examination of the drug policies undertaken by nations around the world.
The second speaker will be Beau Kilmer, a researcher at the RAND Drug Policy Research Center. His talk, “Marijuana Legalization 2016: Assessing the International Policy Landscape and Implementation Issues,” will analyze differing approaches to marijuana legalization.
Kilmer will be followed by Alejandro Madrazo Lajous, a researcher from Mexico City whose lecture, “The Constitutional Costs of the War on Drugs,” will compare drug policies in Colombia, Mexico and the United States, as well as how those policies affect the civil liberties and constitutional commitments that governments grant to their citizens.
The final speaker, Rebecca Tiger, will deliver a lecture titled “(Re) Imagining Drugs and Addiction: The Past, Present and Possible Future of Drug Policy,” focusing on the sociological implications of drug addiction.
“While we were putting together the program, we wanted to make sure that we covered a lot of ground, and as many different factors and dimensions as possible,” said Gumuscu. “So from Europe to North America, South America and even developing countries in general, that was the goal: to look at this particular topic from a very comprehensive perspective.”
Above all, the professors hope that attendees leave the symposium with a greater understanding of a highly complicated issue.
“One of the important takeaways that I personally want to emphasize would be the complexity of the issue and how multidimensional it is, and how hard it is to find easy solutions to this problem,” Gumuscu said.
“With an issue as complicated as drug trafficking and the other externalities that it creates, it’s unlikely that you’ll come up with a policy that will solve all problems,” agreed Williams. “So the issue would be, can we use the past, and other countries’ policy experiments and experiences, to minimize the risks that we would take as we try to reform policy? And can we actually maximize benefits from adopting some reforms while avoiding unnecessary costs?”
“We hope that the folks who attend come away with a better appreciation for the sorts of policy experiments that are being discussed currently and the costs of the current enforcement regime, whether it’s in terms of violence or incarceration or resources spent on policing,” Pyle concluded. “And a consequence that we could hope for is that the people walk out better-informed, able to be better citizens and better voters on issues relating to drug policy. If we can push the ball forward in that respect, then we’ll have done something very valuable.”
On May 26, the College announced that six faculty members had been granted tenure, marking their promotions from assistant to associate professor.
The newly-tenured faculty are Leticia Arroyo Abad in the Economics Department, Mario A. Higa in the Portuguese Department, Marta Manrique-Gómez in the Spanish Department, Marybeth E. Nevins in the Anthropology Department, Edward A. Vazquez in the History of Art & Architecture Department and Linda E. White in the Japanese Studies Department.
In the College’s press release on May 26, Andi Lloyd, Vice President for Academic Affairs, described Arroyo Abad as a “leading scholar of the economic history of Lat-in America and the Caribbean,” was praised for being “a dedicated teacher who strives to foster in her students the core liberal arts capacities of critical thinking skills, constructing and evaluating arguments and assessing empirical evidence.”
In an email to the Campus, Arroyo Abad explained the significance of tenure to her own life as an academic.
“Tenure gives you freedom, freedom to adopt different teaching strategies and explore risky research opportunities,” Arroyo Abad said. “Tenure can also mean sharing your true voice and place in this community and beyond.”
“After all these years I have learned how my identities as a Latina, as an economist, as a histori-an and as a foreigner create unique spaces and dynamics in the classroom and in the community,” she wrote. “Hence, those challenges (and opportunities) still continue and the stress does not disappear.”
Arroyo Abad added that she hopes to utilize her increased free time to write a book, audit classes, and develop more inclusive pedagogies.
Higa was credited in the press release for his “deep knowledge of the literature of Portugal and Brazil.”
Lloyd commended him for “creating an atmosphere of infectious enthusiasm that motivates students to learn.”
Like Arroyo Abad, Higa wrote that increased free time may be the biggest boon of his newfound position.
“Before tenure, everything is provisional,” Higa said in an email. “You cannot think in terms of long-time projects. Now that I received tenure, I am able to look further down the road and plan my academic life accordingly.”
In terms of his day-to-day teaching duties, Higa foresees little change. “Although teaching is tied to my research, I have class tomorrow and I am worried about my current students,” he wrote. “I want to provide them with the best of my abilities as an instructor.”
