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Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023

Zeitgeist Survey 2019

“Would  you support the construction of a swirly slide inside the Great Hall of  Bicentennial Hall? We’re talking a 6-story curling slide that has entry  points on all floors and ends on the second floor, open for use after 5  p.m. on weekdays and all weekend, or whatever else we can secure as a  compromise.”

This was our favorite suggested  question for the Zeitgeist survey — and one of over one hundred  questions that were submitted when we solicited feedback from students.  While Zeitgeist began as a project aiming to bridge the realms of data  analysis and journalism, we also saw it as an opportunity to seek  community input to investigate the underlying narratives at Middlebury.

What are cultures that students  participate in but do not enjoy? How often do students feel lonely? How  many sexual partners does the average Middlebury student have? Are  students aware of the mental health resources on campus?

Of course, we also wanted to use this  opportunity to explore and potentially dispel prominent stereotypes at  Middlebury. Are Economics majors truly “socially liberal” and “fiscally  conservative?” Do athletes have different dining hall preferences than  non-athletes? Are conservative students less likely to express their  views in class?

Above all, we were surprised to find  that students wanted to learn more about feelings of belonging at  Middlebury. In a campus climate where questions about differences,  otherness and acceptance do not easily percolate into discussions, the  deluge of feedback, centered around the theme of belonging, reflects a  collective will to understand what tethers us to each other and our  shared Middlebury identity.

With the concept of belonging at the  axis, we asked about feeling deserving, about loneliness and about the  concept of “otherness.” Our analysis also seeks to illustrate how these  shared sentiments may diverge disproportionately in demographics of  race, sexual orientation and political views.  

The definition of Zeitgeist is “the defining spirit of  a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the  time.” This year, we believe that the defining theme of our survey is  “belonging.”