Faculty: This is Required Reading

By Kyle Finck

I recently asked a top administrator what percentage of the faculty read the Campus in some capacity every week.

“What do you think?” She asked me.

“Fifty percent.”

“Try twenty,” was the response.

Twenty percent is unacceptable. Faculty members, you are part of our community. To receive a paycheck from Middlebury College, you should be expected to do more than just teach. What makes our community special is that everyone does more. Custodians do more than just tidy rooms, doling out smiles and advice. Administrators do more than just make big scale decisions, and students are expected to do more than just go to class. Faculty should be held to the same standard. Our community thrives on the fact that nobody lives in a vacuum, and it is not acceptable for faculty members to teach four classes, advise a few students, and go home. This is not just a day job, and the best of our faculty don’t clock out at 5 p.m. You are teaching us more than your field of expertise, you are teaching us life. Faculty, it is time to reinvest in our community.

When you live in a vacuum, you make decisions in a vacuum. That has consequences. When a professor sent out a casting call to nearly a 100 women of color encouraging them to audition for the role a wet nurse role in the play “In the Next Room,” many students responded with anger. If that professor had followed coverage of Chance the Rapper’s concert and the forum which brought to light larger issue of marginalized groups, would the email have been sent? If that professor had understood the complex racial tensions and feelings of isolation that many students had eloquently expressed in the Opinions section of the Campus, would that email have been sent?

Nov. 21 showed both the decaying status quo and glimmers of light in faculty engagement at the College. That Thursday, the Faculty Educational Affairs Committee (EAC) met to discuss the fate of summer internships for credit. The same day, the Campus published an editorial under the headline “Give Credit Where Credit is Due,” recommending specific solutions that integrated student and faculty concerns. When only one of the five EAC members reads a voice of the student body on an important academic issue facing the future of the liberal arts education, we have a problem. Students are ultimately the consumer of the College, and we deserve a faculty that is invested in our community.

But later that day, Amy Wax gave a contentious lecture on diverging family structures and moral deregulation that many of the attendees crammed in Hillcrest found pedantic at best and racist at worst. While Murray Dry’s decision to sponsor Wax was controversial, he showed once again why he is the Gold Standard for community engagement. He consistently weaves Campus articles and editorials into his classes and discussions with students, even sending feedback to individual reporters. Professor Dry, your engagement does not go unnoticed, and I need your help in spreading the word to the 80 percent of your colleagues whose eyes are not on this page.

This is not an attempt to toot our own horn. But when only one in five faculty members reads a newspaper devoted to reporting on our community and tackling issues that affect everyone in our community, that screams apathy. The Campus is one of the only spaces that brings together issues concerning the faculty, staff, students and administrators every single week and allows all parties to throw in their two cents.

It is unfair to characterize a group as diverse as the Middlebury Faculty with a single adjective. I have been taught by professors like Deb Evans, who began class by asking her students about the issues affecting them, and numerous other professors who take a genuine interest in their students’ concerns. But how is a biology professor supposed to find out what issues are affecting students who never set foot in Bicentennial Hall?

This is not an assault on the faculty. It is an invitation. Open the paper, get angry, tell us we are wrong, bring an editorial into a class discussion, write an op-ed, but for the sake of our entire community, it is time to reinvest.

 Artwork by NOLAN ELLSWORTH

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Faculty: This is Required Reading