Vazquez, applauded by Lloyd for his expertise in the history of sculpting and for “his ability to provide lucid explanations of difficult and abstract material,” also expressed a feeling of increased freedom.
White wrote in an email, “Tenure provides a certain level of employment security and it establishes a kind of continuity through time for students, faculty and the institution as a whole.”
Manrique-Gómez is the author of multiple books on Spanish literature, and was described by Lloyd as “a compassionate and understanding professor who fosters an environment in which all students are encouraged to participate in discussions, strive for deeper understanding and make linguistic achievements.”
Nevins is an expert in several indigenous languages, and drew praise for her knowledge, patience, accessibility and “contagious passion for linguistic anthropology,” according to Lloyd.
In an email to The Campus, Lloyd elaborated on the importance of tenure as an institution, as well as which qualities stood out amongst this year’s promoted faculty.
“Each of these newly tenured faculty members embodies the ideal of a teacher-scholar,” she said. “They are recognized by colleagues here and by scholars outside the institution, as having made important contributions to their field as scholars.”
On Tuesday, May 3, President of the College Laurie L. Patton and Special Assistant to the President Dave Donahue visited Community Council to discuss several recent Council initiatives as well as broader questions pertaining to the long-term role of the body.
Patton’s visit began by giving brief thoughts on several topics that had been selected by the Council members. The first subject was the Honor Code, and whether it should be amended. Patton said that one of her primary concerns with the Honor Code is its inability to address cultural differences in regard to plagiarism.
“We have real cultural differences that are genuine around what it means to present your work as your own,” she said. “People who come from other cultures with different citation practices will paraphrase a lot of the quotes … and they get called out for plagiarism and it becomes extremely painful.”
Patton spoke next about the protected breaks recommendation introduced by Emma Bliska ’18. Patton advised that Bliska emphasize that her proposal seeks primarily to make mental health a higher priority in the design of syllabi.
Finally, Patton addressed the College’s involvement with the town of Middlebury. Patton cited economic differences as one frequent source of tension.
“The town used to have the wealth, in 1800, and the College had none,” she said. “Now the College has the wealth and the town is struggling. That’s a structural inequality that we can do a lot to help change without necessarily compromising our educational mission.”
Patton went on to discuss her Conversations First Model for approaching contentious issues, and explained why she finds it to be a superior method. Patton cited recent student activism in regard to gender-neutral bathrooms as an example of the positive effects of conversation.
“There was an electronic petition that hit me out of nowhere about gender-neutral bathrooms, from Trans and Allies,” she said. “I was like, ‘whoa — how do I respond, what do I do?’ So we had a conversation … and when the group and I met, they had a ten-point plan, and it was all doable. There wasn’t anything unreasonable in it. It was a very good, future-oriented plan. So they left kind of surprised, like, ‘We weren’t expecting that!’ I was like, ‘Well, that’s because you didn’t ask.’”
Finally, the group discussed the Council’s long-term role. Patton emphasized that she finds the Council to be a valuable force, and hopes that it can continue long into the future.
On Tuesday, May 10, the Council met for its final session of the 2015-16 academic year. The Council welcomed Roberto Lint Sagarena and Jennifer Herrera, director and associate director of the Anderson Freeman Resource Center, respectively, who gave an update on LGBTQ-related inclusivity initiatives.
Lint Sagarena and Herrera shared that the administration has adopted several new policies following a meeting in Old Chapel with the Trans Affinity Group. These policies include faculty training on the importance of respecting students’ preferred gender pronouns, updating the school website to include more information about the College’s health coverage of gender transitions, and expanding the number of gender-neutral restrooms across campus.
Clair Beltran ’16 asked how faculty might be incentivized to implement these policies, given the possibility that some could be resistant to change.
“Part of it, hopefully, is a persuasive enough presentation of why it matters,” Lint Sagarena responded. “After that, if it becomes something where there are faculty who are creating hostile a environment, that would be addressed on an individual basis.”
Council members also responded to questions posed by incoming Student Co-Chair David Pesqueira ’17 regarding the Council’s accomplishments this past year and what members hope to address next year.
On Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7 the Alliance for an Inclusive Middlebury (AIM) held its inaugural symposium, entitled “Activists, Allies and Accomplices: Responses to Racism Today.”
