Chance Fuels Larger Forum


Chance the Rapper’s performance on Nov. 2 sparked debate about race, misogyny and homophobia on campus. (Campus/Anthea Viragh)

By Nate Sans

Axinn 229 was filled to capacity on Nov. 4, as students, faculty and administrators perched on windowsills and tables after chairs were filled to get an opportunity to participate in “Unpacking Chance the Rapper: Exploring the complexities around Community Standards, Artistic Expression and Academic Freedom.” In the hour and a half discussion that continued after at PALANA House, 26 students, Dean of the College Shirley Collado and two faculty members spoke.

Topics discussed at the forum varied greatly, ranging from a discussion on the feeling of security for minority groups on campus to the censorship of art.

“I was impressed with the terrific turn-out and appreciative of the honest and respectful conversation,” wrote Associate Dean of Students for Student Activities JJ Boggs in an email the morning after the forum. “The insights students shared will absolutely influence our future work in Student Activities. My sincere hope is that we will all continue these important discussions inside and outside the classroom and that they will help us create a community where students feel truly safe, supported and celebrated.

Student Government Association President Rachel Liddell ’15 also pointed to the large turnout when reflecting on the night.

“I was impressed by the level of discourse at the forum,” Liddell said. “The ideas posited by students there were thought-provoking for me. I am proud to be a part of a community that values debate and critical analysis. I hope these discussions continue, grow, and translate into actions, not just on the level of policy, but also on the level of interpersonal relations on this campus.”

Associate Professor of American Studies and Director of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity Roberto Lint Sagarena and Assistant Professor of Dance Christal Brown moderated the event and ensured that all students and faculty received an opportunity to speak.

But not all students thought the forum was successful.

“I don’t even think we scratched the surface,” Sadé Williams ’14.5 said. “I don’t think we got to what the real issue is. This isn’t anything but a spectacle that is distracting us from the real conversations; it’s easy to talk about Chance the Rapper, but it’s not easy to talk about people on your hall [using homophobic language] or what it feels like to be a woman at the gym, or what it feels like to see rape culture happening at parties. Nobody wants to have those conversations, so we’re all talking about Chance.”

Despite differing opinions about what was accomplished during the forum, President of the Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB) Elizabeth Fouhey said that the key is to continue the discussion in the future.

“The issues discussed tonight are not just about Chance, MCAB or any particular group,” she said. “They are about our community as a whole, and I hope that this was the first of many conversations.”

Participants in the forum urged students to attend the discussion of roles and opportunities in the Arts programs on Thursday, Nov. 7, at 4:30 p.m. in Axinn 219 and MiddIdentity on Friday, Nov. 8, at 5:30 p.m. in the McCullough Social Space.

See this week’s editorial for The Campus’ reaction, or listen to an audio recording of the forum below.


[EDITORS’ NOTE: Unfortunately, some voices were lost from the audio above as the forum’s length required switching between recording methods. Further, we apologize for the quality; Axinn 219 is not well-suited for recording such a large discussion.]