Liveblog: DLWC’s General Assembly

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Liveblog: DLWC’s General Assembly

By Gregory Woolston

5:47 PM: As the assembly concludes, organizers and participants confirm next week’s 4 PM meeting in the Warner Hemicycle. An organizer points out that administrators tried censoring knowledge about this event, and encourages everyone to spread word of next week’s trial and meeting.

5:39 PM: There is brief mention of Middlebury’s divestment from Apartheid in the late 1980’s, as well as more recent efforts to divest from the Sudan. An organizer points out that was started by three Middlebury students, meaning that a national movement to divest from war could certainly start here.

5:33 PM: Participants return to the initial question in order to discuss strength and tactics in moving forward. Suggestions include additional general assemblies, smarter media tactics and more press releases, “lending additional hands” on the divestment poster, distributing further details and evidence, diversifying tactics, and incorporating the support of the College’s alumni.

5:25 PM: ‘What do people think about the administration violating handbook policies or the mission statement?’ another participant poses to the assembly. With the trial holding the students responsible, an organizer explains, it may be possible to hold the college responsible, in turn.

5:21 PM: Discussion returns to the topic of deception, as an organizer states that the two letters were certainly a single action; the time gap between their release was intended to allow students to experience the feelings that would accompany such an announcement, as well as realize its feasibility. However, those critiquing the action are not convinced, saying that the varying levels of information distribution separate the letters.

5:13 PM: Another participant notes the tone of the assembly, which has been quite polarizing between the administration or the students. ‘We need to view things from the administration’s perspective, as well.’ Considering the administration as an “incumbent”, the participant continues, you can’t simply muscle them over; rather, interests must be aligned and commonalities found between parties.

5:08 PM: While an organizer tries to shift away from this topic, the participating staff member points out that many in the community were turned off by this deceptive tactic, even if they agreed with the overall message. While another argues that the deception was a satire on the College’s lack of transparency, this participant believes these opinions to be important and asks that everyone discuss ways in better explaining the action to others.

5:04 PM: Other participants directly respond, arguing that trust is not present in students’ relationship with the administration. Therefore, the DLWC actually “shed light on other issues of mistrust.” The unprovoked admittance of responsibility has created some sort of real trust, according to the participant.

4:59 PM: One participant states that the misinformation of the hoax email will only harm the cause in the long-run. The participant further explains that because the “coming-clean” letter did not take the same form as the original email, it is hard to view the event as a single, non-deceptive action. ‘My trust has been violated,’ making it harder to work with the DLWC, as well as hurting the community.

4:56 PM: ‘What power does the administration really have with regard to this issue? How quickly do you expect this endowment transfer from Investure to take place?’ a participant asks. An organizer responds with examples of other schools, which have placed screens on their endowment; some of these schools even feature independent boards with student representation, determining how the money should be invested. Thus, this particular organizer believes endowment screens to be a realistic solution.

4:49 PM: Another participant points out that the DLWC and their supporters must find a balance between challenging the institution and respecting judicial code. This leads into a discussion about the risks students are willing to take for this cause, in which many talk about the advantages of diversifying strategies (i.e. mixing the lobbying of the administration by SRI and Divest for Our Future with the DLWC’s more radical tactics). One participant would like to see a progression in strategies, or continuing talks with the administration until they no longer appear to be support the cause; the participant is presently satisfied with the administration’s efforts and has yet to reach a point where riskier tactics would be appropriate.

4:43 PM: An organizer reminds participants of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE) “red light” designation for Middlebury College, meaning that the institution has “at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.” This transitions into a discussion about the College’s realness. As one participant points out, individuals accused of rape have simply been asked to take a semester off in the past, substantially contradicting consequences in the real world. There is some opposition to the path of conversation by other participants.

4:34 PM: Discussion turns to the upcoming trials of Molly Stuart ’15.5, Jay Saper ’13, Jenny Marks ’14.5, Sam Koplinka-Loehr ’13, and Amitai Ben-Abba ’15.5, which will be on Thursday, Nov. 1 at 3 PM in Dana Auditorium. A participant asks if everything will begin and end with this trial; ‘how do you get students excited about divestment, as well as keep them that way?’

4:27 PM: Discussion shifts toward available strategies. A participant points out that student tuition likely adds to the endowment; ‘perhaps, this could be a good place to start the screening?’ Another speaks of alumni donations, which add to the endowment; the participant recommends screening such gifts, raising alumni awareness and support.

4:22 PM: Discussion slowly starts with an initial question from the staff member regarding that from which the group wants to divest. Participants seem quite interested in achieving divestment from fossil fuels, particularly after the recent achievements of on-campus and national movements. Although one organizer highlights the DLWC’s focus on divestment from war, a participant points out that fossil fuels and war are inherently connected.

4:14 PM: The assembly begins, as participants continue to trickle in. Meeting organizers would like to discuss the various “tools” on the table for achieving divestment. However, the assembly will be managed as a discussion among both organizers and participants, meaning any topic is appropriate. The person speaking or questioning will decide the next speaker, while wiggling one’s fingers upward or downward represents agreement/interest or disagreement/disinterest, respectively.

4:06 PM: People are slowly gathering in the Warner Hemicycle. Presently, there are about twenty students and one staff member.

3:35 PM: We will be providing live updates from the Dalai Lama Welcoming Committee’s “General Assembly”, beginning at 4 PM in the Warner Hemicycle. Flyers announcing the event, pictured below, were distributed across campus throughout the week; the group also provided meeting details on their website.

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