AIM was formed earlier this year by President of the College Laurie L. Patton, and is comprised of students, faculty and staff. The group’s responsibilities include launching initiatives to foster inclusivity, giving regular progress reports to administrators and publicizing statistics regarding the College’s institutional diversity.
The symposium began Friday evening with a panel on allyship that featured undergraduate students from the College as well as graduate students from the Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
On Saturday Rinku Sen, executive director of the racial justice organization Race Forward, gave the keynote address. In her speech Sen detailed the evolution of her involvement with racial justice issues. As an undergraduate student, she said, she paid little attention to activism of any sort until friends staged an “intervention.”
“Denial is like a drug,” Sen said. “It does make you feel better, it gives you relief, but you have to keep taking it, because something’s gonna bring you back to reality.”
Sen later attended a student rally. “For the first time in the 12 years since my family had immigrated, I felt like I belonged” she said.
“That was the moment where I understood that being an American isn’t about looking like Marsha Brady,” she said. “It is about investing in your community with all the people who are in it to make it the most inclusive, most effective, most fair community it could be.”
Sen shared that her devotion to activism keeps her grounded in the United States.
“Every election I’ve experienced since I started organizing, someone says, ‘If so-and-so wins, I’m moving to Canada,’” she said. “And every election, I say, whatever happens, I’m going nowhere. This is my home, I’m an American. And I expect some pretty rough times, and a fair amount of suffering. But I know that if we keep going in the ways we have been going, by organizing, by changing the rules and tools that control our lives, I know we can achieve peace that comes from justice, and not from repression.”
Sen’s speech was followed by a panel of student activists, including Angie McCarthy ’19, Rana Abdelhamid ’15 and Ashley Bomboka, a current senior at Bowdoin College.
Asked about her experience with activism at Middlebury, Abdelhamid shared that she felt disillusioned as a freshman.
McCarthy said that during her short time at the College, she has tried to identify various potential avenues for activism.
“I started my work here in much more informal settings, with conversations within my commons and within my friend groups, as well as going to different cultural orgs and having conversations there,” she said. “Most of my activist work has been through AIM, and right now we’re working to create a more inclusive Middlebury that all of us can not just enjoy, but grow with.”
Bomboka said that she has learned from her activism at Bowdoin to be “as solution-oriented as possible.”
“[Early in my college career] I was just angry, and I was mad and I wanted to say everything I wanted to say,” Bomboka said. “That can’t get you far, because you’re not engaging people — it’s just putting yourself out there, and nobody can really work with that, even you yourself can’t really work with that. So always keep that glass-half-full approach, and try to find ways to connect with other people, versus staying in your own zone of anger and venting.”
The symposium concluded with a speech by Rashawn Ray, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, and a faculty panel on issues of race, difference and power.
Patton, who attended the entire day’s events, told The Campus that she valued the symposium’s inclusion of diverse voices and pragmatic focus.
“I think it’s been a fantastic event so far, partly because of the voices that have been part of the conversation,” she said. “We’ve had student and faculty voices from Monterey, from Middlebury and staff voices from Middlebury, as well as other colleges like us, like Bowdoin.”
“I’ve also felt like the conversation was really constructive and focused on things that we can do, and best practices,” she said. “And the more conversations are focused on best practices, the better off we’re all going to be, and the better off we can make Middlebury.”
Hundreds gathered in Mead Memorial Chapel on Monday, May 2 to attend “Responsibility, Reconciliation and the Dropping of the Atomic Bombs.” The event’s primary participants were Shigeko Sasamori, an 84 year-old survivor of the 1945 Hiroshima bombing, and Clifton Daniel, grandson of U.S. President Harry S. Truman. Their discussion was moderated by Stephen Snyder, Dean of Language Schools and Professor of Japanese Studies.
“Tonight’s event is important for learning and knowing about responsibility, and for engaging in a dialogue that is integral to reconciliation,” said Tamar Mayer, director of the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs, who gave opening remarks. “For learning lessons from the past, and for acknowledging that war has devastating impacts on victims, perpetrators, their children, their grandchildren and on the globe as a whole.”
Mayer also read a statement from President of the College Laurie L. Patton, who could not attend. “These two people are descendants of the best and the worst policies and mindsets of the twentieth century,” Patton’s statement read in part. “They’re taking the legacy of their ancestors and transforming them into a positive force for good. And they’re doing so through conversation, perhaps the most powerful tool that we have.”
The discussion then began with a speech by Sasamori, in which she recalled her own experience of the bombing and its aftermath.
“That day, all the students at my school had to help in the city,” she said. “Just starting to clean up the gutters, I heard an airplane and I looked at the sky — Hiroshima that day was beautiful blue sky, with no clouds. A silver airplane flew by, and it looked so beautiful. So I told my girlfriend, ‘Look at the sky!’ I pointed, and at the same time, I saw the airplane drop something white. Later, I found out that was a parachute, so the bomb don’t explode closer to the airplane.”
“When I saw the white thing drop, it pushed me down. I don’t know how long I was unconscious, probably a long time. When I became conscious, I looked around — pitch black, I couldn’t see anything,” she said. After a fog lifted, Sasamori said, she began to notice other victims.
“Everyone is different, everybody’s completely changed. All over the hair, ashes, and burns, clothes hanging, bleeding, red all over and walking very slowly,” she said. “I didn’t hear anything, I didn’t feel anything.”
Eventually, Sasamori lost consciousness again, and was taken to a school auditorium. “I stayed in the auditorium five days, four nights,” she said. “I keep saying, ‘Please give me water, please tell my parents my name, address.’ It was very hard for me to say. I said to myself, ‘One more time, somebody pay attention.’ Suddenly, a man heard.”
“Then, my parents came, holding candles, saying, ‘Shigeko, Shigeko,’ looking at people on the floor, like a fish market. Then finally, my mother heard, ‘Here I am!’ … My mother told me many years later … she said my face was so swollen, it looked like a burned toast. Couldn’t see where’s the nose, where’s the eyes, where’s the mouth?”
“Several months after, I came out and looked at myself…When I saw myself in a little broken mirror, I couldn’t believe it … that wasn’t a human face, it was like a big monster.”
Sasamori ultimately came to the United States in the 1950s to receive reconstructive plastic surgery. Here, she gave birth to a son, Norman Cousins Sasamori, who also attended the event.
“When he was born, I was so happy,” she said. “I said to him, ‘Thank you for coming to me on this Earth … I won’t let you go to war. Kill me first.’”
Sasamori has since become increasingly involved with movements for peace
peace and against nuclear weapons. “Thank God,” she said, “nowadays much more people are anti-nuclear, but not enough! Everyone has to be together to make a peaceful world…People made it, people can undo it.”
Clifton Daniel spoke next, describing his own upbringing during the Cold War, in which nuclear weapons were “a fact of life.”
“My grandfather never spoke to me about his decision to use atomic weapons against Japan in 1945,” he said. “So I learned about them from my history books. And the history books, to this day, do not give you a whole lot of information about Hiroshima or Nagasaki. There will be a page or two…and facts and figures and dates, but nothing really about what happened to Shigeko, and what happened to the other citizens in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
Above all, Daniel said, the Japanese survivors he has met simply seek an audience for their stories.
“Shigeko, and other survivors whom I met, came to me only with open minds and open hearts. No one came to me in recrimination…none of them made me responsible. They just wanted me to listen, to understand what it was like to live through a nuclear explosion, so that hopefully, we won’t do this to each other again.”
“What Shigeko and the other survivors opened up for me was a much broader, much deeper, much more open-minded way of thinking,” he said. “Not only about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but about human relations, about politics, about history.
“It’s almost impossible—trying to see all sides at once. The truth is always somewhere in the middle, and it shifts and moves. So it’s been an eye-opener for me, learning completely the opposite from what I’d been taught as a child. But it’s brought me to a greater understanding.”
After remarks from Norman Cousins Sasamori and Clifton’s son Wesley Daniel, the panelists took questions from audience members.
One student asked the panelists about the extent to which individuals are obligated to correct the mistakes of their ancestors.
“I feel a sense of responsibility, not guilt,” Daniel said. “And everyone should feel a sense of responsibility for this, regardless of whether you’re related to Harry Truman or not…We should have to do what we think we can, and it starts with responsibility and caring about it.”
After the event, students agreed that the event was a valuable one.
Sedge Lucas ’19 grew up in Japan and had heard similar stories from survivors. Still, he said, “It might be a more important story to tell in this context, if only because, as of now, Japan seems to be a very non-violent society that doesn’t seem to be approaching anything along the lines of World War II. Whereas in the United States, especially given what’s happening in the presidential race, it seems like messages like these are particularly important.”
Sydney Shuster ’18.5 called for a continued dialogue. “I think it would be really interesting to have a talk about policy, moving forward—things that we can actually do to change things in the future,” she said. “I don’t think we touched on a lot of that tonight, but it got a lot of gears turning. They were both really amazing speakers, and it was interesting to see two generations up there.”
The event’s closing remarks, given by Snyder, seemed to summarize the feelings of many in attendance.
“Someone asked earlier in the evening how we change the narrative,” Snyder said. “One way, certainly, is to continue narrating. Listening to Sasamori-San and Clifton Daniel tell us these stories this evening certainly has changed me. I think that for all of our narratives, how we keep them alive is simply a matter of continuing to talk, and continuing to tell these stories.”
On Tuesday, April 19, the Community Council began with a brief update regarding the election of David Pesqueira ’17 as the Council’s next Student Co-Chair. Tiff Chang ’17.5 cited Pesqueira’s work with Midd Included and on the SGA’s Educational Affairs Committee as indicators of the issues he will hopefully bring to Council’s agenda.
Later in the meeting, several Council members provided updates on projects they had been focusing on. Associate Dean of Students for Residential and Student Life Douglas Adams shared several brief suggestions regarding Winter Carnival — namely, to reinstate Friday classes that week while retaining all of the Carnival’s extracurricular activities.
“In return, you get an academic calendar that flows correctly,” Adams said. “You get faculty members who can teach their Friday class and not have to teach an immediate Friday class again on Monday … Right now, statistically speaking, students aren’t attending the activities that they’re taking the day off for.”
While Adams’s proposal received some pushback, particularly from student members, the Council plans to return again to the subject.
Next, Ethan Brady ’18 gave an update on his proposal to increase transparency at Board of Trustee Meetings. His multi-part proposal, which he has discussed with President of the College Laurie L. Patton, includes calls for all-student emails summarizing all trustee meetings, and the addition of a second student member of the College’s Board of Overseers.
Brady shared that President Patton was enthusiastic about measures to increase transparency, but cautioned that some may not support an additional student member. Some Council members worried that the trustees might censor important aspects of their meetings, but others expressed less concern.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually feel that there are issues that students don’t need to be privy to,” Emma Bliska ’18 said. “The Board of Trustees handles a lot more than Middlebury’s campus … students are only here for four years, and we can’t expect to know everything about this institution to the extent that the trustees do.”
Before the Council acts on his recommendation, Brady plans to speak further with President Patton and Assistant to the President Dave Donahue.
Finally, Bliska presented data to the Council pertaining to a survey on protected breaks that had recently been emailed to students.
According to Bliska’s data, over 95 percent of respondents reported having had “major assignments” due over a school break. An identical percentage felt that these assignments interfered with their enjoyment of breaks.
Bliska then shared the varying opinions of several faculty and students regarding the possible institution of protected breaks — that is, a ban on giving major assignments during a break or due within the immediate aftermath of a break.
“The purpose of this policy is not to micromanage little details, but rather to instigate a cultural shift in the way we think about breaks,” Bliska said. “The policy would bring really good visibility and exposure to the fact that students and faculty alike don’t really consider breaks to be times where we prioritize our mental health.”
Bliska said she will meet with administrators in the near future to further discuss the idea.
On Tuesday. April 26, the Council welcomed Dan Detora, Executive Director of Food Services, to discuss the possibility of expanding faculty access to dining halls.
Detora revealed that the College’s current program, which allows faculty or staff to eat with students once per week, has proved popular, exceeding its $5,000 budget in each of the past two years.
Expanding faculty access, Detora said, could cause problems in terms of both cost and crowds – according to a study conducted last year, the participation rate for lunch at on-campus dining halls is 103 percent.
“Our capacity at the dining halls is really at a max,” Detora concluded.
Detora noted, however, that breakfast hours are significantly less busy, and that expanded access during the morning could be more realistic.
Still, some students and faculty expressed reservations; Ramachandran wondered if expanding faculty access could harm student autonomy.
“As much as I love all my professors and want to see them all the time, I feel like dining halls are a space for students to chill,” he said. “I’m all for professors getting coffee and community-building, but holding that student space is difficult.”
Afterward, Bliska gave an update regarding her protected breaks proposal. Having met with Vice President for Academic Affairs/Dean of the Faculty Andi Lloyd, Dean of Curriculum Suzanne Gurland and Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of the College Katy Smith Abbott, Bliska said that support for her proposal was generally strong.
“We came to the conclusion that this will be discussed by the senior leadership group,” she said, with the likely result being an opt-in or pilot program that could eventually become policy if successful.
The Council ultimately voted unanimously to approve Bliska’s recommendation.
Finally, the Council conlcuded with a brief discussion of President Patton’s recent alteration to the campus pet policy. Some staff members have voiced displeasure at the prospect of cleaning up after the dogs of facuty despite not being allowed to keep pets of their own, and plan to discuss the issue further with President Patton.
The College hosted the tenth annual Spring Student Symposium in McCardell Bicentennial Hall on Friday, April 15. The event, which ran throughout the day, featured an array of oral presentations, posters, artwork and other performances by current students. Topics ranged from Abraham Lincoln’s speeches to Zambian gardening programs, encompassing a wide variety of academic disciplines.
Mitchell Perry ’16 delivered an oral presentation entitled “Down with DOMA: America’s Evolution on Marriage Equality Policy.” The presentation, which Perry adapted from his Political Science senior thesis, focused on the methods by which same-sex marriage advocates reshaped public opinion on the issue. Using Vermont, California and Minnesota as case studies, Perry determined which techniques caused the greatest shifts in public support for same-sex marriage.
“As a gay male who grew up in Minnesota, I came out right as Minnesota was voting on a ban on gay marriage, and they defeated that ban,” Perry said. “And then, six months later, they passed same-sex marriage. So for me, that shift had a lot of personal reasons why I thought it was really interesting. But from a political science perspective, the rapid shift in marriage equality policy and public opinion is just fascinating.”
Perry said he relished the opportunity provided by the symposium to showcase his work on a larger scale.
“My thesis research allowed me to pursue [my interest]. But what the symposium does that’s special is give you a venue to share something that matters to you personally. You’ve spent hours and hours researching it, and your friends are genuinely excited about the academic pursuit you’re doing. We always go to plays, we always go to friends’ sports games, but how often do you get to applaud somebody or give support to your friend for an academic interest?”
Morgan Raith ’16.5 presented her senior thesis work for Architectural Studies. Her poster, titled “A New Approach to Middlebury,” contained a plan for a new public transportation center in Middlebury, featuring indoor play spaces, including a climbing gym and dance studio.
“Making the poster was the easiest part,” she said. “Putting all of the designs together and figuring out how to visually communicate my ideas — that’s always a challenge.”
She continued, “Coming to the symposium is really fun, because normally we’re just presenting our designs in Johnson and a couple people come, and it’s relatively quiet. But it’s awesome to be placed in an arena where so many other amazing research opportunities and projects are happening.”
Weston Uram ’18 based his project titled “My Emoji” on the Kimoji app recently released by Kim Kardashian.
“It made over $80 million in a week, and it’s baffling that people are actually spending money and engaging with it,” Uram said. “And what does it mean for someone to take that body representation and send it to somebody else, therefore identifying with Kim herself? So I was like, ‘well I can just do that — I can just create that application.’”
Uram’s presentation included a television screen displaying samples of his work, including a stylized depiction of his own winking face.
Lisa Gates, associate dean for fellowships and research, helped organize the event as co-chair of the Symposium’s Planning Committee, and seemed to share the excitement of the hundreds of others gathered at Bicentennial Hall.
“Someone once described this as ‘like a party about thinking,’” Gates said. “It’s really an amazing opportunity to learn about the diversity of topics and areas our students are researching and thinking about. It’s really impressive to see the kind of work that they’re doing.”
“It’s not evaluative — you’re not being graded,” Gates said. “So it’s really a chance to share, learn from and just to celebrate.”